Tuned In

The Morning After: Swap Meet

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As a TV critic, I’m supposed to bemoan all those awful reality shows that are being forced on us during the writers’ strike, but I must be honest: anything responsible for bringing us a new season of Wife Swap is not all that bad. Last night’s episode–with a family of feminist progressive homeschoolers swapping with a clan of beauty-pageant obsessives–showed that, manipulated or not, the show remains an irresistable drama about culture clashes and parents’ ideological investment in their children. It also remains the biggest showcase for homeschoolers outside the Scripps National Spelling Bee (proving, in the process, that homeschooling is the whackjob DMZ where left-wing and right-wing meet in a spirit of mutually aggrieved outsiderdom). And I couldn’t help but notice the irony that the appearance-fixated pageant dad–“Beauty opens doors!”–was, shall we say, not exactly a figure of Brad-Pitt-like Adonishood.

That said, when Mrs. Tuned In noticed I was watching a reality show involving a child beauty pageant and said, “We’re about two months of writers’ strike away from Ow! My Balls!,” I couldn’t exactly disagree.

I’ll be posting on the Return of Late Night separately, but any comments on this, Gossip Girl (its own kind of cultural argument for homeschooling) or any other Wednesday night TV is welcome.