Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Ode to Wife Swap

Hi bloggerheads. I am writing you from the cozy interior of a tea shop in Cambridge where I have been camping out for the last few days, since my internet no longer works in Al's place. It's okay, though, because this place has Argentine yerba mate (sin bombilla y mate gourd, unfortunately) and free wireless. Oh, and they serve bi bim bap. Yes!

Since I only use the internet while I'm at the tea shop, I take advantage of the time that I'm here to catch up on celebrity gossip, email people, read advice columns, check my horoscope and very occasionally read the news. Today, in fact, I was scanning the news and I saw this headline: "Six-year-old boy floats away in homemade balloon." I clicked on it, thinking it was a really early (or really late), mid-month April Fool's joke, but it turned out to be a real story. The kid who floated away (maybe -- we're still not sure) in his parents' homemade experimental balloon (sigh) is the child of a family that was featured on the truly underappreciated ABC show Wife Swap, one of my favorite shows on TV.

I actually saw the episode featuring this wackjob family, the Heenes, and had to turn it off midway because the nutcase, manic, rageaholic dad was driving me batty and I couldn't watch the poor swapped wife be abused by him anymore. Also, I was watching it at the gym and I was done with my workout, so...yeah. Anyway, this family, the Heenes, claim to be "science-obsessed" storm chasers who sleep in their clothes and pull their kids out of school to go chase tornadoes. In reality, though, they were just all kind of a-holes. The dad, as I mentioned, was a scary nutjob, the mom was a subservient, unhinged nutjob, and the kids were disgusting, unruly little hooligan nutjobs who were encouraged to fart and burp at the dinner table and jump off furniture, etc. They were truly awful.

So now, one of the little monsters from that family has apparently climbed into this balloon and has floated away. But the balloon has landed and there was no child inside, so now people are wondering whether he fell out or whether he was even in there to begin with because it was a publicity stunt staged by the family. Like I said, wackjobs.

But the point of this post is not to give the Heenes any more press than they already have, but to extol the virtues of Wife Swap. Here's the basic idea of the show, if you haven't seen it:

Only on Wife Swap do you unearth such wonderful moments as this:

It's pretty amazing. ABC somehow manages each week to find extremely odd families with bizarre parenting philosophies and lifestyles AND swap those families with ones that subscribe to the polar opposite set of philosophies and lifestyles. It's an art form. They've done neat-messy, hippy-conservative, winners-losers, safety-adventure, feminist-misogynist, junkfood-obsessed-exercise-obsessed...and the list goes on! Oddly, I always find myself siding with the uptight, rules-bound families that make their kids take Chinese language classes and aerial gymnastics lessons and have a rigid punishment/chore system. (Hey future kids! You have a lot to look forward to with me. Get ready!)

Part of the reason the show is so fun to watch is the sheer craziness of the families and the fireworks that inevitably ensue when the uptight, neat-freak wife has to milk a goat or whatever, but the real joy of Wife Swap is seeing the families actually learn from each other. Seriously, it's heartwarming. Everyone should watch this show.

Oh, yeah, and I hope the balloon kid is okay.


  1. wow, yah i love that show! i haven't seen it in ages though, but i have nothing negative to say about it. just good quality fucked up people observing. i got really into big brother when i was in england, it's a super popular show there, i feel like that's a similar type of evil pleasure.

  2. Omg and to think i actually followed that story including the whole live coverage until they had found the boy. You're right, it just may as well have been a stage act.