Trad­ing places to find where grass is browner

Wife Swap 8.30pm, The LifeStyle Chan­nel Deb­bie learns pro­fan­ity from the chil­dren is frowned on, and shud­ders

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THE US ver­sion of Wife Swap that I am used to is the epit­ome of car- crash television: two fam­i­lies set off at high speed straight to­wards each other. The direc­tors let the cam­era roll and the prod­uct, with ju­di­cious edit­ing, emerges as highly en­ter­tain­ing and at times deeply trou­bling.

Amer­i­cans are tai­lor- made for gen­res such as Wife Swap . As a rule they are un­sub­tle and un­able to gauge other peo­ple’s emo­tions, so when two care­fully cho­sen fam­i­lies swap mums for a few days the re­sults can be nu­clear.

Such is the up­heaval that you won­der what makes peo­ple agree to sub­mit them­selves to such an or­deal. Well, they’re Amer­i­can, aren’t they?

This se­ries is the Bri­tish ver­sion, the orig­i­nal BAFTA award- win­ning ef­fort. And the Poms prove equally as adept at car- crash TV.

Angie and Keith Townsend are a re­spectable mid­dle- of- the- road fam­ily with three daugh­ters.

Angie is a worka­holic hair­dresser across whose lips a pro­fan­ity will never pass. She is ably abet­ted in her do­mes­tic life by her sub­mis­sive, part­time car­pen­ter hus­band.

On the in­ter­change bench are Deb­bie and Mike Doody, a work­ing­class cou­ple with two sons in tow.

Deb­bie’s other half is a truck driver, but she swears like one, and laments that for some rea­son he spends up to nine hours a day tend­ing his com­puter rather than his fam­ily.

And so th­ese mums, house­wife and worka­holic, are un­leashed on each other’s fam­i­lies.

The joy of Wife Swap is that for the first week each mum must live by the ex­ist­ing rules of the house. In­vari­ably there are prob­lems.

For Deb­bie, the Townsends’ TV is fright­en­ingly small, and when she learns pro­fan­ity from the chil­dren is frowned on, she shud­ders.

Angie pan­ics at the sight of a cup­board full of junk food and the threat she’ll have to cook chips.

Wife Swap should be as en­rich­ing as fast food, yet hid­den within is an en­cy­clo­pe­dia of moral dilem­mas. Even in the most ex­treme cases there are glimpses of fa­mil­iar­ity for any viewer. What Wife Swap does mas­ter­fully is dis­prove the adage that the grass is greener on the other side.

Al­though each wife and fam­ily emerges from the ex­pe­ri­ence with a fresh view of their own do­mes­tic world, they al­most al­ways jump back gladly into the arms of the hus­bands and fam­i­lies they chose them­selves.

It may be a car crash, but at least it’s an hon­est one.

Si­mon Can­ning

Car- crash TV: Angie Townsend with Mike Doody and his sons in Wife Swap

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