Reality TV has crept into modern life at a breathtaking pace. Starting with shows like The Real World, the genre quickly evolved to include different physical challenges and even family swaps. Fox’s hit show Trading Spouses first debuted in 2004 and lasted for three seasons before Fox finally sold the rights of the show to CMT. Even though the show was popular and doing well, CMT decided to not continue producing new episodes and put the franchise to bed.
A relatively simple premise, Trading Spouses showcased two families swapping the matriarch from one household and plopping them down in another. With the promise of $50,000 at the end of the process, numerous families put up with complete strangers living in their homes and trying to dictate new ways of life onto them.
Unfortunately, these families weren’t aware – or at least they pretended not to be – of the fact that they wouldn’t get to choose how to spend the influx of cash. Anger, emotions, and temper tantrums were a common occurrence for a reality show with a lot of dark secrets in its closet.
Gather round and learn about 15 Dark Secrets From Trading Spouses You Had No Idea About!
15. Creators Sued for Stealing the Idea
Trading Spouses may have debuted first, but Wife Swap was in the making way before Rocket Science Laboratories ever decided to produce a competitor show for another network.
The British Production Company behind Wife Swap ultimately sued Fox for distributing what they considered to be a “blatant and wholesale copycat.” The Wife Swap team even alleged that Fox purposefully tried to “confuse viewers and mislead them into watching Trading Spouses rather than Wife Swap US.”
Despite the fact that Fox executives at the time were insistent they didn’t do anything wrong, they had to reach a settlement. While the full amount was never disclosed, the team behind Trading Spouses ultimately did have to pay an out-of-court settlement to resolve the matte and keep their show from being taken off the air.
14. Bethany Wilson’s addiction
A lot can happen between sending in an audition tape and actually being admitted on the show. Reportedly, Bethany Wilson appeared on the show only a few days after she was released from a methadone clinic. After spending three months away, Wilson hit the airwaves in a deprived state that wasn’t suitable for TV.
She was shown immediately collapsing into her new husband’s arms at the airport and when she arrived in the Renfree family’s home she immediately barricaded herself in the bathroom. After two days the former addict finally emerged, and the room was apparently full of crusted puke and there was even blood in the shower. She even stole things from the family home and sold them to a pawn shop in search of her next fix.
13. Chapelle Show Did it First
Dave Chappelle hasn’t been very quiet about his belief that the Comedy Central show Key & Peele was essentially a ripoff of his older series. Well, it seems like there’s another show Chappelle can call out for taking one of his ideas.
Before Fox debuted Trading Spouses, Chappelle featured a skit on his show that included two households switching fathers. Playing both the black and white (thanks to some trademark powdering) fathers, Chappelle does a great job at looking at stereotypes inherent in different types of families. He even pokes fun at the idea that the show is nothing but an elaborate swingers experiment, where sometimes the dads get a little too excited to be attached to a new woman for the week.
12. Ashley Perrin’s Car Crash
Marguerite Perrin, better known as the God Warrior, is the closest thing to a reality star to come out of Trading Spouses. Originally, she claimed the money from the whole project was taineted and threatned ripping it up, but ultimately the family took and enjoyed the money. While the religiously passionate individual gave audiences numerous memes to latch onto, at the end of the day she was a woman who cared deeply for her family.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Perrin family in 2007 when Marguerite’s daughter was killed in a car crash. At the age of 25, Ashley Perrin was ejected from her car after hitting a guard rail. She had an eight year old daughter at the time.
11. Some Kids Were Left Out
The Bigginses family were featured on Trading Spouses and another Rocket Science Laboratories produced show called Renovate My Family. Just like they ripped off the idea for Trading Spouses by watching Wife Swap, Renovate was a direct rip off of Extreme Make Over Home Edition.
While the Bigginses originally thought they were having a string of good luck by being featured on the shows, things ultimately soured for them. In addition to their new houses ultimately becoming a burden for them, Anthony Biggins’ daughter from a prior marriage was completely left out of the final episode.
Apparently LaAndrewlyn Biggins was at the house during taping, but the producers cut her entirely out of the show. Anthony didn’t even realize this until his ex-wife called and asked him what had happened.
10. Racial Suggestions
In order to create the starkest contrast possible, the producers tapped the Biggins and Nakamura families. The Nakamuras are very much so an upper-class family thanks to the father’s job as a plastic surgeon. On the flip side, Al-Mela and the Biggins measure their life in experiences and love, living comfortably in their middle class home.
At the time she was featured on the show, Al-Mela was 29 years old. She already had three kids, the oldest being 13, giving Fox a stereotypical, young mother to feature on the show. Not only was she young, but she was even in shock after she saw the luxurious lake house owned by the Nakamura family.
While it is most likely a realistic depiction of Al-Mela and how she reacted to seeing the house, featuring an individual who had her first child at 16 and freaks out around luxurious items simply perpetuates certain stereotypes about black mothers.
9. Producers Made a Homophobic TV Special
Rocket Science Laboratories has produced some hit TV shows in addition to Trading Spouses. With hits like Joe Millionaire and Temptation Island under their belt, they thought they could do no wrong. Teaming up with Fox once again, they created a program called Dude, Seriously I’m Gay.
Set as a competition, the special was set to follow two straight men as they pretended to be gay for a week in order to win a $50,000 cash prize. To compete, the players would even have to try to convince their friends and family of their new lifestyle instead of just pretending for strangers. At the end of the week, the competitors were set to be judged by a panel of gay men who would choose who they thought was truly homosexual out of the duo.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation came out against the show calling it humiliating and disrespectful towards the LGBT community. Due to the negative media attention the special received, the producers ultimately pulled the plug and it never saw the light of day.
8. Exploiting Stereotypes
While the show frames itself as simply switching two mothers around, it is really a humorous look at different types of American families. The cast of characters is full of dweebs, meat heads, and racists – with a few genuine individuals thrown in for good measure. But nice people don’t make for good TV, so the producers looked for as many stereotypical people as they could find to make audiences laugh.
The show featured fitness models who spent hours in tanning beds every day and country boys who had never been on an airplane. While the juxtaposition is supposed to be entertaining, more often than not the show seems like it is mocking these individuals for living their lives the way they enjoy.
7. Justin Can’t Get Any Respect
Trading Spouses normally showed families switching the moms around, but Fox released one episode with a twist. Instead of shipping the moms across the country, two dads swapped their homes in Georgia and New York for a week to see if grass is greener on the other side.
Justin, a successful Manhattan attorney, finds himself in Greesnville living on a big house with various farm animals. He maintains a positive attitude, even trying to bond with the family, but is constantly met with resistance as the family prefers staying inside huddled around the television. On his last night in town he took his “new wife” Brandi out for a nice dinner to celebrate their time together. Justin even rented a limo for the occasion. Unfortunately, she spent the whole time complaining – even requesting the burnt pieces of meat- and generally whittling away at Justin’s positivity.
6. Sabotaged Homes For Increased Drama
Ever had one of those days where everything seems to break all at once? Well, some of the families on Trading Spouses certainly had to deal with that problem.
Anthony Biggins’ reports that producers sabotaged his air conditioning unit and washing machine in order to increase the drama between him and his new wife Tammy. Things came to a head after Anthony returned home from work to discover his house was extremely warm. After causing a scene and freaking out, even saying the producers were trying to frame his family as living in a “rathole,” the unit mysteriously came back on and there were no more incidents of things working improperly in that episode.
While there is no proof the producers did this to other families, the fact that the Biggins’ episode was the first of the series implies the producers did it at least a few more times because they knew what kind of reactions they would illicit on camera.
5. Swing Central?
Just because there is a new woman sleeping next to these husbands for a week doesn’t mean there’s any reason for them to cheat on their spouses, right?
While there have never been any reported instances of cheating or swinging through the show, the behavior of some couples brings the idea into question.
Just look at the husbands’ faces when they meet their new partner for the first time because it usually betrays their true feelings. Bulging eyes and throat swallows are routine before quickly cutting away to an interview segment where the husband gives his first impression of her in a more scripted environment.
4. Homophobia Through the Roof
Everyone knows one person whose intolerance knows no bounds. Enter Julie Chase, a mother from Oregon who was featured on the second season’s premiere story arc. Not only is she outwardly aggressive, yelling at customer service reps on the phone when the audiences first meets her, but she is extremely judgmental. Everything from smokers to homeless people are on her list as she bombastically moves through her life.
Trading places with Chase was Judy Lane, one half of a lesbian couple that is raising two children in San Diego. Unfortunately for Judy’s partner, Pepper, Chase was also a raging homophobe.
When she first meets Pepper in the airport to be picked up she is visibly uncomfortable and even comments on how there are no lesbians where she lives. After asking Pepper “how does being gay work,” Julie freaks out and gets worried that she might be flirting with her new partner. In the Hillcrest area, she’s afraid to use the bathroom because there are multiple lesbians around. She even yells “gaydar” through the window at passing homosexual couples.
3. Producers Love Conflict
Nothing makes better TV than conflict and the producers on Trading Spouses were well aware of that fact. While Rocket Science Laboratories had a rather large group of families to choose from on the show, they often chose families with extreme belief systems.
The whole format of the show breeds conflict. When someone moves into a new house on the show, they have to spend a few days adhering to the family’s set rules and schedule. But, after a few days, the new mom can set the schedule and change things around anyway she wants.
Big moves that would never actually take place like throwing away all the food in someone’s fridge are supported by the producers. The larger and more ridiculous the action seems the more explosive the reaction from the children (and potentially husband) will be.
In the Chase episode talked about above, it was the producers who prodded Julie and Pepper to go to the Hillcrest area, a gay enclave in San Diego, because they knew it was spark some sort of reactions from the homophobic Julie.
2. God Warrior Stalked By Fans
“God Warrior, God Warrior, wherefore art thou, God Warrior?”
It seems a lot of people had that question on their mind after Marguerite Perrin debuted on Trading Spouses. Her popularity immediately sky rocketed after her episode originally debuted. Bloggers spoke about her, musicians wrote songs about her, and there was even a bobble head making the rounds on eBay.
In 2005, Perrin told the LA Times that her house was bombarded with calls at all hours of the day and whenever she picks up people scream “Gargoyles” or “God Warrior!” at her. While that seems humorous, Perrin feared for her safety after people started popping up at her house after dark. She even had to call the police twice to make sure her family stayed safe.
1. Producers Sued for Breaking Labor Laws
The families featured in each episode may be the only individuals to make it on TV week after week, but there is a huge logistical team that makes sure the show is working smoothly and on schedule.
In 2005, a group of ten writers and editors filed a class-action lawsuit against Fox and RSL charging they violated California labor laws, alleging they didn’t receive proper overtime payments, wages, or guaranteed meals. The Writers Guild of America helped them file the cases.
Apparently individuals working on RSL shows, including Trading Spouses, were told to falsify their time sheets so they would never be seen as working more than 40 hours a week. Ultimately, the case was settled in 2009 with a $2.57 million payoff going to the workers.
Do you have any trivia about Trading Spouses to share? Leave it in the comments!
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