If I had never seen the show, I would call it stupid and condemn it as not worth my time. Off the bat, it looks like that sort of show. The ads naturally, and unfortunately, exploit the two or three most high conflict moments of the show. They're skewed to that, to lure more viewers. But the commercials definitely leave you with a false impression of what the show is about. --So much so that, if someone watched Trading Spouses based on the commercials, there is every chance they'd be disappointed by the sweetness of the enterprise. I made the mistake of watching it one evening, and I have become a mild fan of the show. It's not Shakespeare. And for sure, on paper and in theory, this show is as stupid and repulsive as any other reality TV series. But if you watch it, you would likely recognize that it's among the best of its field.
Have you seen The Swan? The Apprentice? The Bachelor? Extreme Makeover? Big Brother? Survivor? The Real World? Starting Over? Joe Millionaire? Trading Spouse's original inspiration, Wifeswap? My Big Fat Husband or whatever they flipped a coin, or threw a dart, and named it? Trading Spouses would place in the upper .5 percentile of these sorts of shows if only for the simple reason that it says "No" to the chief vomitous, repulsive characteristic of Reality TV: it refuses to indulge in the level of mean-spiritedness of every other show of its kind. Ugly attitude is epidemic on these shows. (Even the generally positive, upbeat Amazing Race has down-shifted its focus, after the first couple of seasons, to show more overgrown child's name-calling and rude elbowing between contestants.) "Give the wrestling fans something to watch on week nights!" --Network execs seem to be in near-total accord on this point. I think a network sees itself as taking a tremendous gamble these days, and not in a good way, when it does something that is "heartwarming" or "affirming" at very least "mellow." By that measure alone, Trading Spouses is breakout programming in a sleazy field.
My one worry, based on a preview of coming weeks, is that producers will try to punch up the show with a more forced atmosphere of strident conflict. That would be terrible thing to do to with this serendipitous success.
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