Show of the week: Sworn to Silence

Sworn to Silence built on US TV’s fascination with the Amish community. From reality shows Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia (Discovery) and Vanilla Ice Goes Amish (Scripps) to straight docs such as Tragedy in Amish County (PBS), there is an enduring interest in the traditionalist Christian communities. On the scripted side, A+E’s Lifetime notched one of its most successful TV movies ever with its 2010 TV movie Amish Grace and the female-skewing net followed that up earlier this year with 1x12omins offering An Amish Murder, which has been retitled Sworn to Silence for the international market.

Developed as a back-door pilot for a possible series, Sworn to Silence stars Neve Campbell (Scream) as Kate Burkholder, a city detective returning to the childhood Amish community she grew up in to solve a series of murders. As the case unfolds she has to face family and personal conflict as she attempts to uncover the dark secrets behind the killings.

“There are a lot of shows about the Amish on air and they take you into a world you don’t know,” says Christian Murphy, A+E’s senior VP, international programming and marketing. “In some respects it’s a closed world and there’s a genuine [audience] interest in that.”

On Lifetime Sworn to Silence almost double the primetime average and only trailed the buzzy Prosecuting Casey Anthony among the net’s original shows in January when it went out.

Murphy says A+E has commissioned research among consumers into their appetite for TV movies, which showed the sometimes maligned genre remains popular with viewers. “It said viewers want these shows on air and we want to use the findings to help get broader distribution of movies and have conversations with broadcasters in relevant territories. We’re  trying to make the genre more robust and show how it has changed. This and other Lifetime movies are high quality, well scripted and produced, engaging movies.”

The show: Sworn to Silence
The producer: STS Productions
The distributor: A+E Television
The broadcaster: STS Productions
Concept: Neve Campbell stars as a detective returning to the Amish community she grew up in to investigate a series of murders

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