‘Wife Swap’ timidly returns to reality television

Sunday, April 7, 2019 - 4:14pm

"Wife Swap"

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In modern times, it’s easy to get so caught up in the superficiality of your social media feed and miss the intricacies of other people’s lifestyles. That’s where “Wife Swap” comes in. One spin-off (“Celebrity Wife Swap”) and a couple of cancellations later, “Wife Swap” finally makes its return to network television — this time boasting a more progressive air. Despite variances to the classic formula of swapping only heterosexual couples, the foundation of the show remains the same: Two different families swap a parent for two weeks and see how their parenting styles hold up in other households.

The pilot episode features a swap between a stay-at-home mom, Virginia, and a stay-at-home dad, Bo. In classic “Wife Swap” fashion, the two families are complete opposites. Virginia is portrayed as a helicopter mom who homeschools her repressed kids and (for some reason) takes care of 10 puppies, while Bo is the fun-loving dad who lets his kids roam free and eat processed junk food all day. Although they were both stay-at-home parents, Bo was definitely more entertaining to watch, as he was teaching the kids to have fun while Virginia just took away the kids’ video games and cringed when they ate chicken nuggets.

At the end of each episode, the parents reunite and deliberate on what each family needs to change in their household. This segment is an awkward attempt to extract the last strains of drama the episode can offer whilst finding a “middle-ground” between the two families. Throughout the entire episode, Virginia nagged about how Bo’s family needed to change their dietary habits, but she suddenly reveals in this conference portion that she is such an aggressive health advocate because she needed to give up a kidney for her child. This confession comes way out of left field and should have been revealed much earlier in the episode, particularly when Virginia and Bo’s wife Christie were bickering about how they felt “mommy-shamed.”

For the pilot episode of a rebooted show, the storyline could have used a more drastic change to prove why this version of “Wife Swap” should stay on the air. At the episode’s conclusion, audiences were given a trailer of the season to come. And with previews that include a vlogger family, a same-sex family, a sexist husband and many more of the show’s trademark cartoonish caricatures, one cannot help but wonder why they decided to commence the reboot with an episode as bland as the one that aired. There weren’t many “oh snap” moments, which is a crucial component every good reality TV show needs to capture its audience. If you’ve ever watched “The Bachelor” or any installment of the “Real Housewives,” you know the moments I’m referring to, and this episode is like “PBS NewsHour” in comparison.

As of right now, parents who are actively raising younger children are the only audience that the show targets, but if they expand to different kinds of families and raise the drama, they might be able to reach a level right below “Real Housewives” reality TV. It’s a good source of entertainment when there’s nothing else to watch, but the distinction between reality TV and an issue of “Parents” magazine is something they’ll need to work hard on earning as soon as possible if they don’t want another cancellation.

NodeBox: 

“Wife Swap”

Pilot

Paramount Network

Thursdays at 9 p.m.