Oakland “Wife Swap”

Can an Oakland clown learn something from a by-the-book housewife?

That’s the deal we get on Jan. 16 when two NorCal families mix things up on the ABC series “Wife Swap.” For those who haven’t seen the show, this is how it works. Each week two families with very different lifestyles exchange wives to discover just what it’s like to live another woman’s life.

While we don’t know exactly where the Marshall family lives, the press release says only that they live in Northern California. Tanya Marshall (37), her husband Ben (38) do not raise their four children, Trevaughn (15), Brianna (14), Benjamin (12) and Josiah (10)—they train them. Tanya describes her home as a boot camp and childhood as a time to prepare children to become successful adults. Ben and Tanya both freely admit that fun is not a priority.

The kids address their parents as Sir and Ma’am. They have to do hours of chores around the house and if they don’t do them to Ben’s satisfaction they just have to do them again. Tanya home schools the kids and TV and computer time are strictly limited. The kids are so overprotected that they’re forbidden to go past the stop sign at the end of their street. The Marshalls are very careful with their finances and Tanya takes the kids out in the neighborhood to recycle bottles and cans so they can make extra money.

Then we go to the flip side with Oaklanders Cecilia Harrison-Velasco (30), her husband John (38) and their daughter Maya (7). The whole family is dedicated to Cecilia’s ambition to be a clown to the point that they have plunged themselves into debt to fund Cecilia’s expensive clown lessons at a local clown college. The family lives in a tight, converted garage in order to save money.

For the Harrison-Velascos, doing what makes you happy is far more important than having a clean environment, financial security or a spacious home. John treats Cecilia like a queen and has put his serious acting career on the back burner so he can help live Cecilia’s clown dreams. Maya has no chores, no responsibilities and is encouraged to question adult authority at every turn.

In the first week, Cecilia doesn’t get to clown around much, because she has to enforce the kids’ long list of chores. When the kids show their unhappiness to Cecilia about the limits of their freedom, Cecilia confronts Ben about how ridiculously strict his home rules are.

Meanwhile, Tanya is not happy living in the garage and she reluctantly attends clown school with John and Maya, complete with clown costume and make-up. She notices that John seems to put his goals after Cecilia’s and questions their lack of financial vision.

In the second week of the swap, when the wives change the rules and turn the tables, it’s circus time as Cecilia sends in the clowns and the Marshall kids dress up. She tries to free their self-expression encouraging them to go wild throwing paint around Ben’s office. Trust me. I’d slap the pancake off her face if she tried that in my office.

Cecilia sets a “no boundaries” rule so that the kids no longer do chores or conduct themselves within any guidelines. The kids gather the courage to tell their father how unhappy they are with the restrictions that are put on them, which forces Ben to re-evaluate his methods.

In Oakland, there’s no more clowning around when Tanya makes structure a top priority and moves John and Maya into a larger home. The house might be bigger and better but John and Maya are not allowed to bring any of their clowning gear. Having to abandon everything he loves, John has a total breakdown and heads out of the house in his underwear.

At the end of the swap, the couples are reunited to that hokey tune “Couldn’t live without your love” tune and we get the confrontation between the couples and the what-are-they-doing-now update.


  1. Shelia said,

    January 5, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Thank God for parents like the Marshalls. I wish they could be cloned. They are not raisings crack babies. I don’t mean the drug either. I’m talking about,too many saggy pants girls and boys walking around with the cracks of their behinds exposed, failing in school with a piss poor attitude about life. They are doomed for failure.You people trying to be your childrens friends allowing them to run Your house need to take lessons from the Marshalls. Good for you Mr. and Mrs Marshall!!!!!

  2. Tania said,

    January 5, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I do agree there needs to be some structure but having your kids call you Mamm and Sir all the time. Not letting childrent or young adults explore pass the stop sign. Where does over-protecting end and independent start. Life is a gamble as a parent all you can do is teach your children self values, instilling in them that family responsibility and trust in the lord or spiritual being is such a priority and also listening to your children even though you don’t agree with them letting them know that what they think is important and that you want to hear what they say. As adults/parents sometimes listening is the hardest thing to do. I don’t think we should judge young people by everything they wear because you would be very surprise that many of these (crack kids) that Sheila referred to are very intelligent. If kids were given half the chance and again listened to you’d be surprise of what these young people know and they could probably teach us something too.

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