We watch this show weekly. In fact, it's my favorite show right now. Do you guys watch it? What do you think of it and of this article? 'Wife Swap' Breaking Down Barriers in U.S. Tue Mar 22, 3:44 PM ET taken from www.news.yahoo.com By CARYN BROOKS, For The Associated Press There's a show airing weekly on network television that is subversive. Radical, even. If it's not stopped, it just might rattle our cultural cages. "Wife Swap" is a reality show. There aren't any wardrobe malfunctions, eyeball-eating contests or immunity challenges. There is, however, actual cultural exchange â€” a rare event in our increasingly niche-ified country. The show works like this: Two families switch moms for two weeks. The first week of the swap, the relocated mom follows the house rules. The second week, after assessing flaws in the household structure, the visiting wife sets new domestic policy that the family must follow. At first blush it sounds like any old trumped-up reality show. But the program, a fresh import from those mad television scientists in Britain who seem to concoct all the best escapades, goes to great lengths to address issues of class, race and politics. In this polarized time, people bubble themselves away in like-minded communities and access only like-minded media. Even political town hall meetings are vetted to excise dissenters. So the opportunities for real public debate â€” not just spewing by professional talking heads â€” seem to be dwindling. Reality TV certainly follows its own scripts, and wife swap is no exception. Still, it offers something truly socially engaging. Could it be the epoxy for our tattered nation's soul? The show's tagline â€” "Swapping Wives, Changing Lives" â€” sets the bar high. Clearly the people who participate are affected by the experience, but what about the viewers? There's no empirical evidence to suggest those watching come away with a We Are the World feeling. It's quite possible that viewers only side with the family that's most like them and laugh at the people who are not. Even if the families hate each other, though, at least there's a real interaction. And even if the show doesn't move masses, it's sure fun to watch. "Wife Swap" (airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC) definitely exploits the idea of the American niche when pairing up the families. Wealthy Manhattanites switcherooed with a blue-collar family from rural New Jersey. A strict vegetarian tribe melded with a junk food loving clan. Christian Republicans flipped with a lesbian family. And recently, a military family was folded into a peace activist brood. In "Wife Swap's" attempt to find middle ground, it reaches for the edges. Which is where it gets dangerous. "One thing that concerns me a bit about the show is the ethics of putting someone in that position in their home and not just push every emotional button there is, but threaten the very core of who they are," said Susan Murray, a culture and communication professor at New York University who co-edited the book "Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture." That's close to what happened to Kristine Luffey, a lesbian who swapped with a Republican Christian named Kris Gillespie. On the program, Gillespie implied that Luffey was a sexual predator and shouldn't be around her kids because she is gay. "It still makes me sad when I think about it," Luffey told producers. "I was very foolish and naive to do something like this â€” I really did know better. I knew that people were ignorant and cruel. In my heart, I didn't want to believe it. I wanted to believe that somewhere in there, they could be kind. Now I do believe that some people are truly cruel, and unfortunately, I will never forget." Mark Andrejevic, a professor of media studies at the University of Iowa and author of "Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched," said that if this kind of social experiment were performed at a university lab, it would be shut down because of the potential for emotional abuse â€” especially because it involves children. "Reality TV is becoming our way of revisiting those behavioral psych studies that triggered the type of university controls that make it impossible to do them today," he says. However, not all "Wife Swap" participants feel like they went through a damaging experience. One of the more highly charged episodes featured Cheri Patrick, a pro-Bush, pro-military mom from a conservative small town in Kentucky, and Mina Leierwood, a peace activist from liberal Minneapolis. Viewers saw the Leierwood's loudly liberal teenage son Dan challenge Cheri so abrasively that she broke down into tears. But when I talked to Cheri about her experience, she didn't have many regrets. Though she had no idea that she was going to be put in a position to reflect a certain political position (unlike Mina, who was actually recruited by the show because of her pacifist stance) she relishes her new role. "When am I ever going to get an opportunity for anyone to hear my views on anything and care?" she says. "It gave me a chance to tell people my view about things that were going on in this country thought the election. Otherwise I would have never had the opportunity." She did wish that viewers could have seen scenes where Dan taught her how to play the drums, rather than just the parts where they were fighting. Mina was equally pleased about her time on the pulpit. "I thought that they were very generous to me â€” they could have portrayed me as much kookier and loonier than they did." One of Mina's few complaints is that she recruited some members of the organization Veterans for Peace to come to an anti-war vigil she organized to take place at the Patrick home and the exchanges they had were cut out of the show. "They articulated a viewpoint more sophisticated than mine and really connected with the military people there," she says. Both Cheri and Mina said they had never experienced being in cultures so different from their own. But interestingly, both said that they gained more in areas of personal growth than political understanding from being on the show. Cheri's husband now spends more time with the kids while Mina has retooled her approach to housekeeping. Andrejevic believes this kind of melding of the personal and the political is intriguing. "The most interesting thing 'Wife Swap' is doing is staging pretty sensitive and highly charged debates, and the reason they can do it is that they get located in not in the political sphere, but in the domestic sphere," he says. "We're in a form of social inversion right now where so much of what emerges in the public sphere is details of our private lives. Then, on the flip side, when you get intimate portrayals of private lives, that's where politics gets to re-emerge."