The Hype Surrounding This Week’s “Trading Spouses”

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I’ve never watched Fox’s Trading Spouses. I’ll never watch it again. But I watched it last night, and I’m glad I did. You might’ve seen the ads, “THE BIGGEST REALITY BLOW-UP EVER!!!” or something like that. Considering all of the times that people could remember details of the commercials, but not the product that the commercial advertised, the producers of the TV spots did a great job in that I can’t even remember the tagline of the commercial, but I remember that the show was to be aired Wednesday night at 9pm and was called “Trading Spouses” and some lady was to go crazy.

Trading Spouses
She loves Jesus…and cake. Yep, it’s also “mean week’ at emptybookshelf.com

Actually, Fox had been using the same commercials to advertise the episode for two weeks. If I were reviewing the ad campaign (as opposed to the hype), points would be docked due to the fact that last week’s episode did not contain the lady freaking out. It was similar to when Fox had promised a conclusion to Joe Millionaire but instead broadcast a clip show. To be honest, due to my allegiance to watching professional wrestling (credibility alert!), I’m much more accustomed to unfulfilled televisionary promises than I’d prefer to be. I did not watch or attempt to watch last week’s episode, but after seeing the same intriguing commercials from the week before, this time with even more adamant promises of “THE BIGGEST MELTDOWN EVER!!!” it became required viewing.

To be honest, I actually didn’t even watch the whole thing; I figured that the good part would be towards the end so I flipped to Fox around 9:35. For those of you wondering what the whole reason for her flipping out. In simplest terms, she didn’t like the fact that non-Christians were in her house. You’d think that there was more to it than that, but there really isn’t beyond some context. So, the context: the “traded spouses” were the mothers/wives in, respectively, a very traditional Southern Baptist (I think) family and a New Age family whose mother was a fortune teller. So, sort of, hippies versus the old school. Long story short, the “hippy” mom got along wonderfully with the religious woman’s family, but the religious woman went crazy dealing with the “godless” family. [Sort of in her defense, the dad in the New Age family tried to have discussions with the lady to which she wouldn’t take part in due to his “pushing her buttons.” The swap is over, and the religious lady gets reunited with her family and completely goes bonkers, “explaining” how dirty her house is because the “godless” (repeated about a bajillion times) lady spent time in it; she then tells all of the crew to leave, then decides that it’d be ok if the Christian crew stayed; “Only the ones that believe in Jesus can stay. Everyone else goes.”

She went on to say that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is awful, etc. to which her husband says that Jewish people believe in God, and they’re ok. She says that they’re not, as her family is seen freaking out at her (as opposed to with her). Quite the blowup. I’d say that it pushes Evangelism back decades except for the fact that it’s not exactly a secret that there are wacko religious nutjobs out there (yeah, there are also wacko New Age hippy nutjobs out there too, but the New Age family in this show was portrayed to be and actually were quite reasonable, if not understanding about their “new mommy’s” religious beliefs).

Thumbs up (figuratively, don’t worry we’re not out to violate your trademark, Roger) to Fox for not turning the incident into comedy. There was no clown music playing when she freaked out, no “irreverant” narrator doing joke voices, no silly little animations added to embellish the scene. They even edited it in such a way to portray her as someone with some potential deeper (fixable?) issues, not just a Bible-quoting wacko for the anti-religious crowd to laugh about, saying, “See, I told you they were all crazy.”

****½

The Hype Surrounding This Week’s Episode of Trading Spouses receives four-and-a-half stars due to the fact that it was everything I hoped it could be and more. The ads promised an over-the-top freaking out and boy did it deliver. Even though it helped contribute to the hype, the whole tease-and-don’t-deliver ad campaign remains unforgivable, if not unfortunately expected, so that’s half-a-star off. (Lesser reviewers might take off more than half for that.) So much hype was built up once the first week was revealed as a teaser for the melt-down that it really needed to be dynamic. And it was.

The Colbert Report

An immediate reaction upon watching an episode: Har-Har.

One TV executive to another: You know what? It seems like everyone likes The Daily Show. It gets all sorts of main stream press, especially about its lampooning of regular news shows. Let’s make a show that is just that. Kuh-Ching! [high-five]

Inspired by The Daily Show or simply following its template?
Inspired by The Daily Show or simply following its template?

Sounds like a good idea. Take Steve Colbert, probably The Daily Show’s best current news-anchor-parodizer (after Steve Carrell left) and give him his own show. Unfortunately, being that his gimmick (the whole fake newscaster thing) is just that, a gimmick, it means that it gets old and he’s stuck with a one dimensional show. During his interview with Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria on October 19, you could actually pick out the moment when Colbert struggled to decide whether to continue with “gimmick-based” questions (“So why should anyone care about the world?”) or turn towards a more serious, John Stewart-esque, seriousness-through-humor style. Walking this fence is the reason that the show will fail. Interviewing guests who are not comedians (Zakaria, as a prime example) only leads to more awkwardness. By now, everyone is familiar with The Daily Show style of news, and interviewees know not to give serious answers to the ridiculous questions. Unfortunately, these guests often aren’t particularly funny. Colbert is plenty funny though it’s undecided whether he’s a one joke pony (Strangers with Candy fans, chime in).

**

The Colbert Report receives 2 stars due to the obvious (upon viewing) cashing in on The Daily Show’s success. It has its moments, but stretching what would normally be 4-6 minute segments on The Daily Show to half-hour length makes those moments exceedingly fleeting. The show does deserve credit for its title (“Report” is pronounced as “Rapport”), and it moves faster than Keith Olberman’s (relatively) similar show on MSNBC. Unfortunately for Colbert, the talking heads of political news and commentary have already become parodies of themselves. Bill O’Reilly’s “talking points” section is so far over the top that if I want to laugh at it, I can simply watch that, not Colbert’s spin on it. Likewise, Michael Moore’s fame and/or notoriety have also moved toward self-parody. The “ambush interview” doesn’t need to be parodied when the original inspiration is as ridiculous as it is. Of course, the show gains points for attempting to start a joke-feud with gun control advocate, James Brady.