I am probably the only person in America to be super excited that both "Wife Swap" and "The Wire" are back on TV this week, but I'm not ashamed to say it: those are my two favorite currently airing shows.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the first seven (of 10) episodes of the fifth and final season of "The Wire" and, once again, the show is tremendous. A few of the characters in the newsroom are a bit simplistic, but the plot is so compelling and develops in such compelling and powerful and, at times, hilarious ways that I hardly care. Most impressively, as always, "The Wire" manages to make some really powerful points about the way politics and business and just plain culture work in urban America without ever becoming didactic.
I'm excited that this may finally be the year "The Wire" gets decent ratings and maybe some Emmy love, given all the press it's getting. It also won't hurt that the main plot line involves a really amazing criminal issue that I could totally see drawing in the "Law and Order" and "CSI" crowd who would have found previous seasons too depressing.
As for "Wife Swap"... what can you say about a show that in its season premiere forced the mothers from the following two families to swap lives for a year?
-A woman with a 15 year-old daughter who has been competing in beauty pageants since she was 1 and never has to do a single chore, treats waitresses like crap, and has a decorated Christmas tree in her house all year long so that her parents can give her a new present every single day. The family eats out for every single meal and, most amazingly, Mom and Dad do their daughter's homework for her and aren't embarrassed to admit it. They even get the employees at their business to do some of their daughter's homework for her.
-A Quaker pastor who home schools her three daughters with a feminist-oriented curriculum and is seriously concerned because her middle daughter likes to wear make-up and wants to be a princess or a pop star.
Yes, it's formulaic and edited for maximum drama, not fairness, but it's still unbelievable that families like the first one even exist, let alone are so lacking in self-awareness that they would go on national TV. Seeing them interact is totally compelling. And while it's not "Frontline," it's hardly "Temptation Island" either. About half the time, families really do learn a few lessons and improve their lives. OK, I'm not as proud that I love it as "The Wire," but I'm definitely not embarrassed, even though most people who don't watch it probably think I should be.