Picks and Pans Review: Wife Swap

updated 10/04/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

REALITY

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

[STARS 2]

In case you care, ABC announced this series for its fall schedule before FOX hurried Trading Spouses onto the air during the summer.

Now how do the family-switch shows compare? Wife Swap is better in at least one respect: Each trade is covered in one episode, not dragged out over two. Also, the ABC series can claim a certain moral superiority on the basis that participating families do not receive a cash prize. But with no reward besides fleeting fame, what rational person would want to go through domestic upheaval merely for viewers' amusement?

In the Sept. 29 premiere (following what ABC calls a preview episode Sept. 26 at 10), idle-rich Manhattanite Jodi changes places for two weeks with school-bus driver Lynn, a rural New Jerseyan who does all the cooking and cleaning for her husband and two daughters when she's not out chopping wood. At first the show treats Jodi's new situation like Paris Hilton Goes to Podunk, but things get heavy when she has a shrieking fight with Lynn's husband, Brad. Then Jodi and Brad suddenly start liking each other. Meantime, Lynn tries to get Jodi's busy husband, Steve, to notice his three kids. Valuable lessons are learned by all, but in a way that almost seems—perish the thought—scripted.

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