Stories The Wife Swap Producers Don't Want You To Hear

Many people who appear on reality shows go on to regret it. For fans following along with the drama, it can be hard to tell whether contestants were actually portrayed inaccurately, or whether they just became upset with the way they acted and decided to turn their anger on producers. However, when contestant after contestant comes forward to say a show isn't accurate, it starts to put a dark cloud on the moniker of 'reality' television.

This is the case with ABC's Wife Swap, which shows vastly different families swapping wives (and, occasionally, husbands), usually with very dramatic results. Although the show was very popular over its nine year run, it has faced allegations from many contestants about being scripted, overly-edited and pretty far from reality. Here are all the reasons why Wife Swap is totally fake.

Producers tell contestants to act a certain way

Former contestant Stephen Fowler, who earned national media attention for the insults he hurled at his replacement wife, calling her a "dumb redneck" who was "undereducated, over-opinionated and overweight," told The Noe Valley Voice that producers told him to act rudely in order to bring in a little more drama after the first few days of filming fell flat.

"They strongly encouraged me to be acerbic," said Fowler. "I was playing a character. I was playing a role... like Simon Cowell on steroids. I overreacted."

Fowler, who lost his job over his behavior on the show, said he received a call from producers as the episode was airing saying they were getting so much negative backlash that he and his wife should delete their Facebook pages. He said he wouldn't recommend the experience of being on the show to anyone.

Craig Adams, who appeared on the United Kingdom edition of Wife Swap, told The Wakefield Express that producers encouraged conflict within his family and between him and his replacement wife.

"Both my wife and sons feel hurt that I've been portrayed in this manner," he said. "The producers engaged us in conflict. They made me act against my nature and then zoomed in on it. I appreciate they have to show extremes in order to get a story but the way it was edited was not realistic."

Producers manipulate contestants

'King Curtis' Holland, who skyrocketed to fame while appearing on the show as a 7-year-old who said things like "Bacon is good for you" and "I don't wanna be skinny! I wanna be fat and happy," said that, while he enjoyed his experience on the show and was doing "his own thing," producers still manipulated contestants with how they asked questions. "I will say this. If I ask you the same question in 20 different ways, I will eventually get what I'm looking for. That's probably one aspect in which they tried to make it more dramatic." Holland said, according to the Bailiwick Express.

"I really thought reality television was more real than this," said Nancy Cedarquist, who appeared on the show in 2005, in an interview with The New York Times. "I'd like to offer myself up as a support person for people who go on these shows."

A contestant sued the show

Alicia Guastaferro, who appeared on Wife Swap in 2008 as the 15-year-old daughter of one of the couples, sued the show in 2010 for allegedly causing her so much emotional distress due to their inaccurate portrayal of her that she had to drop out of high school and enroll in a special program.

Guastaferro, a former pageant queen, was depicted as a spoiled brat on the show. She became famous with the show's fans for using phrases like "I am the most popular girl in school," and "I do feel sorry for people that are not gorgeous people." She was also seen on the show getting presents from a Christmas tree that her parents kept set up all year round and receiving a car she was too young to drive.

According to Guastaferro, none of this was actually true — rather, the show told her to play up the spoiled brat persona and fed her lines to say for the camera. She said that this led to "incessant verbal and physical assaults from her peers," and that the "ridicule, mockery and derision" made her drop out.

The lawsuit alleged that the show "purposefully, intentionally and knowingly caused severe emotional and psychological harm to a fragile 15-year-old" for their own financial gain.

The suit was settled under undisclosed terms in 2011. Guastaferro later found herself in the news again after being charged with prostitution.

Producers come up with the manuals, not the wives

At the beginning of each episode, wives craft a manual they leave for their replacement explaining the rules of the household. The replacement wife has to follow the manual for their first week in the house, often to much chagrin. However, the daughter of one former contestant says that the wives don't actually make the rules; producers do.

Ashley Fine, who appeared on Wife Swap as a 13-year-old in 2006 (her mom, a professional organizer, swapped with a pirate) gave one example of the producers changing and setting the rules, saying producers wanted a rule to be that the other family's dog, which was flea-ridden and not well taken care of, has to stay in a tiny cage. This wasn't one of the family's real rules, and, when Ashley's mother refused and threatened to quit the show over it, producers dropped it.

Nancy Cedarquist also said in an interview with The New York Times that the manual was written by a producer off-camera.

Multiple Linkedin profiles and resumes from people who have worked on the show list writing the household manual in their duties, including former Wife Swap associate producer Darren Coyle and former Celebrity Wife Swap producer Sean Hetherington. Former Wife Swap producer Zack Wozniak writes on his Linkedin page that he penned the manuals after a three-day interview with the family.

Producers purposely leave out information

Nancy Cedarquist said the reality TV show left out many details that didn't fit with the way they wanted to portray her family. She said the show said her family lived in a handmade tree house and had "dropped out of society," with only her husband leaving the house to go to work. However, Cedarquist said the show left out her four older children's school activities, and the fact that she worked 20 hours a week.

Other contestants say producers came in with a pre-established storyline they wanted to show, and then edited the show as such. "I think it was a one-sided view of [my husband] and the boys that is not the whole picture," Karen Martel, who appeared on the show's fifth season, told The Hartford Courant. "They plugged us into what they wanted their storyline to be."

Contestants are sometimes shown a "final" cut that isn't what airs

Ashley Fine said her family excitedly planned a viewing party for their episode after receiving what was supposedly a final cut from producers that portrayed her family in a positive light. However, the final cut they were shown ended up not being anywhere close to the episode that aired.

"I was so excited and told everyone about it," she said of her feelings on the show post-filming. "We had a big viewing party. The thing that really bothered me was that they showed [us] the 'final version' before it aired. But it was completely different than the actual episode. We were totally confident with having a viewing party for the episode we saw, but the final cut that we all watched live was less favorable. That bugged me."

The show is heavily edited

Donna Adams, who appeared on the UK version of Wife Swap with her husband Craig, said producers left out things in editing that made her family's dynamics look worse in the final cut.

"It was very realistic from my end, but it was like they'd twisted scenes," she said of seeing the final cut. "They made it look like our sons Lewis and Cory were laughing at Craig and only used one comment from them which made it look like they think Craig is like that all the time. Our family is very fun and flexible and they took away all of those scenes that showed us playing games together. We may be organized but we are not militant."

Some contestants have said that their interactions with their swapped spouse were edited to make them appear a certain way.

"They made it sound like [the replacement wife] took the books away because our daughter wouldn't clean her room," contestant Tori Baur said. "In fact, she said we should censor what our kids read."

Eric Schroeder said producers left out a portion of the episode where he kicked his replacement wife out of the house because he did not like the way she was treating his kids, and they left out many of her disparaging comments. "I did throw her out of the house," he said. "I threw her out because here's somebody who came in all bouncy and smiley who was espousing negative things that my kids don't need to be exposed to. She was saying horrible things about our family and about the kids in front of my kids. A lot of the worst things she said were cut out. They left the losers and the freaks and the weirdos and that sort of stuff in."

Some contestants are just in it for fame

While most Wife Swap contestants say they are in it to provide a more accurate representation of their community or to earn the $20,000 paycheck that comes with being on the show, some contestants are only there to get famous. Most Wife Swap contestants, even those there for fame, don't get much past their 15 minutes, but one family was able to extend their time in the spotlight a bit with a viral hoax that took the nation by storm.

The Heene family, who appeared on Wife Swap in 2008, was responsible for the Balloon Boy incident of 2014, in which the country's police engaged in a widely reported on search for the couple's six-year-old son Falcon, pictured, who they said had flown away in a large balloon. It was later found that the boy was hiding in the attic, and his parents ended up spending time in jail for their antics. Reports said that the family was doing it as part of a pitch for their own reality show. With a family willing to put on such an elaborate scheme to gain fame, it's likely that they exaggerated their lifestyle to get more attention on Wife Swap as well.

One participant admitted their significant other was fake

Rapper Coolio shocked Celebrity Wife Swap viewers everywhere when he said he and the woman claimed was his long-term girlfriend on the show never actually dated.

Coolio appeared on the show with a woman named Mimi, who initial reports said was a long-term girlfriend who he split with six weeks after the episode aired due to his behavior on the show. However, he told the UK's Daily Record that Mimi and he had never actually had a relationship.

"Listen," he said. "It was all set up. I'm nothing like that. I'm not even with Mimi. I never was. She's a friend of mine. They tried to make me look bad. I don't want to do that stuff again. I'm going to concentrate on my music and food shows from now on and also a film about my darker days."

The rapper said his experience on the show and their portrayal of him was so bad that he never wants to take part in reality TV again.

Some famous contestants have been very vocal about the show's bad portrayal of them

Bachelor Sean Lowe, who appeared on the show with his wife Catherine, swapping with fellow Bachelor Jason Mesnick and his wife Molly, was very upset with his portrayal on the show. His episode of Celebrity Wife Swap showed Molly waking up to find a to-do list in the kitchen including things like ironing his socks and cleaning the kitchen, something which caused much upset among Bachelor fans.

However, Sean insists this is never something he would have done, tweeting after the episode aired that Catherine would "scratch my eyes out" if he ever gave her a to-do list. He later added more about the show on his Instagram, writing, "Yeah... so that whole Wife Swap thing made me look like a complete jackass but I guess that's the risk you run when you agree to take part in something like that. Thanks to those who saw through it all and offered words of support."

His wife Catherine backed him up, saying, "I have been blessed with the most humble, selfless, wonderful husband J TV has been great to us and sometimes it hasn't, but I am always confident knowing @seanloweksu's heart is good. I wish you could all see past his chest of titanium to his heart of gold."

Swapped wife Molly also wrote words of encouragement to Sean, saying, "I had THE best time filming #CelebrityWifeSwap with @seanloweksu! He is an incredible person who adores his beautiful wife more than anything in the world. I wouldn't have wanted to spend my week swapped with anyone else. Thank you @seanloweksu & @catherinegiudici for welcoming me into your home. You will be our life-long friends and I cannot wait for this world to be blessed with little Lowes."

While it's not possible to get to the truth of whether or not Lowe leaves to-do lists for Catherine each morning, the star does have a lot of experience with being portrayed on reality TV, and he never spoke out about a negative portrayal while appearing on the Bachelor franchise.