ABC Family's new drama Switched at Birth premiered last night. It's the story of Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano, Gilmore Girls, The Young and the Restless), who never feels like she fits in with her family. When a blood test at school points to her parents not being biologically related to her, Bay asks for DNA testing. The hospital reveals Bay was switched at birth with another girl, Daphne (Katie Leclerc, Flying By), who is deaf, and being raised by a single mother, Regina (Constance Marie, George Lopez). Bay's parents, John (D.W. Moffett, Friday Night Lights) and Kristen (Lea Thompson, Back to the Future, Caroline in the City) want to give Daphne the financial opportunities she missed out on, offending Regina. Bay still feels left out by both families, and has no desire to let Daphne into her life. Until she realizes Daphne is the only one who might understand what she is going through.
Most of ABC Family's television shows aren't very watchable unless you are a preteen or teenage girl. However, this one has some real potential. For one, the cast is made up of people who can actually act very well, something many series on the network don't have. (Looking at you, The Secret Life of the American Teenager!) For another, while the hook is a rare happenstance, the reactions and emotions involved are portrayed authentically and tug at the heartstrings. This kind of secret exposed is never an easy thing to deal with. The real test is how long Switched at Birth can mine the complexities involved, and what kind of show it will be afterwards. The immediate plot is surely not good for a many years run.
Bay is an angry girl, one who doesn't feel at ease in any situation. But she is also a vulnerable one. While she pushes for the DNA testing because she claims she doesn't fit in, she later breaks down to her brother, admitting she never really believes Kristen and John are not her parents. She is like any teenager, wishing she didn't get the mother and father she has, but loving them all the while, and expecting fantasies of coming from different stock to be proven wrong. It's a turning point for Bay, that scene, and once she is able to talk to someone, she begins to accept the situation. Which means she is much later to the party than the rest of the characters, even though she instigated it.