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One Show's Unexpected Lessons in Reality


An essential element of the ABC program in which two women with starkly different lives switch families for a few days - is that each woman should learn something about herself by walking in the shoes of the other.

But the two women featured in tonight's(3/16) episode say that perhaps their most valuable lesson concerned the creative liberties involved in assembling a show that is in the vanguard of the latest wave of so-called reality television. Their observations, in interviews arranged by ABC to promote tonight's episode, instead serve to provide a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of how those shows featuring a documentary-style examination of people's lives - as opposed to the cutthroat competition of shows like "The Apprentice" and "Survivor" - rely more heavily on the techniques of scripted drama than the shows let on.

At least based on the experience of tonight's featured wives - Christy Oeth, a working mother from suburban Philadelphia, and Nancy Cedarquist, who is home-schooling her six children in northern Vermont - making a "swap" ready for prime time can entail withholding facts from the viewer that might muddle the central premise; supplying participants with material to read aloud; rehearsing pivotal confrontations off-screen; and, in some cases, re-enacting events the cameras missed.

In tonight's episode, for example, the Oeths, a family of six, are described by the narrator as putting "success before family life" and as "high achievers who run their family like a business." In pitching the episode in a one-page memorandum to ABC, the show's producers - a British company called RDF Media, which also produces a British version - posed the following question: "Will Mrs. Oeth get in touch with her natural maternal instincts?"

In fact, Mrs. Oeth, 36, who works at an investment firm, said in a telephone interview this week that she had stayed home for five years to raise her four children, a fact the producers never share with viewers, and that she had returned to work only last year, when her husband left a high-pressure job in Manhattan.

"There is a very big element of unreality to the way they pigeonholed me," she said.


The Oeth Family

This was also the case for Nancy Cedarquist, 36. The Cedarquists are portrayed as having "dropped out of society" to live in a "treehouse," and that is technically true - their home, which has no cement foundation, is indeed perched on the bases of 11 trees. But another assertion by the narrator at the outset of the program - "husband Keith is the only one who leaves the treehouse on a daily basis, to work at the local paper mill" - ignores the many activities in which their four older children have participated at the local schools, including ballet, a pompom squad, basketball and band. None of these activities is ever shown or mentioned.

Moreover, no mention is made in tonight's episode that tensions between Mrs. Cedarquist and Michael Oeth had so grown during the five days she spent living in the Oeth house in Yardley, Pa., that the producers effectively evacuated her early and installed her in a Sheraton hotel nearby, driving her to and from the house until her final scenes were completed.

And do not get Mrs. Cedarquist started on the scene she agreed to film in which, she says, she pretended to be asleep - she had indeed overslept one day, but cameras were not present - or the new rules she agreed to post for the Oeth children, which, she said, were written not by her (as the narrator suggests) but by a producer working off-camera on a laptop computer.

"This is where you should play the stupid hillbilly music," Mrs. Cedarquist said, a reference to the "Dueling Banjoes"-style soundtrack that is, incongruously, laid over images of her Montgomery Center, Vt., home. "I really thought reality television was more real than it is."


The Cedarquist Family

To Wendy Roth, co-executive producer of "Wife Swap," the postproduction concerns expressed by the two women are a function, at least in part, of a na

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Guest ranster627

This has put me into distress ... I guess Wife Swap should be officially changed to drama .... I have been in a documentary, I know documentary, and senator ... this is no documentary!!!!!

Staging reality seems surreal to me!

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Husband's arrest halts 'Wife Swap' production

Restaurateur charged after daughter injured

Production was halted on an episode of ABC's reality TV show Wife Swap being filmed in Nashville after one of the participants was arrested and charged with punching his 13-year-old daughter in the face Tuesday evening, network and police officials said yesterday. Yanni Panagiotakis, 38, who owns the Athens Family Restaurant on Franklin Road with his wife, Dina, was charged with domestic assault late Tuesday and freed yesterday morning on $1,000 bail, Metro police said.

Reached at their restaurant yesterday afternoon, Dina Panagiotakis said neither she nor her husband would comment, citing the advice of their attorney.''Please leave us alone so we can get our lives back together,'' she said.

Wife Swap, a popular reality television series, features two families who trade matriarchs for 10 days. According to an ABC Web site, the show allows families to experience how other families run their lives.

Yanni Panagiotakis on Tuesday had driven his daughter to a friend's house on Haydenberry Cove while a four-person film crew from the show traveled in another vehicle in front of them, police said. In an arrest affidavit, police initially said that the film crew had witnessed the father striking the girl. But police revised that account yesterday, saying the employees arrived shortly after the alleged attack and noticed the girl had obvious injuries to her nose and cheek. She told the crew members that her father had struck her several times in the face with his fist for not wearing a coat, police said.

The Wife Swap crew took the child to a nearby doctor's office for treatment and then to Saint Thomas Hospital for X-rays. The father did not accompany them. The girl was examined and released Tuesday evening from Saint Thomas. Afterward, the film crew took her and her 9-year-old brother to a local hotel, accompanied by a representative from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

''First and foremost, the well-being of all of the participants in Wife Swap is a top priority,'' ABC officials said in a statement released yesterday. ''At the first realization that the daughter of the Nashville-based family participating in the episode that has been shooting over the past week needed medical attention, the producers immediately sought treatment for her.''

Dina Panagiotakis, who was being filmed with a family in California, flew back to Nashville, and production in both locations was halted permanently.

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  • 6 months later...


ABC Casting Dance Family for 'Wife Swap'

Subject: ABC needs your help finding America's most dedicated dance family!

Dear Sir or Madam,

I'm a Casting Producer with ABC Television and we're looking for fabulous dancing families to feature in our upcoming season! I used to dance competitively when I was in school and know that organizations such as yours are a great way to find outgoing fun families that are perfect for television!

We're looking for two parent families (with children) that are heavily involved in dance, whether it be as students, instructors, competitors, or studio owners. We're talking about the moms, dads, and kids that love to perform - and put in the long hours of practice each day to reach their full potential.

Do you have families that compete in dance competitions - or train others to do so? Do you have families who would just die if they had to stop dancing for even one week? We're looking for those dancers!

We're currently casting for ABC's hit family show, 'Wife Swap!' Please don't be confused by the title "Wife Swap" is a family show on ABC primetime. The premise is simple: two moms from two very different families get the opportunity to swap lives (but not bedrooms!) for a week to experience what it's like to live a different lifestyle - and to see what they can teach each other about their own!

In this case, we're looking to feature the hard work, discipline, and dedication that goes along with dance. I came across your website online and thought you would be a great resource - I would greatly appreciate you forwarding my information on to any dance schools, instructor databases, colleagues, and fellow dancers so that interested families could contact us!

All featured families will receive a $20,000 financial honorarium! And, $1000 goes to anyone who refers a family that makes it on the show! We are looking for two parent families with children (ages 5 and older) who are ready for adventure! I appreciate your assistance in reaching out to these great families and look forward to hearing from you soon!


Heather Teta

Casting Associate Producer

ABC Television



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  • 1 month later...
Did anybody watch wife swap last night?

OMG the one wife was married to a marine drill sergeant and they are both fitness instructors and are fanatical about health and fitness. The husband also is the trainer for the Dallas cowboy cheerleaders.

I really liked this mom she tried to nicely to motivate the new family into better fitness, the father weighed 370 lbs. She actually got him to see the light by bringing him to a doctor and making him realize he would not be there for his kids if he didn't do something about his weight.

The other wife was a sofa-loving mom who waits for her husband to serve her hand and foot.

She was soooo lazy and soooo annoying and such a liar! She should have had to do everything she signed up to do which was actually swap lives and not just live her current lazy A life to another state with another family. If I was the shows producers and ABC, I'd sue her. And how horrible that nothing changed after the show. I really, really feel bad for those kids to have such a selfish mother. I can't believe that at their household there was no change at all! Usually in each episode there are changes and people learn from their experiences. She was so spoiled, she did not even want to meet at the table unless she talked to her husband first. I hope he watches the show and realizes how selfish and nasty she really is. I cannot believe that someone could be so lazy and bossy at the same time. Her husband should put the pants on and show her that he isn't her servant!

Where in G's name do they get all these selfish women, and so many submissive men. Geez you men out there have some B---s and stand up for yourselves.

I know! Did you see that lazy ass sitting around and letting the trash and dishes pile up! It's a shame too that so many of the men on these show's roll over and play dead. Her husband needs to grow some stones!!! :P

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Once again, the producers manage to find the extremes of both fringe groups but, at least, this time it's the fathers that seem like nutjobs. I'm only halfway through the episode but what's up with the men in these families? Tonight, I didn't view this episode as God vs. Atheist. I viewed this more as men who need a clue. Neither male seems to want to bend one inch to cooperate in the "Wife Swap" experiment.

The Atheist dad is just egocentric. I heard nothing from the Pastor's wife that seemed vicious when she talked to him about his children's concerns (although I do think she should have come out and admitted her husband's profession right up front). He seems so defensive when challenged on ANY issue. Instead of engaging in what seemed like an equal exchange of ideas between his thoughts and his 'new wife,' he seemed to overreact and lash out.

I guess he's used to just one way of thinking without being challenged which seems to be identical to the Christian family home schooling in only one way of thought. What I LIKED was the Pastor seemed to be the exact same way in the opposite direction. Both men seem to be missing the big picture . . . their families. I'm hoping they get the most from this whole experience.

I think the people benefitting the most from the swap are the children in each family. One family finally gets to play outside while the other finally gets a different point of view besides the myopic view of Christianity. I think the children gain from different points of view instead of just hearing one side of any issue.

I REALLY liked both women in different ways. I liked the Atheist Mom because she was fair and understanding especially with the children. She really saw the need for one on one time with the young niece of the family. I appreciated her quiet grace instead of need for confrontation to prove her point of view. Actually, I haven't seen either woman find a need to shout their beliefs from the rooftops. It was nice to have a quiet episode.

I liked the Pastor's wife because (so far) I haven't heard her do a 'Perrin' and screech her beliefs. She adopts a more quiet approach. I LOVED the fact that she sees the eldest son being treated like a hired hand instead of a child. It was nice to see her free that young man from doing household chores.

What I didn't like was the amount of time spent on themselves by the Atheist parents. Playing 'virtual family' online instead of spending time with your real one seems counterproductive. The father escapes inside his home radio station and fails to connect with his children.

How amazing!!! The two families came together face-to-face and no fireworks (with just a small lash out by the Atheist dad but he recovered nicely). I liked that both sides saw the good in each other instead of the differences. FINALLY!!!!!

And how great was it to see the Pastor actually preach the message of tolerance and unconditional love from his pulpit to his congregation . . . no matter how different your beliefs might be from someone else. Amen!

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Ever notice the wives from states like KY,Ohio,IN,Tenn,Ark etc all look like Miss Piggy?They usually smoke & live in trashy trailors or rundown homes.Och!What's up wi' that?Have some pride people!Join the 21st century!

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I must say, it was so funny when, at the meeting, the Athiest dad started berating Kelly saying she just keeps at him and at him. . . and she's doing it right now. BUT SHE NEVER EVEN OPENED HER MOUTH!!! He looked like such an idiot. Even his own wife knew how stupid he was acting.

Finally a christian household that was actually the more normal of the 2 households. Nice.

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  • 1 year later...
:lipsrsealed2: OMG Did anyone see Wife Swap last night with the family that ate raw chicken and beef and didn't shower or clean and brushed their teeth with butter and clay?????? It was more gross than Fear Factor!! Has anyone done research on this way of life? How could raw meat be good for you?? :animated_shocking:
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i love the way just after that freak woman was saying how she didnt believe in toothpaste but the butter and clay option and then they did a little bling on her teeth and you could see how gross her teeth and how red and nasty her gums were.

and that toilet !!!!! it was black i mean it was white but the inside was black! these people are just plain nuts.

and eating that rotting meat!???!!! bleeeechhh! That horrible clotted drink they drank too and she woke them up at like 2am to drink that crap!

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Yes, that was totally disgusting. I feel sorry for those kids. The "sick" parents have their kids brainwashed into thinking rotten meat and bacteria is good for you. I think the department of health and social services needs to have a look at that house and at the way those kids are being raised.

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Just like the rest of you, I was disgusted by the way those people live. I was curious about the raw food diet so I googled it and read a bit about it. Seems that some of these people think it's healthier to go back to the way our prehistoric ancestors ate before they discovered fire...

Funny, they never mentioned that the average life expectancy back then was probably less than 30.

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  • 1 year later...

I was recently swapped and have been asking people their take on the whole Reality TV show? WIFE SWAP

I am nervous about the editing and we were contacted as a family to do the episode we did not just apply. I hope it is a good episode and we have no idea when it will air. Kind of pissed about the whole way they set this up, not a lot of communication now that we are done filming. No Update scheduled and have no idea when the air date will be. It was very emotional and I promised that I wouldn't tear up on National TV but this momma sure DID!

Thanks for the support (good or bad)

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You probably can't say a whole lot since it has not aired yet, but are you a strict mother or more relaxed mother? It seems there is always one strict, disciplined family and then one way relaxed, whatever family on there. Also, how did they find out about you if you didn't apply? Are you well known in your community?

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Hi Jenn...

What the heck were you thinking! j/k ;)

I've caught the show a few times...personally I don't really care for it especially because it always seems like they purposely try to pair up complete opposite types of people with very strong personalities or quirky behavior, and wait for friction and fireworks to fly between the people....then show everyone embarrassing themselves, having meltdowns, getting aggravated, airing their families "dirty laundry" for all to see, etc.... It seems somewhat exploitive of the network to set folks up like it appears they do...making everyone appear dysfunctional and/or neurotic...all in the name of ratings I suppose. One thing I will say on a positive note though...it seems most participants come away with a greater appreciation for their own families and lives when all done with it (maybe that's just the way they edit it though?)....anyway, I hope that's true in your case.

For now you are at the mercy of the editors and I'm sure they'll pick only the "best" (:rolleyes:) footage to air. Besides...nobody will ever compare to the "crazy christian" lady that they had on Fox's Trading Spouses a few seasons ago... :wacko:...so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

I think it would be very cool to participate in some kind of reality show, but in reality I'm way too private and self conscious to subject myself to the scrutiny...so kudos to you for having the guts to do it.

I hope you'll post again and let us/me know when your episode airs...so then I can tell you what I really think! :giggle:

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I don't think it'd be very interesting to watch if it wasn't somewhat 'exploitive' as you put it ImIn. If the family had the same way of life it wouldn't be worth the swap. Most of these families do come away having learned something about themselves. Editing makes it seem like it anyway.

I'd like to know what you mean, Jenn, by you not applying for the show. Did you apply for another and they found you that way?

Anyway, I hope that the experience in itself was overall good for you. I would also like to know when your show airs. It must be frustrating having no clue about how they're going to make you look. I'd like to know your take on it after it's shown. So please come back and let us know.

Take care, and thanks for the post.

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I'm not sure how much of it is real or staged, so it's great to have your perspective as one of the wives who were swapped.

I'm always a little grossed out at how rude the participants are initially, but then like when they come to appreciate the other and actually choose to take from them and learn.

It's always funny to me how the seemingly "very liberal/mega relaxed parents" who may seem chaotic and irresponsible on the outside are usually the ones who know the true meaning of what it is to be a family and actually spend time together ... opposed to the hard working, well cultured families who always come off as superficial.

Either way, I'm all for ppl who are able to get over their own ignorance and try something new. I hope it worked out well for you.

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