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5 reasons ABC Family's 'Switched at Birth' is a must-watch

I’m sure you hear all the time from your friends and co-workers who watch way more TV than you about which shows you’ve just gotta watch. But has anyone told you that ABC Family’s Switched at Birth is absolutely one of those can’t-miss shows? The story revolves around two families whose lives are upended and forever intertwined when they learn their teenage daughters were switched at birth—and it’s a story you just have to see.

Here’s why you really need to carve out some space on your DVR and jump on this impeccably written and beautifully intricate show:

1. It’s the only show on television performed partially in American Sign Language.

Aside from the fact that ASL is a fiercely underrepresented language in the media, it’s a real treat to get to witness the beauty of the language on weekly basis. And it’s not just a novelty on Swtiched; the impact of being deaf and the real-life challenges a deaf individual confronts are the major backbone of the show.

The show personalizes these struggles in such scenes as Daphne’s refusal to sit in a disabled seat, being unable to hear how much noise a chip bag makes and ruining a movie shot, and being overlooked for an opportunity to be a chef or doctor because of this supposed “disability.” And you can really see actual progress in each hearing cast member as they improve their ASL abilities, and that just makes my heart flutter.

2. It has a stellar cast.

With veterans like Lea Thompson, D.W. Moffett, Marlee Matlin, and Constance Marie, Switched at Birth has one of the most excellent cast rosters of any TV show, and that’s just the adults! The younger stars are just as seasoned—Lucas Grabeel, Vanessa Marano, and Katie Leclerc have an unbelievably extensive filmography among them. Everyone on this show is a total acting juggernaut, and with impeccable writing and deep subject matter, viewers are treated to exquisite performances each week in an ensemble any show would be lucky to have.

Vanessa Marano and Katie Lecerc from ABC Family

3. It manages to handle social, economic, and diversity issues with a beautifully careful touch.

This show tackles tough subjects so thoughtfully, it blows my mind. The ability to pull off a story arc about something explosive or controversial is not always easy, especially if you want to get out of there with your dignity as a show intact. Switched at Birth has tackled topics like social, racial, and disability discrimination, domestic violence, mental health, underage sex, cheating, broken marriages, religion, death, and more—and it has only just begun its fourth season! And each time, the situations and dialogue are carefully crafted; the characters are always genuine and realistically motivated. It never feels like an after-school special, and that’s quite a feat.

The upcoming two-part special (beginning Tuesday, Feb. 3) will continue this trend by tackling the issue of rape and consensual sex: Bay finds herself in a traumatic situation in the wake of a raucous college party.

4. It’s not afraid to go for the jugular.

Given the types of conversations Switched at Birth likes to dive into, it would be easy to just gloss over what its main characters might do or should do according to typical TV tropes. There are few things I hate more than a show taking the easy way out of a hard story or character choice. Switched at Birth does the exact opposite, and I truly cherish it. The writers are not afraid to show our favorite characters in a bad light, have them make truly terrible decisions, or go against everything we have ever seen or hoped to see for them.

But that’s because this show is so rooted in real life, so adamantly unafraid to cross those lines. It’s what the story requires and what a real character in that situation would do. Is it hard to see the straight-A student in an explosive, drug-addled, violent descent? Sure, but I’m glad they went there! A mom’s mistake in almost shooting her own daughter? Bad choices when slipping back into alcoholism? The death of a patriarch? All tough to watch and tougher to pull off, but I’m so thankful for the exceedingly rich journey we all take together because of it.

5. At its heart, Switched at Birth is about family. 

This show is at its best when showcasing its special family relationships. It’s so rare to find solid family units on television, and rarer still to see relationships in which the unconditional love and support outweigh the backstabbing and ugliness that can so often overtake a family drama.

I’m not saying that everyone is perfect, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. A cohesive family unit (and really, times two) is such a refreshing thing to see on television. Whether you relate to those connections because you see similarities to your family, or if you find something comforting and hopeful to aspire to because your upbringing was far from it, Switched at Birth lures you in with its unprecedented portrayal of intricate family relationships.

The sisterly bond alone between Bay and Daphne is unlike any other I’ve seen dramatized. And with two sets of parents with vastly different parenting methods, Switched at Birth still manages to make tuning in every week as much about the overall family interactions as it is about the baby-swapping drama.

So am I saying that you absolutely must watch this show? Well, yes. You really should. It’s terribly underrated, and it deserves your love! But more importantly, it really is that good, so you’re simply doing yourself a favor.

Switched at Birth airs Tuesdays at 9/8C on ABC Family.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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