Why a Reality TV Show Is Seeking Professors

May 15, 2009

A few weeks back, several bloggers commented on reports that "Wife Swap," an ABC reality show in which the wives of two families are switched for a week, was seeking philosophers. Kieran Healy wondered which of two ways the show might go: "airy-fairy life of the mind vs huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ " or a contrast of philosophical beliefs, such as "Modal Realists vs Phenomenologists ('I thought you said all the beer was in the effing fridge'); Rawlsians vs Libertarians; or John Emerson goes to live with John Hawthorne." ABC was quiet at the time the rumors appeared, but the network now confirms that it is looking for philosophers -- and will pay $20,000 to those selected. Danielle Gervais, casting producer for the show, said in an interview said that "we thought it would be interesting to find parents who are philosophical" and who bring their philosophical outlook into their role as parents. How might that be evident? Gervais said philosopher parents might teach young children that "we don't believe in things like the tooth fairy" and would encourage children to "really question things" and to "ponder deep things." Gervais said she wasn't sure if the network would swap the wives in two philosophy couples or swap the wife of a philosophy duo with the wife of a non-philosophy duo. But the network wants to have couples where both spouses are philosophers and have similar approaches to raising their children. Several faculty couples have already applied, but interviewing is still going on and more candidates are welcome.

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