(Make sure you read the Trading Spouses Epilogue before diving into this.)
As part of my announcement email I sent out before the show aired, I wrote up a little FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document explaining how and why we got on the show. Here are some of the Q&A’s I wrote up. [I've also inserted a few afterthoughts in this font.]
What the heck is “Trading Spouses?”
This is the ‘reality’ show where one family swaps mothers with another family for a week. The name makes it seem like a cheesy show, perhaps even distasteful, but that’s not accurate at all. We really like the show because it simply gives you an opportunity to see how people really are. ["...how they really are!" Such wishful thinking!] What sets this show apart from other so-called ‘reality’ shows like Survivor, Fear Factor, and what have you, is that it is more documentary in nature. [Or so we thought!] There are no contests, no million-dollar prizes, and no ‘objective.’ A camera crew simply followed us around for a week and quietly recorded what we did. Except, of course, they flew Leslie to Nashville and brought in our new ‘surrogate’ mother, Vickie, to live with us for the week. How did that affect things? Well, you’ll just have to watch the show! [No, you have to read what we wrote about the show.]
“What on earth drove you to sign up for Trading Spouses?”
Well, first of all, we never actually ‘signed up,’ per se. What happened was this: on August 10th, I received this message on our e-mail account:
“Saw your website [www.playingbyear.com] and wanted to see if your family is interested in being on TV. I work for the new FOX show, trading spouses, where two families trade moms for a week to see how another family lives. I would love to talk with you about having your family send us some further information . . . Sincerely, John W. (Casting Department, Rocket Science Laboratories)”
I didn’t take it seriously for a second. What a ridiculous proposition! Like we would want to be on a reality show. Get real! Luckily, my mom found the email later that day and said (reasonably enough), “Hey guys, what do you think about this?” “You’ve got to be kidding,” says I. “There’s no way we would want to be on reality TV,” and I went on to say how the editors would portray our family very poorly, how people would lose respect for us for going on a reality show (and a FOX one, no less), how it would ruin our ‘public image’ (whatever that is), our sterling reputation (uh huh, right) and so on. I was so sure we didn’t want to be on that I didn’t even bother to watch the episode that just happened to be airing that night. How foolish I was . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Anyway, so we decided that we’d call this guy at Rocket Science Labs (the production company) and just get some info. Mama talked with him for well over an hour, then agreed to have a casting agent visit us to be interviewed on video. He was at our house the very next day. He left with a couple hours of footage of us talking, playing music, talking some more, doing T’ai Chi . . . oh, and some more talking. However, we still weren’t sure whether we wanted to be on this show or not. Mama was concerned with how the week of filming would be, and wasn’t eager to leave her family for so long. I wasn’t worried about the actual week at all – I was sure it would be fine, probably even a blast. [And that it was.] Instead, I was concerned about the ‘aftermath’ – how we would be perceived after the show was aired. [And look what happened!] Kyle didn’t have any particular concerns; he was just not very eager to be on national television. Papa was the only Abbott who actually thought we should go on, which was a surprise to me. I would have thought he would have shared my view. (How self-centric is that statement?)
“Why did you finally decide to embark on this experience?”
In Papa’s view, this was sure to be a true adventure for us, one which we were sure to learn from. He said that we should be careful not to give in to our emotional, irrational fears – which, admittedly, is what we were doing – and be open to trying something totally new and different. He reminded us that it is so rare to have such a wonderful opportunity land on our doorstep, that it would be foolish not to take advantage of it. After a week full of discussion and changing opinions, Mama and I finally realized that most of our fear was unsubstantiated, and began to see the advantages of embarking on this unusual family adventure.
We also realized that this show could help us in our quest to bring the joy of family music to more people. Right now, with our web site, we are reaching about eight hundred people a month. Think of what could happen if we were able to reach eight million people in a single day! The possibility that this program could show other families the joy of playing music together was small . . . but it was there. And so, we decided that we were in favor of going on this show, although we assumed that the chances of us being chosen for the show were next to nothing, right? Like they would choose the Abbott family to go on Trading Spouses! Absurd!
One week after the fellow came over to film our ‘application’, we got a call. Apparently the folks back at Rocket Science Labs liked what they saw in our family, and out of thousands of entries, we somehow landed in the top ten! They said to us, could you come down to Los Angeles for a few days to do some stuff for the show: interviews, background checks, and so forth? We’ll put you in a four-star hotel for three nights, arrange your flight for you, and pay for all your meals. Oh, and will you be able to come down next week?
At that point, I realized that had I not gotten over my fear of going on the show, we never would have even been on this wonderful trip, which is something we never would have done otherwise. The trip turned out to be very interesting . . . although that’s another story for another time.
So there you have it; something a little out-of-the-ordinary, isn’t it? Just goes to show, you never know what you may be doing tomorrow. I certainly know that never in a million years would I have predicted this! [And yes, the adventure continues!]