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Fox's 'Trading Spouses' puts $50,000 prize power in swapped parent's hands


By Reality TV World staff, 07/20/2004 

Fox might have ripped off the basic concept of its Trading Spouses series from ABC's September-debuting Wife Swap, but the two spouse swapping shows will differ in at least one key aspect -- unlike Wife Swap, Trading Spouses will feature a large cash prize.

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According to Fox, each family appearing on Trading Spouses will receive a $50,000 prize for participating in the show, however, unbeknownst to the participants, how the cash is spent will be up to the "surrogate" parent.

While the participating families knew about the $50,000 prize before the series began filming, the swapping mothers were not aware that they would determine which members of their surrogate family get the cash and how they'd be allowed to spend it (apparently Mom truly always knows best.) The families also had no idea as to the program's twist -- and won't even find out until the second part of tonight's premiere episode airs on Tuesday, July 27.

In addition to no doubt making the recruitment of participating families much easier, one would assume that the inclusion of a cash prize would be likely to significantly impact the motivation of the swapping households, resulting in at least one distinguishing characteristic between Trading Spouses and Wife Swap. Contrary to FOX's gameplay element, ABC has stressed that outcome of their show isn't a cash prize, but namely a couple's opportunity to re-discover why they love each other and decided to marry in the first place.

In fact, during a 2003 interview discussing the pickup of the British-originating show by ABC, UK producer Stephen Lambert went out of his way to stress that focus of the show was on how both families react during and after the experience, with the grand finale centering around the two families meeting to compare notes -- and how such a focus initially "didn't satisfy" ABC executives. According to Lambert, ABC executives balked at his finale idea at first, instead suggesting that the program should end with one family being awarded a prize.

As ABC's Wife Swap press materials now trumpet the absence of any such prize and instead focus on the show's enlightenment opportunities, clearly Lambert eventually got what he wanted (and perhaps such squabbles help explain why it took nearly two years after the show's initial January 2003 pickup for it to finally hit the ABC airwaves.) And as a result of Fox's Trading Spouses, American audiences will get to decide which version they enjoy more -- watching families that were possibly swayed to participate due to the cash prize, or instead those who simply were merely looking for a less material "adventure" opportunity. With ABC's Wife Swap premiering September 29, the answer should be clear soon enough.

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