Two wives, from two very different families, swap lives for two weeks. One week in the life of the host family, the other week forcing the family to live her lifestyle.Two wives, from two very different families, swap lives for two weeks. One week in the life of the host family, the other week forcing the family to live her lifestyle.Two wives, from two very different families, swap lives for two weeks. One week in the life of the host family, the other week forcing the family to live her lifestyle.
Season Reviewed: Series (season 1+)
"Wife Swap" is trash. Fortunately, it is also just one of those shows where you just have to describe the premise and the reason why becomes pretty clear. Which makes it easy on me. It is yet another network remake of a British reality series. Once again the uncreative Americans are stealing a brilliant idea from the Brits. A little sarcasm there.
No, "Wife Swap" isn't about free love and key parties. In it two families from completely opposite sides of the tracks swap the matriarch of their households and spend a week experiencing life through the eyes and living in the home of someone else. Someone that they would never come into contact with in their own lives. It's not a bad idea actually, particularly as a media answer to the media contrived notion that America is sharply polarized and that people only ensconce themselves in opinions that agree with their own. In reality though, it is shows like this that have really created that idea in the first place.
"Wife Swap" thinks that in order to maximize this concept the families that get swapped have to be as diametrically opposite from each other as humanly possible. Either that or it feels the swaps have to be so extreme that we, the audience out in the hinterlands, won't recognize it if it isn't spelled out in stark black and white for us. Real? Of course, they're real, but the show is wildly misrepresented. As an unintended consequence to that premise, everybody here is a fanatic that lives at the margin of whatever their belief system is. The difference between who is tired and who is funny is directly related to how often we see these clichés elsewhere on TV. On one hand we have the homophobic, fanatical Christians, boring, on the other hand we have the obnoxious deadbeat liberal who thinks "the U.S. should be drawn up on war crimes": funny. I particularly like a family who drinks coffee through a straw because there is a chance it will not stain their teeth.
Episode after episode appears to come down to the same suspicious broad conclusion in the end: the sloppy family is the one that is having fun and has found happiness; meanwhile the neat, organized family is too stifled, stressed, repressed and not having any fun. Filth = happiness, neat = uptight. Where on "The Bachelor" the catch phrase has become that all the women say "I can really see myself with him" after a few minutes on the show, the catch phrase deserving of parody on "Wife Swap" goes something like: "I can't imagine how a house this clean can have any love in it". At the end of the period the neat mother learns the all-valuable lesson of "loosening up" where the piggish family just goes back to roll in the mud. This negative correlation between cleanliness and happiness rings as a theme throughout the entire series. It is bizarre.
It is another one of those shows that claims to provide a service by promoting discussion, but the discussion it promotes is based on a false reality it, and other television like it, has inadvertently created. That everybody of any devout ideology lives at the fanatical margin of that ideology, that organization is repressive and filth means raising a heard of farm animals in your house. And I shouldn't even mention the "Oprah" demographic pandering afoot here. Like an Oprah episode, "Swap" is an exercise so that lazy bum husbands get to see how hard their wives work and finally learn to appreciate them. I'm not saying its inherently bad, its just typically predictable.
It can be mindless entertainment when it isn't completely unpleasant. The show is watchable, if only because there are far worse in the reality show genre. It is certainly better than its sleazy FOX rip-offs. We just need a little nuance to this one. There is no insight or deep lessons learned. While everybody says their lives where "changed forever" you always get the feeling they will go back to normal in about 2 weeks.
Bottom line: You would be a fool to take any of this seriously.
* * / 4
- Mar 20, 2005