ABC Family has been a television network titan since 1977 and has produced a number of successful television shows. “Pretty Little Liars”, “Jane by Design”, “Make it or Break it”, “The Lying Game”, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Switched at Birth” are the newest additions to the network, and all of these shows focus on multiple aspects of teenage drama as well as some mystery. The network took a leap of faith with “Switched at Birth” because this show centers on the concept of the struggle that hearing-impaired people face every day as well as two children who were mistakenly taken to the wrong families at birth. At first this seemed like a bold concept that would set ABC Family apart from the blasé nature of shows like “Gossip Girl” and “90210”, however, upon closer inspection this show seemed to fizzle out as new pilots often do.
The story begins when Bay Kennish, the daughter of a former professional baseball player, begins to study blood types in school and wonders why hers does not match that of either of her parents or her brothers. Filled with teen angst and the constant nagging feeling that no one understands her Bay decided to follow up her school project with genetic testing where she learns that the people she had been living with all of her life are in fact not her parents. Upon closer inspection it is found that the hospital that Bay was born at had made a mistake that night and the baby girl who was supposed to come home with the Kennish family was instead taken home by Regina Vasquez and was named Daphne. The two families meet each other and see the obvious resemblance in Regina and Bay’s exotic looks and Daphne and the Kennish family’s hair color. This results in a huge shock and identity crisis for both of the girls, Bay begins to feel discarded by her family in favor of Daphne while Daphne copes with the constant fights between the Kennish’s and her mother. It is revealed that Daphne lost her hearing when she contracted the Meningitis virus when she was three years old which the Kennish family insinuates is because Regina was not able to fully provide for her daughter. The story continues as the viewer’s meet Daphne’s best friend and his mother who is also hearing-impaired and the Kennish family’s struggle with being involved in Daphne’s life. Eventually, due to monetary issues and the fact that she desires to get acquainted with her biological daughter, the Vasquez family moves in to the Kennish family’s estate. The show barrels on through tough subjects such as a hospital lawsuit and where Bay’s father went as well as Regina’s past as an alcoholic, which hurts her credibility with Daphne’s biological parents. On paper, this seems like the perfect plot for a show to continue on for several seasons however eventually “Switched at Birth” became no different from the standard teen drama centering on inconsequential topics. There are brief moments where the character’s deal with emotional issues that evoke sympathy from ABC family’s desired audience however in the end the show is too centered on the Kennish parents, Kathryn and John, as well as Regina instead of the girls.
Despite having moderately famous actors such as Constance Marie from “George Lopez”, Lucas Grabeel from “High School Musical”, Austin Butler from “Life Unexpected”, and Vanessa Marano from “Gilmore Girls”, the show does not seem as if it will last much longer on the air. Famous hearing-impaired actors Sean Beardy and Marlee Matlin were added to further the show’s concept but even this did not improve viewership by much. The series started with 3.30 million viewers but within the first five episodes the amount of viewers dropped to 2.63 and continues to drop, now at its 14th episode with a mere 1.90 million. Unfortunately, although the show started strong, its prognosis is that if it doesn’t produce any jaw-dropping, enticing episodes, it may be canceled shortly, like so many of its predecessors.