A family who live the lifestyle of 1840s pioneers, including traditional roles for men and women, swapped with an Oakdale family obsessed with modern technology whose mom, Heather Logan, is the breadwinner, on “Wife Swap,” which aired Friday, June 25 on the ABC Television Network.
Each week two very different families from across the country participate in a challenge: The wives exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover daily life in another woman’s shoes. This astonishing experiment repeatedly changes lives and redefines families.
Lana and Stephen Flannagin of Alabama recreate the 1840s pioneer lifestyle with their two children, Olivia (17) and Coltan (8), dressing in deerskin, living in tents and starting fires with flint at events called Rendezvous. They compete with other enthusiasts in throwing tomahawks and shooting muskets, bows and arrows. Stephen handcrafts everything from moccasins to muskets, and even built his own home. The Flannagins believe in old-fashioned gender roles. The women take care of the home and the men work outside, and they’re raising their daughter Olivia to carry on the tradition.
The Logan family of Oakdale are technology crazy. Mom Heather’s home has all the latest technology and “toys” a modern family could want: Seven television sets, seven game consoles and even a remote control for their swimming pool. Their three boys, Trevor, 13, Nathan, 11, and Devon, 8, are either glued to their televisions playing video games or stuck on their hand-held video games. Heather is the breadwinner in their home, leaving husband Jim to look after the home and kids. The Logans regularly hold parties at which Jim is the center of attention. Even Heather says, “he’s loud and obnoxious,” and gets frustrated with his constant stream of jokes at her expense.
In the first week of the swap, Heather has to immediately trade in her modern clothes for a frontier make-over and head out to a Rendezvous. She wakes up to the sound of cannons and has to cook over an open fire. Once back at the Flannagin home, she finds life — and Stephen — too quiet. She vows to pull the family out of the past and bring them back to the future.
Lana enters the Logan home and, upon discovering sliding cupboard doors, comments “everything is so high-tech.” She has to host a Logan-style house party, putting up with Jim’s jokes and comments. Lana works hard to provide for the family, and she becomes curious to see what Jim does during the day. She concludes that Jim is lazy and not pulling his weight. She’s also concerned by the amount of technology around the house and the excessive time the boys spend playing video games.
In the second week of the swap, when the wives change the rules and turn the tables, Lana removes all video games from the Logan home. She transforms the family into frontiersmen, complete with Davy Crockett hats, and leads them off into the wilderness to experience living 1840s-style. At the Flannagins’, Heather bans the 1840s and tries to bring the family into the modern world. She clashes with Stephen over her rules. Events come to a head when she institutes a board tracking his progress from mountain man to modern man. Stephen finally raises his voice and gets loud, but not in the way Heather had hoped.
After two weeks spent in another home, the questions were could Lana Flannagin teach the Logans there are valuable lessons to be learned from the past? And could Heather Logan teach the Flannagins that embracing technology and the 21st century is not a bad thing?
“Wife Swap” is an RDF USA production. It was created by Stephen Lambert and is executive-produced by Mike Gamson and Michael Davies of Embassy Row (“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”). Ed Simpson, Julie Cooper, Will Nothacker and Neil Regan are co-executive producers.