The Untold Truth Of Wife Swap

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to appear on a hit reality TV series? Although it might look fabulous, many who have appeared on hit shows like "Wife Swap" later regret the decision. While you might not be able to tell, guest stars have reported that the way they appeared on your TV screen at home wasn't exactly how they were in real life. Some have claimed that they were portrayed inaccurately, were treated unfairly by the producers, and were asked to perform tasks, such as performing a character role, reenacting scenes, or even reading from a script.

While "Wife Swap" might be seen as fun entertainment for people watching from their living rooms at home, the show came at a cost for some of those who participated. Let's look at some of those secrets and the stories that "Wife Swap" producers don't want you to know.

Families are reportedly given roles on Wife Swap

In order to keep the show upbeat and entertaining, some families who appear on the show are given "roles" to play. Although this isn't the case in every episode or for every family, different guest stars have stated that they were given roles. In one episode in particular, Christy Oeth, a working parent, was described as a woman who puts "success before family life." The "Wife Swap" narrator described her household as "high achievers who run their family like a business."

The mother, who was employed at an investment firm, told The New York Times she had stayed home for five years to raise her kids, but she needed to return to work after her husband left his demanding job in Manhattan. According to Oeth, the show omitted those details. "There is a very big element of unreality to the way they pigeonholed me," she told The New York Times. Quickly, she became known as the mother who always works, and the show stuck with it.

According to some, Wife Swap producers manipulate situations

According to The New York Times, in order to get "Wife Swap" episodes ready to air, participants are supplied with material. They are reportedly asked to rehearse confrontation and, in some cases, reenact scenes that were missed by the camera. In one instance, Nancy Cedarquist, a guest star on the show in 2005, pretended to be asleep, showcasing to viewers that she had overslept and had missed her alarm.

While she did in fact oversleep one day, cameras were not there to capture the footage. To make up for the missed scene, the producers asked her to reenact the missed shot. Although the guest star agreed to recreate the scene, she was surprised by the way reality TV actually worked. Cedarquist told The New York Times, "I really thought reality television was more real than it is." Unhappy with her experience on "Wife Swap," she said, "I'd like to offer myself up as a support person for people who go on these shows."

One contestant sued Wife Swap after being the subject of 'mockery'

In 2008, when teenager Alicia Guastaferro appeared on "Wife Swap," her experience on the show was far from ideal. Her appearance allegedly caused her so much emotional distress that she ended up leaving school and filing a lawsuit, as reported by New York Daily News.

If you watched her episode, you might recall a few of 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," as noted by Radar Online. While Guastaffero's attitude wasn't appreciated by many of the fans of the show, she stated that she was told to act that way by producers. This allegedly included participating in fabricated scenes like one claiming she got a present from her family every day. After abiding by the showrunners' wishes, Guastaffero claimed she later faced "verbal and physical assaults from her peers," which, in turn, led her to transferring high schools and suing the show. The guest star told Radar Online that she couldn't handle the "ridicule, mockery and derision" she received after appearing on "Wife Swap."

Wife Swap rules are reportedly written by the producers

One way "Wife Swap" likes to keep their episodes fun and entertaining for their viewers is by implementing rule changes halfway through. However, these rule changes are reportedly not actually how they appear on your screen at home. On TV, it looks as if the new wives come up with a list of rules that they believe the family they're sent to should implement and follow. To help keep things exciting, the rules are typically the opposite of the ones that were originally set in place.

However, to ensure that the rule changes are interesting, the producers are reportedly the people who write them. Wendy Roth, a co-executive producer of "Wife Swap," told The New York Times, "The rule changes we always rehearse," noting, "It's a major format point." So it'd seem the producers mix things up by creating what they think will cause a stir for the stars and making them practice their reactions for the show.

Some of the relationships on Wife Swap are reportedly fake

Although we have uncovered many secrets about "Wife Swap," this one may just take the cake. Not every couple who has made an appearance on "Wife Swap" was actually a couple in the real world. For example, one could look at rapper Coolio — by the way, whatever happened to Coolio? — who appeared on the show with his allegedly not-so-real girlfriend Mimi.

Not long after their episode was released to the public, rumors began to spread that Mimi and Coolio were no longer dating. The tabloids stated they broke up due to Coolio's extreme behavior on the show, which could lead fans to thinking "Wife Swap" was at fault for their breakup. However, the rapper told the Daily Record that the tabloids didn't have it right, as he and Mimi were apparently never actually a real-life couple. Instead, Coolio claimed the producers made it up for entertainment purposes. "Listen. It was all a [setup]. I am nothing like that. I'm not even with Mimi. I never was. She's a friend of mine," he said. "They tried to make me look bad. I don't want to do that stuff again."

One Wife Swap participant reportedly lost his job after appearing on an episode

Stephen Fowler, who appeared on "Wife Swap" in 2009, regrets his decision to be on the show after being nicknamed the "worst husband in the world," according to The Noe Valley Voice. During the show, Fowler was asked by producers to play an over-the-top, uptight, hard-to-love type husband. Not long after the show aired, Fowler, who must have played this role well, began to receive threatening phone calls and social media messages. Those who watched the episode were angry at Fowler for the way he behaved on the show, and, due to the outcry from the public, Fowler reportedly ended up losing his job.

In an interview, he told The Noe Valley Voice, "They strongly encouraged me to be acerbic. I was playing a character. I was playing a role ... like Simon Cowell on steroids. I overreacted." For the first year after the show aired, Fowler reportedly wasn't able to talk about his appearance on "Wife Swap" due to the contract he had signed. But now no longer restrained, Fowler said, "I do regret going on the show," adding, "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

The truth about the to-do list on Wife Swap

One guest star who appeared on "Celebrity Wife Swap," Sean Lowe, can be recognized for his appearance on another hit series, "The Bachelor." Sean, one of the best bachelors in "Bachelor" history, went onto the show with his wife, Catherine, and, according to him, he just wasn't prepared for the lies the show spun. After his episode aired, Sean was upset with how the producers portrayed him. In his episode, the woman who traded places with Catherine, Molly, woke up to a to-do list that Sean expected her to get done. Items on the list requested she clean the kitchen and iron his socks, as reported by People. Fans of "The Bachelor" were angry with Sean and his list of demands. So much so that Sean decided to come forward and reveal that the to-do list wasn't something he had actually created.

He tweeted that Catherine would "scratch my eyes out" if he ever gave her a to-do list. Not long after his tweet, Sean also took to Instagram, stating, "Yeah ... so that whole 'Wife Swap' thing made me look like a complete jacka** but I guess that's the risk you run when you agree to take part in something like that. Thanks to those who saw through it all and offered words of support." Basically it seems the truth about Sean and Catherine's relationship is that it's not at all what you saw on "Wife Swap."

Wife Swap reportedly looks for complete opposites for its stars

"Wife Swap" has reportedly fabricated some details, such as relationships and situations, but in order to keep the show interesting, they also apparently look for families who are complete opposite to one another. While you might notice that the spouses are always quite different, this doesn't just happen naturally. Rather, it is reportedly planned and well thought out by the producers.

According to The New York Times, each episode takes months to research and produce before filming begins. When planning the show, the producers list out job descriptions that they hope their guest stars will have. For example, in one episode, one guest star was a "rocket scientist" while the other was a tattoo artist. But before the producers found people to star on the show, these job descriptions were just written down in their NYC office as a show idea. With those keywords in mind, they then began to search for families who met those exact descriptions. So, having completely different people switch places isn't just a coincidence like viewers are led to believe. 

Families are shown the final cut of their Wife Swap episode, but it may not be what airs

Some of the families who have appeared on "Wife Swap" have not been not too keen on how they were portrayed on the show. So, with the hopes of making both their guest stars and show investors happy, the producers have been known to show a final cut of episodes to the families involved before it airs. However, the cut the families are shown may not be exactly what airs on television.

One guest star who appeared on the show, Ashley Fine, shared in a Reddit AMA that she threw a "viewing party" for her family and friends when her episode aired. While she was fine with what she saw in the final cut provided to her family, she did not care for what the producers actually put out publicly. "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," she said in a Reddit post. "That bugged me."

Some Wife Swap stars enjoy the attention after their episodes air

While the aftermath of appearing on the show hasn't always been a positive experience for everyone, one mother from "Wife Swap," Tori Baur, loved the attention she received from the viewers. Most of all, she enjoyed the fan mail that she received from fans. The former guest star told the Gazette-Times, "We've gotten lots of fan mail." She said, "Boys have written saying they think our daughters are beautiful and could they have our phone number."

Although not all of the feedback has been positive, she said most people have been kind to her and her family since their appearance on the show. When asked if she regretted anything about participating on "Wife Swap," she responded, "No, why would I care about anything they showed?" While this is true, in her post-show interview (via Gazette-Times), Bauer said she wouldn't participate in the program if she were asked to do it over again.

Some Wife Swap stars really want fame

Some "Wife Swap" stars just can't get enough of fame. The Heene family is widely recognized for their time on "Wife Swap" and, to this day, is one of their most talked about families. But after their appearance on the show, the Heene family received another 15 minutes of fame for their "balloon boy incident" in 2009. The family claimed that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, was inside a weather balloon and was then carried away in the wind, as reported by The Coloradoan. When both the police and the public began to search for the boy, they later found him hiding in their home's attic.

Reports found that the family apparently staged the event with the goal of getting their own reality TV show, according to CNN. Although they don't have their own hit series yet, with the family's unique history and the ratings they brought to "Wife Swap," it is possible that you could see this family in the spotlight once again.

These Wife Swap participants paid the price for chasing fame

Following the so-called "balloon boy" hoax, revealed to be a bizarre attempt to extend their time in the spotlight, the Heene family suffered serious consequences. As Deadline reported in 2020, "Wife Swap" alums Richard and Mayumi Heene paid $36,000 in restitution fees after coming clean about the scheme. The couple was "convicted of attempting to influence a public servant," resulting in a one-month jail stint. The Heenes subsequently spent an additional 20 days behind bars due to filing a false police report, too. Initially, Richard and Mayumi protested their innocence, but they ultimately pled guilty to save Mayumi from deportation, thereby acknowledging she wasn't a citizen. 

However, 11 years after the incident gripped the world, Colorado governor Jared Polis confirmed the "'balloon boy' parents" would be pardoned. In a statement, Polis reasoned, "We are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago that wasted the precious time and resources of law enforcement officials and the general public." He added, "It's time to no longer let a permanent criminal record from the balloon boy saga follow and drag down the parents for the rest of their lives."

One Wife Swap episode resulted in a lawsuit for 'distress'

In one episode of "Wife Swap" that never aired, Jeffrey Bedford, a guest star on the show, welcomed a husband, a gay married man, into his home and not a wife. The producers made sure not to tell Bedford about the change of plans until the husband had arrived for filming.

When Bedford refused to play along, the producers allegedly refused to tell Bedford where his wife was until he agreed to participate with the show's change in plans. Melissa Bedford, Jeffrey's wife, told McAlester News-Capital, "They said they would sue him and put me out on the street and not tell where I was." She continued, "He didn't sleep for three days." Afterwards, Bedford ended up needing to seek medical help, as the show allegedly made him both "physically and mentally ill." Due to the "distress," the family sued ABC, the network behind "Wife Swap," as well as Walt Disney Co. and production company RDF Media Ltd., for $10.2 million.

Wife Swap is reportedly heavily edited

Although "Wife Swap" does film a lot during the time the families participate, not every cut will make it into the episode. The producers have been known to edit an episode where important details about the guest stars are often left out. Donna Adams, a wife on the British version of the hit show, shared (via The Richest), "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." She added, "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." 

Comments like Adams' are not a surprise to co-executive producer Wendy Roth. In an interview with The New York Times, Roth said, while 100 hours may have been recorded for the show, only 43 minutes can be broadcasted, which sometimes means hard editing choices.

Wife Swap contracts are reportedly not ideal

Before you sign on to do "Wife Swap," you may want to read through your contract. Although TV presenter Anna Courtenay understood that the show "Wife Swap" had some conflict and tension, she was reportedly not prepared for the emotional strain the show would take on her and her family back home, and she reportedly couldn't just leave without financial consequences.

Courtenay appeared in an early episode in which she swapped lives with a family who lived on a tugboat with no electricity, no running water, and, much to her dismay, no clean towels with which she could dry her face. After a rough start on the show, Courtenay desperately wanted out, but, because of her contract and her experience in TV, she knew that she would be liable for production costs if she pulled out halfway through. While Courtenay decided to stay and finish her role on the show, she told the Evening Standard, "By the time I left the boat I was a wreck." She noted, "And by that stage I simply was not strong enough, either physically or emotionally, to cope with it."

Getting cast on Wife Swap might really pay off

The amount participants earn for appearing on a show like "Wife Swap" generally isn't made public. But, according to a 2005 post by Reality Blurred, a casting notice from the show's heyday confirmed successful applicants would receive $20,000 for taking part in an episode. A message from producers specified that "families who apply consist of two parents that have at least two children, over the age of 5, living at home," and promised a $20,000 "honorarium fee." 

When the show was rebooted in 2019, Auditions Free reported they were offering $10,000 per successfully cast family. There was also an additional "finder's fee" for anybody who nominated a family that ultimately got cast on the show. Patch confirmed this in a 2020 news post encouraging Atlanta-based families to take part in the new and improved "Wife Swap." A Facebook post from Pitman Casting, meanwhile, clarified that all families were welcome to apply, explaining, "Your family DOESN'T need to be a 'traditional' nuclear family. (For example: LGTBQ+, Multi-Generational, Polyamorous, Non-Traditional Religions)."

Some Wife Swap stories ended particularly badly

Being on reality TV might seem glamorous, but it doesn't suit everybody. In the case of Jacob Stockdale, whose family was featured on "Wife Swap" back in 2008, their 15 minutes of fame ended in the worst way conceivable. According to People, the Ohio-based Stockdales were portrayed as being "devoutly religious" on the hit show. Things took a turn when middle son Jacob, a bluegrass musician, was accused of killing his mother and brother in 2017, shortly after leaving hospital after recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Jacob turned himself in after learning of his indictment. 

Officers initially visited the Stockdale home after receiving a hang-up 911 call, hearing a single gunshot ring out as they neared the house. Jacob allegedly attempted to end his own life after shooting his mother and brother, and suffered extensive brain injuries as a result. TMZ reported in December 2020 that Jacob tried to flee a mental hospital in which he was being held ahead of his upcoming trial. The former "Wife Swap" star was expected to plead not guilty to the murder charges by reason of insanity. Treatment staff confirmed he'd tried and failed to run away twice.

According to The Repository, a psychologist found Jacob "clinically sane" when he shot his family. He was ultimately sentenced to "30 years to life in prison," as reported by WHBC.

Wife Swap is widely considered a relic of a different time

There are plenty of reality shows that would never be made today. Horrifying makeover contest "The Swan" stands out as an ill-advised exercise in perpetuating beauty standards long considered dangerous to women's mental health. Although "Wife Swap" is nowhere near as offensive, even by modern standards, there's no denying the show is a relic of a different time. In fact, when Reddit users were posed the question "What show has not aged well?" several people said "Wife Swap." As one user succinctly put it, "My GOD there's some racist, homophobic and judgmental people on there." 

However, although another respondent echoed their sentiments, they also admitted they'd love to see another season. In fact, the show was rebooted on the Paramount Network in 2019. But, as Jezebel noted in 2021, "it failed to recapture the magic of the original." The publication wondered, "Did America grow out of its love for swapping wives or did the producers realize that 'Wife Swap”s archaic notion of wifely duties no longer had a place in the modern reality television landscape? Perhaps both."