Is This Why Wife Swap Was Canceled?

In 2004, the ABC television series "Wife Swap" took the world by storm, becoming an international hit, and people were absolutely loving the drama that came with it. The reality show stemmed from a British series, in which families would trade off their wives for two weeks, exposing each household to their different ways of life. For one week, the swapped wives had to live by the new family's rules before they could decide to change things up and set their own boundaries. Typically, their recommendations were the complete opposite from how the host family did things, which caused plenty of tension in the household. Having its stars go into a new home with social, cultural, and economic differences made for compelling TV.

The show was so well received that the spin-off "Celebrity Wife Swap" was later released in 2012 and was based on the same concept, except with celebrities who everyone knew and loved. However, all good things must come to an end, because neither show is on the air anymore. After some off-screen scandals resurfaced on the internet and a reboot of the show swapped networks, the franchise eventually appeared to reach its end point. Here's the real reason why "Wife Swap" was canceled. 

Past stars have claimed that the show twisted reality

Although many reality television shows like "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and "The Bachelor" are set up, it seems that "Wife Swap" and "Celebrity Wife Swap" were exaggerated a bit more than the rest. For example, in some episodes, certain family members were reportedly portrayed in a way that didn't actually line up with the family's reality. One woman, Christy Oeth, told The New York Times in 2005, after being on the show, that she was depicted as a money-hungry mom who chose work over her children when that was entirely not the case. "There is a very big element of unreality to the way they pigeonholed me," she said.

This seemed to be a repeating issue on the show because multiple other cast members came forward and stated that they also felt misrepresented. The New York Times further reported that a similar situation occurred with "Wife Swap" mom Nancy Cedarquist, whose family was shown living out of a "treehouse." Producers ran with the idea that the Cedarquists had largely left society behind and that Nancy's husband, Keith, was the only person in the family to leave home and go to work regularly. However, the show reportedly failed to mention all of the after-school activities in which their four children were frequently involved. "I really thought reality television was more real than it is," Nancy said. 

Some of the show's stars had bad experiences

Some kids who grew up on "Wife Swap" really did not enjoy their time on the show, especially influencer Heidi Mae. After posting a viral TikTok in 2021, saying that being on "Wife Swap" was "the worst mistake of our lives," she immediately began sharing her experience behind the scenes of the popular show. When she first began filming the show she was 20 years old, and according to the Daily Dot, producers used a 700-question psychiatric exam to learn the cast members' biggest insecurities to use against them. 

Mae alleged that the swapped mother used this to her advantage by throwing her traumatic experiences in her face. "Growing up traveling full-time, I get really lonely sometimes, so when I feel alone, it makes me cry, it makes me really sad," she said. "And I kid you not, the first, the first conversation with the 'other mother,' she ... looks me dead in the f***ing eyes and she says, 'You are alone. Nobody cares about you. You have no friends. I don't care about you.' And I just f***ing broke down."

In 2010, one "Wife Swap" contestant, Alicia Guastafarro, sued the show for $100 million, stating that the show ruined her public image by portraying her as spoiled, leading her to experience "ridicule, mockery and derision," according to The New York Post

There have been a number of scandals since the show ended

Although it is still unclear as to why exactly "Wife Swap" was canceled, there were multiple off-screen scandals that could have played a part into the show's end. If you were an avid "Wife Swap" viewer, then you might remember the "devoutly religious" Stockdale family that appeared in Season 4. In 2018, People reported that Jacob Stockdale was charged with murder after killing his mother, Kathryn Barbara Stockdale, and brother, James William Stockdale, in 2017. He later turned himself in to the police after recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. 

Then, there was "Balloon Boy." How could we ever forget the major 2009 hoax that made headlines. "Wife Swap" couple Richard and Mayumi Heene, who were apparently infatuated with the idea of fame, claimed that their son Falcon, who was 6 years old at the time, was trapped in a massive homemade helium balloon as it lifted into the air and soared across the sky (via Deadline). The balloon flew for over two hours and was monitored by police, National Guard helicopters, and the entire world. However, little did anyone know that Falcon was actually hiding in the attic the entire time. The Colorado family pleaded guilty and admitted that their actions were the result of trying to secure a reality TV deal. Governor Jared Polis eventually pardoned them.

Spinoff Celebrity Wife Swap was canceled after four seasons due to poor ratings

At first, "Celebrity Wife Swap" appeared popular. A spin-off of an iconic 2000s show that features your favorite celebrities — what more could anyone really ask for? However, after just four seasons, the network, ABC, pulled the plug on the show in 2015 for good, and TMZ reported that the show was officially canceled. The spin-off featured some major celebrities, including Coolio, Gary Busey, and Corey Feldman, as they "[swapped] wives" for two weeks and lived in a new environment with an entirely different lifestyle. Reality TV stars Kate Gosselin, Heidi Montag, Sean Lowe, and Spencer Pratt also appeared on the show (via Daily Mail). 

Although the show included a lot of familiar faces, it earned low ratings. The Los Angeles Times reported the Nielson numbers were recorded for the show's Season 3 premiere in 2014, stating that the show was rated a 1.0 amongst adult viewers aged 18 to 49, and received half the views that the previous season's premiere did. The Season 3 premiere was said to have had the lowest rating of all "Wife Swap" and "Celebrity Wife Swap" premieres. Many people apparently lost interest in the series, and fewer and fewer people tuned in.

A Wife Swap reboot ended after a network change and reality TV show cancellations

"Wife Swap" was a major fan-favorite in the early 2000s. So naturally, a reboot was in the works in the late 2010s, so fans could relive the glory days of the wildly popular, cringeworthy show (via IMDb). CMT Network was originally going to air the reboot (via CMT News) and was set to release 10 new one-hour episodes centered on the same concept of the original show. But, according to Variety, the reboot was taken over by Paramount Network in 2019. This network's reboot was going to incorporate more modern-day norms, featuring stay-at-home dads and same-sex marriages (via Entertainment Weekly).

Although Paramount Network had high hopes for the series, the reboot of "Wife Swap" would eventually be canceled altogether. The network later revealed that it was changing directions in 2020, and it ended a lot of reality television shows in the process, including the reboot of "Wife Swap." According to Variety, the new goal of the network was to produce fewer long-form reality television series and focus more on TV movies moving forward. "We're doubling down on scripted but diversifying with made for TV movies, mini-series and blockbuster series with movie stars like 'Yellowstone,'" Chris McCarthy, president of entertainment brands at ViacomCBS, said. The network canceled multiple other unscripted programs as well, including "Ink Master" and "Battle of the Fittest Couples."