Wife Swap was an incredibly popular TV show that first aired in America in 2004. The TV show was based on a British reality show of the same name which followed the switching of wives and mothers between two families.
The show tried to find families that were as different as possible so as to create tension and drama. This tension and drama would make the show appear more entertaining and would in turn increase ratings.
However, we all know by now that reality TV shows are not actually based on reality. In a lot of cases, what we see on our screens is not what actually happened during filming, even if the show’s creators claim otherwise.
To the disappointment and anger of the Wife Swap creators, many former contestants have come forward and told their version of the story.
15. The Show Is Pretty Much Scripted
Wife Swap is a reality TV show, right? It turns out; it isn’t really. You see, for it to be a reality TV show it would have to mean that whatever happens on the show happens naturally. No one should interfere with the natural drama regardless of how dull it is. And no one should tell the contestants to act a certain way or to say certain things.
Yet on Wife Swap, and other TV shows that claim to be “reality TV”, this type of interference occurs all the time. Of course, not every moment on the show is scripted but a good number of former Wife Swap families have revealed that the rules are usually manufactured by the producers so as to create more tension.
14. Most Contestants Go On The Show For The Sole Purpose Of Becoming Famous
Most of us know by now that people usually appear on reality TV shows for the sole purpose of becoming famous. Of course, most contestants that appear on Wife Swap will say that they are there to show a more accurate representation of their community or to earn the $20,000 offered by the show.
Naturally, the majority of contestants do not actually become famous. How could they, with so many other shows on the air? However, there are exceptions. For example, the Heene family that appeared on Wife Swap in 2008 did not become famous during or right after the show. But in 2014 they became famous after they claimed that their six-year-old son has flown away in a large balloon.
The police immediately began the search for the six-year-old only to find out that he was hiding in the attic the whole time. The Heene family went to jail but they did become famous, for a short while at least.
13. The Producers Resort To Blackmail To Have Things Their Way
In one Wife Swap episode, the producers decided to swap a man’s wife with a gay man. Jeffrey Bedford, the man whose wife was replaced with a man, went on to sue the show claiming that the producers were dishonest. Bedford then threatened to not appear on the show at all.
The producers’ response was shocking. They decided against a rational discussion with Bedford and instead told him that if he refused to continue filming they would not pay for his wife’s return ticket home and furthermore, would not even tell him where she was.
12. The Portrayal Of Contestants Is Inaccurate At Best
The contestants are not always as bad in real life as they appear to be on the show. In fact, the producers portray contestants inaccurately on purpose so as to garner more views. Take Bachelor Sean Lowe as an example. He appeared on Wife Swap with his wife Catherine. The latter was swapped with another woman, Molly.
When Molly woke up the next morning, she found a to-do list in the kitchen that included tasks such as ironing Lowe’s socks and cleaning the kitchen. However, he said that the episode was untrue – [Catherine] would scratch my eyes out if I ever gave her a to-do list.”
11. The Manuals Are Not Written By The Wives But By The Producers
At the start of every Wife Swap episode, a wife writes a manual for her replacement. The manual details all the house rules that the “new wife” has to follow for a week. However, according to one former contestant, it is not the wives who come up with the rules but the producers – “The rules the moms come up with are not their own, the producers create the rules. And they obviously edit it in a way that makes it way more dramatic.”
The former contestant also gave an example of how the producers changed (or tried to change) the rules – “The producers tried to have one of her rules be that the dog has to stay in a tiny cage and my mom refused and threatened to quit the show. Obviously, they agreed to not have it be one of her ‘rules.’”
10. Some Contestants End Up Suing The Show
In 2008 a 15-year-old girl named Alicia Guastaferro appeared on Wife Swap. However, her appearance on the show led to such emotional distress that Guastaferro ended up dropping out of high school. As a result, she sued the TV show.
Those who watched Wife Swap in 2008 probably remember Guastaferro and her famous lines such as “I am the most popular girl in school” and “I do feel sorry for people that are not gorgeous people.”
Guastaferro appeared like a spoiled brat but according to her, she was told to act in such a way by the producers. However, acting in accordance with the producers’ wishes led to “incessant verbal and physical assaults from her peers” which in turn led to her dropping out of school.
9. Not All Couples That Appear On The Show Are Real
Believe it or not, but sometimes couples that appear on Wife Swap are not actually couples in real life! Take the rapper Coolio as an example – he appeared on Wife Swap with his supposedly long-term girlfriend Mimi.
Six weeks after the episode aired rumors spread that Coolio and Mimi were no longer together due to Coolio’s bad behavior on the show. However, Coolio insisted that this was a lie and that him and Mimi never actually dated – “Listen. It was all a setup. I’m nothing like that. I’m not even with Mimi. I never was. She’s a friend of mine. They tried to make me look bad. I don’t want to do that stuff again.”
8. The Contestants Are Forced To Play A Character
We all know that starring in a reality TV show can ruin your life. We have seen it happen many times. Take Stephen Fowler, for example. To this day he is known as the “worst husband in America” and you can see why – he was incredibly rude on the show.
Fowler called his wife’s replacement a “dumb redneck” and said that she was “undereducated, over-opinionated and overweight.” However, Fowler later confessed that the producers forced him to play a character so as to make the storyline more dramatic – “They strongly encouraged me to be acerbic. I was playing a character. I was playing a role… like Simon Cowell on steroids. I overreacted.”
7. The Show Sometimes Ruins Lives
Sometimes reality TV shows can ruin lives, and Wife Swap is no exception. When Simon Foster and Jane Foster appeared on UK’s version of the show everyone thought their marriage was a bit strange. Both Simon and Jane had girlfriends.
According to Simon’s friend, the show embarrassed Simon because it looked as if his wife Jane was having a better time with her girlfriend than with him (see the two pictured above). After the show, Jane left Simon and moved in with her girlfriend. Simon ended up losing his job. He became extremely depressed and as a result turned to drugs.
A few years after Simon had appeared on the show he was found dead in his home. It is believed that his death was the result of an accidental drug overdose, but it is possible that he committed suicide.
6. The Show Involves Lots Of Editing
While the show films every scene that occurs, that doesn’t mean that every scene will make it to the final cut. In fact, the producers edit the episode so much that a lot of important information ends up being left out. Of course, former contestants are not at all happy with this heavy editing.
Donna Adams who appeared on the UK version of Wife Swap says – “It was very realistic from my end, but it was like they’d twisted scenes. They made it look like our sons Lewis and Cory were laughing at Craig and only used one comment from them which made it look like they think Craig is like that all the time. Our family is very fun and flexible and they took away all of those scenes that showed us playing games together. We may be organized but we are not militant.”
5. Manipulation Of Contestants Is An Everyday Occurrence
How can you get reality TV show contestants to do what you want them to do without saying it to them explicitly? Through manipulation of course. If you watched Wife Swap in 2009 then you probably remember the adorably unhealthy seven-year-old named ‘King Curtis’ Holland famous for saying things such as “Bacon is good for you.”
Recently, Holland revealed that producers manipulated contestants with the manner in which they asked questions. Holland said – “I will say this. If I ask you the same question in 20 different ways, I will eventually get what I’m looking for. That’s probably one aspect in which they tried to make it more dramatic.”
4. A “Final” Cut Is Usually Not Final
Former contestants of Wife Swap have also revealed that the producers sometimes trick the contestants by showing them a “final cut” of the show that turns out to not have been final in the end.
One of the contestants named Ashley Fine said that her family received the “final cut” of the show before the episode aired which showed the family in a positive light.
However, Fine was shocked when she saw the live episode – “I was so excited and told everyone about it. We had a big viewing party. The thing that really bothered me was that they showed [us] the ‘final version’ before it aired. But it was completely different than the actual episode. We were totally confident with having a viewing party for the episode we saw, but the final cut that we all watched live was less favorable. That bugged me.”
3. The Show Leaves Out Information
Believe it or not, but the show also leaves out information about families so as not to ruin the image they are going for. For example, one former contestant, Nancy Cedarquist, said she was disappointed how the show left out information about her family.
The show said that her family lives in a tree house and that they had essentially dropped out of society. According to the show, only the father leaves the treehouse every day for work – “Husband Keith is the only one who leaves the tree house on a daily basis, to work at the local paper mill.”
2. Less “Reality” And More “Film Set”
It turns out that it’s not just Wife Swap’s contestants’ lines or behavior that is scripted! Recently, former contestants have come forward and revealed that while it is officially said that the TV show is shot over two weeks, the producers actually take only one week to shoot it.
Apparently, various props are brought over to the contestants’ house to help the storyline progress. The time of the day doesn’t matter either – night scenes are often shot during the day – the producers simply black out the windows to make it appear darker.
1. Contestants Don’t Find It As Fun As You Think
Starring in a reality TV show may seem fun from the outside but it is far from fun in real life. Producers often put the contestants under enormous strain and create drama for financial gain. So, for example, when the TV presenter Anna Courtenay went on to star in UK’s version of Wife Swap, she thought she knew exactly what she was getting into.
Being a TV presenter Courtenay knew that ratings depended on conflict and drama and believed that she knew what to expect. Courtenay ended up in an eco-friendly family who lived in a tugboat with no electricity or running water. She felt trapped and wanted to go for a walk but was afraid she’d be charged for lost recording time.
Furthermore, when Courtenay asked for some eco-friendly products, the producers brought her an air freshener which obviously went against what the eco-friendly family believed in. Courtenay thought she was in for a fun, different week. Instead, she found herself in hell.
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