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Celebrity Wife Swap Starts Tonight On Lifestyle You At 8.30pm

The US series Celebrity Wife Swap starts on Lifestyle You tonight at 8.30pm and tonight’s episode has reality TV fire cracker Gary Busey in it.

The premise of the show is the same as Wife Swap. To people swap houses, they live by the family’s set of rules for the first part of the week, and then they set the rules in the second part of the week.

Gary Busey who is completely bizarre as seen on Celebrity Apprentice Australia has swapped with Ted Haggard an Evangelical Pastor. This would almost be a must watch episode.

The other couples in the series are:

Tracey Gold (“Growing Pains” actress) and  Carnie Wilson (Wilson Phillips singer)
Flavor Flav (rapper) and Dee Snider (rock star)
Mick Foley (professional wrestler and writer) and Antonio Sabato Jr. (actor and model)
Niecy Nash (actress and comedian) and Tina Yothers (“Family Ties” actress)
I note most of the celebrities already have reality TV shows already on their resumes.
Celebrity Wife Swap will screen on Lifestyle You on Mondays at 8.30pm.

May 28, 2012   4 Comments

Wife Swap – Queen of Clean vs Car-Lover

Apologies for the late recap of what appears to be the final episode in the first Wife Swap Australia series. According to the schedule, it’s Wife Swap USA tonight, but LifestyleYOU is recruiting for next series. Click here if you think you’re up for the challenge!

Anyway, the blurb for this episode struggles to set up the usual polarities, describing Christina Kuhn as the “Queen of Clean” who is swapping with Leesa Marshall, “a car-lover who lives in an outback shed”. Since when was “car-lover” the opposite of “Queen of Clean”? Have we really run out of easily reducible married archetypes so quickly?  The narrator’s introduction sets up Christina’s fanatical cleanliness and “compliant husband” who is like a “fourth child” against Leesa’s lack of prioritising cleaning, so I guess battle lines have been drawn. Oh, and did he mention that Leesa lives in a shed? Yes? Twice? Got it.

“I have an awful fucking temper!” “I will not jeopardise our marriage just to do something for a TV show.” “You didn’t learn a thing.” As usual, the preview snippets promise fireworks. What’s the bet that, in context, these comments are less combative than they seem?

Christina is a “former promotional model now stay-at-home-mum” who describes herself as a “slight control freak”. Is there such a thing as a “slight” control freak? I wouldn’t have thought so. She cleans. It’s what she does, saying that she can have up to seven loads of washing a day. How is that even possible? Is she taking laundry in for the entire community? Perhaps Wife Swap Australia really is, as I have suspected, a subliminal campaign to send people back to the Magic Faraway Tree. She is even Dame Washalot when it comes to her kids, who each have two baths a day despite not being allowed to play outside where they might get dirty. Props to the sound editors for the abrupt ceasing of the soundtrack at the “I think that’s normal” comment. Hope you’ve been nominated for a Logie!

By contrast – and this show is all about the stark contrast – Leesa doesn’t like superficial people. 17 year old daughter Shannon notes that a person visiting for the first time might be put off by the way the house looks from the outside. But it’s all about appearances and the cameras zoom in on a less-than-sparkly bathroom. Actually, a lot of it turns out to be about water conservation, as the property relies on tank water. The real conflict that needs to be resolved here is the distance between Darren and Leesa’s understanding of what “romantic” means. Hands up those of you who agree with Darren that cuddling up in front of the footy for six months of the year qualifies. Anybody?

The Swap

First impressions are important to Christina and her reaction upon seeing the shed is “it’s a shed. Oh, God”. Stating the obvious is also key, here.  Leesa is welcomed by a “please remove your shoes” sign. Christina notes that the Marshalls “obviously” re-use towels, so I’m guessing she’s the type who insists on a full housekeeping service daily in hotels. After exploring, both women seem ready to call it quits.

“I can’t think of anything worse than being boxed in a small suburban house” reads Christina from Leesa’s manual. She seems to appreciate the irony – clearly misery really does love company, even at a remove.

Meeting the family

Leesa is immediately judged “really cool” by oldest Kuhn daughter Lily and, in return, judges the family to be nice people. Shannon describes Christina as a “fashionista”, whilst Darren makes sure she won’t die waiting for a tea or coffee to be brought to her.  Not, I hasten to add, by offering her one, but by telling her that she’ll have to fend for herself in that regard.

First days

Leesa questions the point of daily cleaning as she gets stuck into the vacuuming at the Kuhn house, and Shannon helps Christina get ready for dinner over at the Marshall house. Darren thinks having someone to talk “girly stuff” with will be of benefit to Shannon, and the two do seem to hit it off. Leesa has dinner on the couch, with David and Scarlett sitting on the floor and Lily and Star in the kitchen, which is the Kuhn’s way, whilst the Marshalls and Christina seem to have a relaxed dinner.

The morning routine sees Leesa getting the kids off to school, the first of many loads of washing on, and then hitting the gym before returning home to get the rest of the cleaning done. Christina is enjoying a more relaxed pace in her swapped life. She even has time to discuss the purpose of the swap with Darren and it seems as though she is trying to nut out what Christina might be hoping for so that she can make it happen. The same conversation is happening over at the Kuhn house. Don’t these people realise that they are meant to selfishly impose an alien way of life on the other family, not try to be a catalyst for positive change? Sheesh, where’s the drama?

On David’s day off, he takes over the housework whilst Christina gets her beauty treatments, so this is Leesa’s lot for the day. She’s not a fan of the tan, but is enjoying the pampering of the makeover and the hair styling. The girls welcome her home with “you look pretty!”. Christina has fun on the dirt bikes with the Marshalls and realises that she could do that with David. Bike day is also cleaning day, and the narrator snarks “perhaps cleaning loses its gloss when there’s actual dirt involved”.

Rule changes

Christina’s rules

  • Darren to help out more
  • a romantic gesture every night
  • some pampering for Shannon
  • folding up the sofa bed

Leesa’s rules

  • artwork by the kids to decorate the house
  • family meals at the table
  • computer games and TV banned
  • no cleaning at all (which brings Lily to tears, as she seems to believe that a couple of cleaning-free days will have her being woken up by cockroaches)
  • David to visit the family with the kids

Darren agrees to the rules but notes that Christina wrote “wash OWN clothes” instead of “all” clothes. This brings the “I have an awful fucking temper” moment, which is a lot less confrontational in context than it appeared in the previews. Who’da thunk it? Well, probably all of us. Shannon gets some makeover time and Christina, Darren and Shannon go out for dinner. It’s all very friendly and, despite stirring Christina up with the promise that the following night’s “romantic” gesture will be her doing the dishes, Darren does put in some effort the next day with his alfresco cheese platter.

The Kuhns visit a farm and the girls enjoy playing with the animals. The Kuhn girls seem to have fun getting all messy with the paints and the family dinner at the table goes really well. David interviews that it would be something he’d like to keep. Oh, and David’s “I will not jeopardise…” comment from the previews? Also eminently reasonable in context. David’s examination of the finances shows up a lot of money spent on water consumption and is starting to see where changes can be made.

Table meeting

The table meeting is as congenial as you’d expect, given that the wives really did seem focussed on using their swap time to make positive changes for their counterparts. There is some tension in the discussion about the Kuhn finances, with Christina immediately pouncing on the fact that David spends money on cigarettes, but the Marshalls act as guidance counsellors here, with Darren suggesting cutting back, not cutting out, as a way to save.

Christina shuts down the suggestion that they discuss the issues with her in-laws and I’m conflicted over this. David did the right thing by not taking the kids to his parents while the swap was on, but he offered discussing it at the table meeting as a compromise. The voyeur in me wanted to get some insight into the issue, but Christina clearly wasn’t comfortable putting it out there and so it would have been uncomfortable viewing had it been pursued. Bring on the family shit-fights in Wife Swap USA, though!

Darren says he won’t keep any of the rule changes, but will “try to be a bit more romantic if I can fit it in”.

Homecoming

Christina is happy with some of the changes, or so the narrator tells us. In reality, we see her crossing off all the “no cleaning, dishes stack up, only one bath, visit parents” rules.

Leesa thinks Christina’s rules are “not bad”, but she banishes the couch covers. Darren unfolds the sofa bed immediately.

Revisit

Christina interviews that it took “about a week” to get on top of the couple of days of missed cleaning. Wow. She has kept the rule about eating together as a family, and the girls are doing more non-screen activities.

Leesa and Darren still divide the work between indoor responsibilities and outdoor, but we see Darren offering to make her a cuppa. Awwwww.

March 19, 2012   4 Comments

Wife Swap – Hedonism vs Devotion

The blurb for this episode seems to suggest that hard-working fashion designer atheists can’t be nurturing mothers. Can I stomach this? Let’s see…

Yolonda Faber is the “nurturing mum” in rural Victoria, demanding a “rigid routine” with her three daughters Michaela, Charisma and Montana. Set times for homework, dinner and daily devotions are highlighted here.

Cindy Liggins is the “hedonistic” fashion designer in Port Douglas. She loves swearing! The narrator actually says this. Do you think Cindy did? Do you think anybody actually says “I love swearing!”. I mean, I swear quite lavishly at times, a la Malcolm Tucker, but I would never say I love it.

As usual, the hyperbole is watered down pretty quickly. Cindy interviews “I probably swear too much.” Oh, and that part where the narrator says in a way that sounds quite judgemental “husband Mick is only home six months of the year” is soon clarified to “skippers boats, three weeks on, three weeks off”. Anyway, they have two daughters (Bianca and Leilani) and two large dogs.  And it’s not as though Cindy has no regard for routine – at 4.30 she shuts herself in her bedroom with the TV and nobody is to disturb her while she watches “The Bold and The Beautiful”. I love that the TV screen is blurred out here.

By contrast, we are introduced to the Faber family in action saying grace over dinner. They don’t have computers and they play educational board games on the weekends. The kids can watch TV on Saturday mornings, so at least they can watch “Rage”. Well, maybe not – Glen identifies shows such as “The Brady Bunch” and “Bewitched” as containing the appropriate values. “Bewitched”, huh? What about the bit where Samantha just changes husbands with no explanation?

The Swap

“Definitely a long way from Bonnie Doon” says Yolonda. Awwww! But you can still feel the serenity, right? She is impressed to see a finished kitchen, whilst in Bonnie Doon, Cindy is a bit freaked out by the lack of wine. I figure everybody’s playing their part here – Yolonda deadpans “maybe they’re into chooks?” when she sees the “rock out with your cock out” sign.

There is some nice editing when the wives read their manuals: “10 hours in the kitchen?” vs “I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen”.

Meeting the family

Mick immediately busts out a quote from “The Castle”, which is ace. The younger Faber girls seem pretty excited to learn that their new mum is a fashion designer but Michaela doesn’t quite know what to make of Cindy’s tatts. The Liggins girls are not all that impressed about the idea of a 7pm bed-time with devotions. Mick doesn’t think it will hurt the girls to have some exposure to religion so they can make up their own minds.

Charisma interviews that it makes her upset when Cindy swears and says she doesn’t believe in God. Again, this makes me wonder how fair any of these set-ups are on the kids. Glen is already annoyed and anticipates some clashes in the days to come.

First days

On Friday, Yolonda goes into the shop and doesn’t think much of the “F” word on the counter. Cindy strolls around the lake, does the housework and chats to the girls about discipline, particularly about the use of the “plastic persuader”. Eeek.

Yolonda debriefs with Bianca about whether she feels she gets enough attention from her parents. Bianca feels her parents are approachable, but will go to Mick more as Cindy is usually busy. Yolonda thinks “that sucks” but then refers to her daughters as “wives in training” which… ick!

Back in Bonnie Doon, Cindy asks Glen whether Yolonda might be a bit lazy. He admits that he can’t imagine what she finds to do for 10 hours in the kitchen each day, but then says she has friends over and he’s cool with that. They renovate and Cindy teases him in a way she thinks is secretly turning him on. It’s not.

Rule changes

Cindy’s rules include:

  • I will be going to work (and how is she going to find a job?)
  • No puzzles for Glen – he has to go to the pub

She calls her rules “the ten commandments according to Cindy” which seems guaranteed to keeping that stony look on Glen’s face, but he does have a laugh when the girls do. As for work, she’s going to do some sewing and hopes to teach the girls that there’s more to life than keeping a hubby happy. No more devotions – dance competitions instead. Glen’s not pleased about this as he will lose the time he spends with the girls each night, but he is really happy about the pub rule.

Yolonda is excited about her changes, thinking she is going to leave a legacy. Family time is her first rule and to ensure the quality of the time, she’s banishing TV, laptops from bedrooms and separate eating in favour of talking, playing games and family meals. Bianca thinks the TV and laptop rule is stupid. Yolonda is also closing the shop so the girls can experience a nurturing mother. Little Leilani reveals that she’s scared about the daily devotions because “none of my friends do religious stuff and I’m scared of turning into something different”.

Whilst I’m not a fan of the Persuader, flipping into “don’t piss me off” mode with the Fabers as Cindy has is equally dissonant. Not only is it not what they are used to with their real mum, but it’s not what they have become used to with Cindy, either.

Yolonda takes the Ligginses to a wildlife park and then teaches her new “wives in training” to make hamburgers. Family dinner at the table starts with a prayer and Mick interviews that her newfound confidence is coming across as superior. Cindy forages for fabric at an op-shop and again name-checks The Castle when she talks about an accessory “bringing the serenity to [her] Bonnie Doon collection”. Montana is finding new Cindy a bit bossy when she is booted out of the TV room whilst “Bold…” is on.

Glen hits the pub after work and reveals that Yolonda doesn’t really like him drinking. He’d like it if she joined him in a drink at home, but she won’t, so he doesn’t. “When it comes to socialisation, beer is almost like a miracle. You become so relaxed. It’s fantastic!” Oh, wow, Glen really needs to try something more miraculous than Boag’s.

“Fun Cindy” is back with the dance off, which the girls seem to be enjoying. The New Quiet Times Bible is out at the Ligginses and the girls go along with it but interview that they thought it was dumb. Once the girls are in bed, Yolonda goes after Bianca’s “acrylic nails” which she thinks are inappropriate for a 12 year old. She merrily toboggans down the slippery slope from here, predicting that Bianca could then become like one of the “14 year-olds at our pubs”, picking up 25 year-olds who have no idea! Mick just shuts her down.

Table meeting

Yolonda hits Cindy with a big load of judgement, saying that it comes from the kids. Well, maybe it does, but we haven’t seen it – again, editors, show, don’t tell! – so my instinct is that she’s wrapping up her own criticisms in a fabricated paper.

Cindy hits back saying that the Faber kids are disrespectful and naughty, bringing up the physical discipline objection. She says that hitting the kids goes against god’s rule, demonstrating that she misunderstood “spare the rod”. Unfortunately, this gives Yolonda a chance to show that it is in fact god’s rule, which completely muddies the waters as to whether it’s appropriate or not.

Mick expresses his objection to the “training wives” program coherently, pointing out that kids should be allowed to be kids. There are some raised voices, but nothing too confrontational. Mick acknowledges that TV off during mealtimes works and that bedtime routines are also healthy.

It’s interesting to see that, when Cindy brings up Yolonda’s controlling nature – not letting Glen do what he wants – Yolonda proves the point. She basically admits it, says “we’ve discussed this and I’m going to try to change”, which acts as way of trying to control the discussion.

Homecoming

Cindy scraps most of the rules, but will spend more time with the girls. Yolonda thinks perhaps they can do both devotions and dancing.

Revisit

Cindy is trying to do the afternoon tea thing, but the girls aren’t that keen on her cooking. They are also incorporating more family time, but Mick acknowledges that they fell back into their so-called “holiday lifestyle” pretty quickly.

Yolonda dismissed Cindy’s changes as ridiculous, saying they all degraded her family, values and standards. Glen interviews that he had thought he might go to the pub once a month, but it will probably be more like once every two months. Yolonda clarifies: “He probably will go again” (my emphasis). Poor bloke.

I think my discomfort with this show comes from the fact that the wives are put into a position of being advocates for change whilst the husbands are subject to it, not active participants. This leads to table meetings where the wives feel they have to defend their changes – a situation clearly designed to maximise conflict and defensive reactions – whilst the husbands are not as invested so can come across as more reasoned. I mean, yes, that is the basis of the show, so perhaps I’ve got to accept that I’m not really on board with it as a concept. I have watched both UK and US versions without as much consternation, but it’s easier to see Brits or Americans as characters, whereas when participants are local I feel more focussed on them as real people.

Anyway, next week! Producers mismatch another couple for our supposed entertainment/enlightenment.

March 6, 2012   17 Comments

Wife Swap – Witch vs Clown

The Amazing Race has always provided amusement with the “slash” descriptions of participants – models-slash-dating is fairly routine – but the description for this week’s Wife Swap offers a “strict white witch”. I’m assuming Michelle is not a strict white witch in the manner of somebody being a strict Catholic, so I think I’ll offer white witch-slash-disciplinarian as my contribution to slash descriptors. Anyway, she will meet Cherie’s “no rules” family, where “clowning around is more important than routine”.

Cherie is a kid’s entertainer and her husband Brian is cruelly described in the narration as “house slave”, working 60 hours a week and doing all the work around the seven kids, too. Michelle punishes her three kids if they break her rules, whilst her husband “doesn’t have to lift a finger”. Hands up all of you who went straight from that description to a vision of Michelle punishing her kids like this:

We know that Wife Swap is nuanced enough to help us overcome those preconceptions about witches, right?

“Beware of the Feral Child” warns a sign in the Clark home. The sequence that follows – Cherie demanding a different breakfast to the one Brian has brought her (in bed), the kids refusing to get out of bed, kids wagging school – suggests that perhaps this is not a reality show after all and we are being pranked. It all feels so scripted.

The Harding home has rules lists, chores timetables and the kids get naughty time based on their ages for any breaches. Michelle cleans the toilet two to three times a day and she and John laugh about whether she is obsessive compulsive. At least, John laughs and Michelle seems uncomfortable discussing it.  They are “raising adults not children”.

Swap Time

Michelle loves the welcoming “feral child” sign and is taken by the little motorbike, however I think she believes it belongs to the kids. She notices the overall grottiness immediately. As she explores the house she begins to get disoriented by the number of bedrooms she keeps coming across. “I’m a little overwhelmed,” she (under)states.

Cherie identifies an emo teenager based on Brighton’s room. She notes Michelle’s tarot cards, books, Buddhas and incense and her spirit fingers match her “whooooo! Cool”. Oh, Cherie, don’t jump to conclusions! We can, though, since the camera lingers on the NO LYING rule for the second time. Foreshadowing, much?

Manuals

Cherie takes exception to Michelle’s description of being a white witch. “That’s not true, that’s just not true” is her response to the claim you don’t have to have special powers, you just have to believe. Does Cherie want Michelle to hold a diploma in witching? John’s 40 hour work week is not seen to be worthy of an exemption from housework, according to Cherie. Did she miss the part where Michelle is a stay-at-home-mum? Sheesh.

Michelle reveals that she has coulrophobia, which is going to make doing Cherie’s job difficult. She starts to look fearful when she gets to the part where the manual reveals how many kids the Clarks have. She’s horrified that the kids are allowed to miss school and that Brian has to clean up around them.

First Days

The families meet. I’m impressed by how readily the Clark girls clue into the fact that Michelle is strict, and at how one seems to identify that she’s a “palm-reader”. “She looks like a bitch” is one daughter’s assessment. I’m on board with the narrator, whose response to that is “charming!”. Brian reassures one of the girls that Michelle won’t clobber her, watering down that reassurance by adding “she might put a spell on you, though”.

Little Drew informs Cherie that Michelle is afraid of clowns, so Cherie immediately responds with “maybe that’s how I should go to the table meeting then. As a clown. With a toilet brush.” I hope they are not just setting me up for disappointment. I so want to see that.

On morning one, Courtney refuses to go to school in the Clark house, but over in the Harding house Brighton is thinking of taking the day off, too. Seriously. He can sense that Cherie might be a soft touch on school attendance? More like a set-up. I wonder what the school will have to say about Courtney’s revelations that she attended 50% of school days last year?

Poor Michelle has to face her phobia with Yoyo, but she’s unable to overcome her childhood fears. Cherie thinks there are better things to do with her time than cleaning, but doesn’t seem to realise that she can actually “think about having sex with her husband” while she does something else. She quits on the meditating. Michelle is able to suck it up and go back to make balloon animals with a clown and she can’t even sit quietly for a short time? Hmmm. Michelle freaks out when Sally goes missing at a neighbour’s place and the rule change can’t come quickly enough.

Rule Change

The Harding house – fewer rules; the Clark house – order and discipline.

Michelle expects some rebellion but hopes the family will see the benefit in greater structure. Two of the girls don’t bother to pitch for the rules session. Amongst the new rules: a chores roster, a whiteboard for the kids to note where they are going and what time they’ll return, a tutor and some “cleansing”. Billy, who hasn’t been seen before now, takes offence at the rule change on the basis that he thinks they make the family look slacker than it really is. The girls get stuck into the first task – tidying away the clothes from the dining room – but seem to lose steam early on.

The younger girls take to the tutoring session as you’d expect – it wasn’t a great plan to have them all together – but Cassidy, who is tackling HSC, realises that she’s been given a real opportunity. Once Michelle takes to bed sick, the girls chuck the rules out. Courtney sticks to her dog poo-collecting task (is this a recurrent Wife Swap theme?), but she disposes of it in the pond. The “I need to know where you are” is just not taking hold at all as the girls all take off.

Cherie dresses as a clown for her rule change. No more chores. It’s seriously the land of Do-as-you-please from The Magic Faraway Tree and *anybody* who read Enid Blyton knows how that turned out. Because affection and attention is a zero-sum game in Cherie’s world, she is transferring that from Brighton to Drew and Phoebe for the rule change. Oh, and instead of the chore chart, there’s a joke chart. Everyone has to play pranks. It’s clear that John doesn’t see Cherie’s changes as sustainable, but he’s sensible enough to acknowledge that it’s only a couple of days so they might as well have fun with it. And then he serves Cherie a joke breakfast.

Cherie takes the girls bowling and then clowning. They seem pretty excited about being able to stay up as late as they want. John predicts they will crash and burn. True to the overall lack of energy in this episode so far, we don’t even see this. Cherie hopes that at the table meeting she’ll be able to pass on to Michelle that the kids should “have fun” and “not walk on eggshells the whole time” which really doesn’t seem to be how the Harding household was pre-swap. We all know the rule: show, don’t tell. If you can’t show, the audience is going to assume that it’s because it doesn’t exist and the set-up is meaningless.

Table Meeting

Brian acknowledges that Michelle turned the girls around, which Cherie says “is what she wanted”. He also agrees that the tutor was one of the highlights. Cherie reveals that Brian is the one who undermines the discipline, which was something that might have been interesting had it been revealed earlier.

It’s clear that the dialogue around OCD is not something that Michelle seems comfortable with, and there is tension when that is raised at the meeting. Cherie’s accusation that John is under the thumb also reveals some terseness, but it’s certainly not high drama at the table by any means. In fact, they all seem to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses as though it’s a group round for a job interview.

Homecoming

Michelle’s return home is really awkward. Drew is all “ummmmmm, sort of?” when asked if she’s glad her mum is home. Michelle is very dismissive of the rule changes and throws out Cherie’s rules angrily. Cherie, on the other hand, returns home and immediately ups the “oh, MUM, ick!” factor by saying that she doesn’t want to be cleaning the toilet when she’d rather be thinking about sex.

Revisit

The Hardings are apparently more relaxed, although no rule changes have been taken up. For Michelle, Wife Swap has made her appreciate her family.

Over at the Clarks, Courtney has stopped taking time out of school and Kirsty is taking her study more seriously. It’s not mentioned, but they are eating at the dining table, too.

Oh, and the foreshadowing with “no lying” at the Hardings? Never amounted to anything. Fitting, really.

Quote of the Episode

“I never expected a witch to come to my house.” Yeah, it’s not a great line, but it wasn’t a great episode.

February 28, 2012   5 Comments

Wife Swap Australia – circus vs resort life

A “pampered trophy wife” swaps her gated golf-resort lifestyle for that of a “hard-working circus performer”.   What life lessons will be learned here?

Tanya lives on a resort estate with her husband Brendan and two kids.  She self-describes as a stay-at-home-mum, but she’s really home alone.  Brea is at school and between daycare and her parents looking after Reif, it seems she has only one or two days with him.

Like Tanya, I have little ambition outside a resort lifestyle.  Of course, that at least leaves me with some ambition, as I don’t actually have a resort lifestyle*.  It’s not all fun and games, though, as Brendan holds the purse strings, presumably doling out money as he sees fit or just paying for everything.  Tanya wishes she had her own bank account that he would just pay money into for her. “Image is massively important” to him, so I guess those mani-pedis are an investment in a happy home life.  She hopes her new husband will listen to what she says.  Given the preview, I think she needs to get used to disappointment.

Shannon ran away with the circus at 16. Will this be a real-life Enid Blyton story?  Mr Galliano stroking his moustaches and cracking the whip?  Hmmmm.  She is a trapeze artist who also shovels shit, sets up seating in the tent, empties the caravan loo, does all the housework and works in the canteen.  Phew.  Kids Memphis and Cassius train 5-6 hours a day, perform in the circus and do an hour a day of tutoring.  We are told that laconic husband Glen also does a lot of work, but the Wife Swap editors abhor subtleties so we see him at the pub.

As the wives settle into their new homes, Shannon is overjoyed to see a dishwasher and Tanya seems pleasantly surprised by how tidy the little caravan is.  Then she opens the wardrobe.  Household manuals are read and families met.

I suspect it wasn’t exactly Tanya’s decision to perform her first chore – literally shovelling shit – in the clothes she pitched up in (a slinky leopard-print dress and towering heels) so props to her for going along with it.  She is not able to persevere with emptying the caravan loo trays, though, and leaves the task for 9 year-old Memphis to complete.  As Shannon noted in the manual, Glen explained how it was to be done, helpfully standing by and gagging over the smell from a distance whilst commenting that the smell would get easier to deal with every time.  Supportive.

Shannon, meanwhile, is contemplating a purposeless life as she is massaged, pampered, and driven to dinner in a golf-buggy.

Rules change time and Tanya decides that the the circus kids need more routine, greater supervision and more school.  Glen needs to take over loo, poo and pew duties and spend more quality time with the family instead of skiving off to the pub.

Over in “lifestyle” land, Shannon thinks Brendan needs to be unplugged from the grid to see what the “real world” is all about – no phone, sleeping in a tent, and spending quality time with Brea. The “real world” part of the rule change for Brendan seems arbitrary and based on her judgement of his judgementalism – is her world any more real than his?  More people would live like Brendan than like Shannon.  In practice, however, it seems she just wants him to experience a day of not being an image-obsessed metrosexual, so she dresses him in “worker” costume of a grease-stained hi-viz vest and books him in for a shift as a waiter at the resort club.  He takes to the changes with good grace.

Not so Glen.  He is very defensive about their life and routine which seems at odds with the purpose of the experiment, but in view of Brendan’s “wow, you’re not a carny freak” response when he heard Shannon was from the circus, it’s safe to assume that they have to deal with negative perceptions from outsiders a lot of the time.  Still, he’s got to realise that seven hours of education a week (that’s if their tutor also does weekends) for two kids with one tutor does NOT add up to “more schooling” than the average kid gets in a classroom, purely based on teacher-student ratios.  And that just because Tanya “doesn’t even pronounce th properly” doesn’t mean he can dismiss everything she says.

Tanya ends up reneging on most of her rules.  Backing down on the supervision of the kids rule was sensible in view of Glen’s opposing arguments, but given that he traded off the loo duty with a mate for some beers, it was sad that she caved to his sulking and let him head off to the pub.  I don’t know how they resolved the manure or chair shifting chores.

The table meeting was weepy, but mostly because Brendan and Tanya were both gushing over how Shannon needs to take time out to pamper herself.  It was all very friendly and Glen seemed to keep a low profile which, given his passive resistance to the entire project, was wise.

This episode promised drama but didn’t deliver.  I’m glad that the preview showing Glen’s horribly aggressive “you touch ANY of my family and I’ll beat the living f*ck out of you!” to Tanya was contextualised as an explanation to her of how the circus family look out for one another, but I think it showed up the general lack of tension within the ep.  I had thought that I’d find the “lifestyle” family appalling but, eh, if you have the means and the desire for that kind of life, then why not, right?  It wouldn’t suit everybody, but no harm, no foul.

As always, the episode finished with a revisit to review which rule changes stuck and it was good to see that Brendan and Brea are maintaining father-daughter time.  Pointless, really, to revisit the circus family as Tanya’s rule changes didn’t even see out her tenure!

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February 21, 2012   6 Comments