The well-adjusted conjoined twins are 22 now, and ready to give the public another glimpse into their lives, but on their terms.
Abby & Brittany airs Tuesdays nights on TLC. Check local listings.
Abby and Brittany Hansel have only appeared in a handful of documentaries since their birth in Minnesota in 1990, and were last seen on T.V. when they were 16, but even those brief appearances stole our hearts. We were also impressed with their parents, Patty, a nurse, and Mike, a landscaper, who always treated their spunky but sweet girls normally. They pushed them to do regular activities like bike riding, sports and eventually driving and college, and protected the girls from too much media attention, while still recognizing how special and inspiring their story has been to the public.
Now Abby and Brittany are all grown up, finishing college, and have decided to tackle a TLC series of their own. Their show, Abby & Brittany, plays like usual TLC fare: a half hour of bright, chirpy music, couch interviews spliced with everyday activities, lots of humor, and light on anything too depressing. In fact the series is written and directed by Beth Glover, who produced every episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. The first episode follows the girls around during a typical week, with grocery shopping, cooking, coffee shop breaks, dinner out and finally a birthday party with lots of friends.
The true charm of the show is unexpected, and found not so much in Abby and Brittany themselves (although the girls are still as spunky as ever and certainly quite charming), but rather in watching the young people around them so openly embrace and accept them. The girls are remarkably popular and outgoing, and live in a big house with several pretty, similarly outgoing girlfriends their age. Friends describe the twins as kind, warm-hearted and fun, but with distinct personalities.
Some obvious questions go unanswered thus far, namely dating, marriage and children. But the viewer gets the sense that's because Abby and Brittany are in charge this time, and will talk about the heavier stuff only when and if they are ready.
For all the media talk of bullying and "mean girls," here are two very unique young people who have been completely accepted by their peers, and it's a beautiful thing to watch. Patty and Mike declined to separate the girls at birth because they feared for their quality of life, and now that they are all grown up, it's never been more clear these two fine parents made the right call. Not only do Abby and Brittany have a very full and happy life, but are teaching others life lessons that can't be found anywhere else. Remarked one of their roommates: "They are the epitome of teamwork, love and respect." And get this, the twins want to be teachers. Who better to teach kids tolerance? (Interesting tidbit: Instead of Bethel University charging the twins two separate tuitions, the twins paid "one and a half" tuition. Seems fair.)
Perhaps TLC has finally hit on a story worth telling, on one of the few reality shows that has a higher purpose beyond just exploiting a family's differences. A message of teamwork, love and respect.