Swapping lives and swapping wives

Allison Stucky, Entertainment Editor

Nicola lives in an 11-bedroom mansion in Wales with her husband and two young kids. Jayne lives in a small home in England with her husband and two young kids. These women couldn’t be more different—not just in their social classes, but in their family dynamics, lifestyles, and personalities. For two weeks, these women will leave their own worlds and live each other’s life by moving in with the other’s family: it’s Wife Swap.

Nicola and Jayne create manuals that explain their household responsibilities and family rules, as well as spending allowances. The wives are instantly shocked by their duties in the home and weekly budget. Nicola is surprised by Jayne’s husband Dave’s involvement in chores and the kids’ lives, while Jayne is left struggling to care for the kids while Nicola’s husband James watches movies. The editing of the show is hilariously dramatic: it’s bad, but so good. All of the adults are either extremely lazy or extremely hardworking, and the imbalance is entertaining. 

Problems continue to arise as Nicola, used to a life of luxury, blows through Dave’s budget. At the other house, James throws a fit because Jayne didn’t iron his shirts perfectly. While away, Nicola reflects on James’ disregard for their children and even considers divorce. You can’t blame her—James is portrayed as straight-up terrible. Back home, he apparently pays Nicola an allowance for taking care of their kids and their house. He is basically a benefactor who wants nothing to do with the family. 

In the second week, the wives can mend their grievances by establishing a new set of rules. Jayne locks James out of the game and TV room, forcing him to care for the kids, while Nicola helps Dave out so he does not have to work alone. The shift of rules and perspectives ultimately leads to better communication for both couples. After an hour of pure chaos, it’s apparently happily-ever-after when they return home. I’m not so sure…but you can be the judge of that.

“Nicola and Jayne” was the first episode of the British reality TV series Wife Swap, which aired in 2003. While the premise is a bit sexist, the show ran until 2009 and made quite the impression on the public. It became the subject of many YouTube compilation videos and memed on Twitter for some of the more outrageous episodes, such as when a hunting family swapped with a strictly vegan family. 

An American version aired from 2004 to 2010, including a Celebrity Wife Swap spin-off. It finally featured some husband swaps, too. The show was picked up once again from 2019 to 2020, and it appears that many people just can’t look away. Now, the episodes are available on Paramount+ and free to watch on Dailymotion.com. Watch if you dare!