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