×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Amish Mafia / Sin City Rules

Discovery's latest attempt to exploit the non-TV-watching Amish is either a shark-jumping example of structured reality hitting its nadir, or in its brazenness, the screwball comedy of 2012.

The mere title “Amish Mafia” sounds like parody, a la those “Saturday Night Live” sketches from the final 30 minutes. And given perhaps the most remarkable disclaimer ever — the program features dramatic reenactments “based on eyewitness accounts, testimonials and the legend of the Amish Mafia” — one might rightfully view this as high camp as opposed to anything remotely approaching reality. By that measure, sister network Discovery’s latest attempt to exploit the non-TV-watching Amish is either a shark-jumping example of structured reality hitting its nadir, or in its brazenness, the screwball comedy of 2012.

Seriously, a so-called reality show “based on legend?” What’s next, “Bigfoot Bada-Bing?” “Chupacabra Cosa Nostra?”

Amish Mafia” is being previewed before shifting to its regular Wednesday slot, a few days after TLC introduces another new hour, “Sin City Rules,” which might as well be called “Real Housewives of Las Vegas.” In fact, the show’s producer, Evolution Media, is already responsible for two installments in the Bravo franchise, with the only twist here being not everyone’s a housewife, and almost nothing (especially the cleavage) looks particularly real.

Still, it’s “Mafia” that breaks ground, mostly by burrowing through the soil into the murky semi-scripted depths below.

Picture Amish enforcers as self-appointed arbiters of justice, exacting vengeance on behalf of members of their community. On the not-so-good side, they also leverage others’ indiscretions (in the premiere, an elder is supposedly caught frequenting prostitutes) to expand their power.

At the center of it all is an awkward lug named Lebanon Levi, who travels around with scowling sidekicks who might as well be named Silvio, Paulie and Big Pussy. In the course of doing business, tough-sounding direct-to-camera interviews are given, faces are obscured to protect the innocent and the music swells like an old “Shaft” movie.

The series comes from the producers of TLC’s “Breaking Amish,” a show that has been a ratings hit while prompting questions about the extent of its fictional staging. Yet whatever that series’ excesses, they pale next to the artifice in this follow-up, where Amish thugs have no qualms about tooling around in a Cadillac (the mind boggles at the product-placement opportunities).

Compared with “Amish Mafia,” “Sin City Rules” (which, naturally, features a gal who married into the mob) is relatively restrained, with the usual cat-fighting drama. One outgoing sort, Lana, likes to boast about her luxurious lifestyle by saying, “I am God,” before later accusing a fellow woman in Vegas’ fast lane, Alicia, of sleeping with married men.

The only real shock, frankly, is that the expression “dirty whore” doesn’t get shouted until the “This season on” tease.

TLC and Discovery has rolled out a steady menu of new programs this month, apparently following a counterprogramming approach to reruns and saccharine holiday fare.

As a scheduling strategy, it might very well work. In terms of the bar on reality-TV standards, though, “Amish Mafia,” in particular, effortlessly limbos beneath it.

Popular on Variety

Amish Mafia / Sin City Rules

Discovery, Tues. Dec. 11, 10:30 p.m. Series; TLC, Sun. Dec. 9, 10 p.m.

Production: Amish Mafia
Produced by Hot Snakes Media. Executive producers, Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista. 60 MIN.
Sin City Rules
Produced by Evolution Media. Executive producers, Douglas Ross, Greg Stewart, Alex Baskin, Chaz Gray, Ross McCall. 60 MIN.

More TV

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmys: Big 4 Broadcasters Post Lowest Combined Wins Ever

    The Big 4 broadcast networks put a cap on their worst year in Emmy history on Sunday night. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC brought home just 16 Emmy Awards — the lowest combined total in history for the four major broadcast networks. The previous low was 19 combined wins in 2016. Last year, the networks [...]

  • Karamo BrownLA LGBT Center 'Hearts of

    Karamo Brown Addresses Backlash Against Sean Spicer Comments

    Karamo Brown has doubled down on comments he made about his fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Sean Spicer, in which he promoted the idea of meeting political adversaries “in the middle.” The amicable “Queer Eye” host received criticism when he said he was “most excited to meet” Spicer ahead of the show’s 28th season, [...]

  • Billy Porter Emmy Win 2019 Pose

    Billy Porter Dispels Rumors of RuPaul Rift Backstage at Emmys

    Billy Porter choked up backstage on Sunday at the Emmy Awards as he spoke about the larger cultural significance of his lead drama actor Emmy win for the FX drama “Pose.” Porter leads the large ensemble on the series set in 1980s New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis and the birth [...]

  • Michelle-Williams-Rupaul-Split

    Emmy Winners Urge Political Activism During Acceptance Speeches

    As the country inches closer to the 2020 election, Emmy winners on Sunday night used their time in the spotlight to advocate for political causes. Celebrities such as Patricia Arquette, Michelle Williams, and RuPaul Charles all urged activism from viewers while accepting their awards. While accepting her Emmy for her supporting role in Hulu’s “The [...]

  • Julia-Garner-Billy-Porter-Phoebe-Waller-Bridge

    An Emmy Night Full of Surprises Matches TV's Energy in the Streaming Era (Column)

    The 2019 Emmy telecast effectively began with a speech by a star from the recent past: Bryan Cranston, who recalled watching the moon landing on television, noting that the most famous televised event in history made him feel he could “go anywhere — even Albuquerque.” The reference to the setting of “Breaking Bad,” the past [...]

  • Phoebe Waller Bridge Emmys

    TV Review: The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

    The 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards had some truly surprising moments, twists that not even the most experienced prognosticators saw coming, moving tributes and calls to action. It’s just too bad that not a single one of them came courtesy of Fox’s production.  The Emmys are, all things considered, a dependably tame awards ceremony. They [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content