January 4th, 2012
12:30 PM ET
When I heard that Ted Haggard was doing ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap,” I thought two things: First, that it was a gimmick. And secondly, that it could get interesting. It turns out my second thought was right on the money.
If you're not familiar with the "Wife Swap" of yore, it used to take normal, not-so-famous people and have them switch households.
On Monday, a celebrity version premiered, with stars taking the place of the average Joe. Monday's episode featured actress Tracey Gold and singer Carnie Wilson, and on Tuesday, perhaps the oddest switch in the reality show's history occurred: Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard and actor Gary Busey.
Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle went to live with Gary Busey and Busey’s baby boy, while Busey’s fiancée Steffanie went to live in the Haggard home with Ted and his older children.
Before we can even get to Ted Haggard’s wife, we get a flashback to his fall from grace amidst a scandal that destroyed him for a while, and we see the Haggards discuss what happened and why his wife stayed.
Then, flash-forward to the swap: Gayle Haggard starts out by entering the home and reading the instructions that Gary’s fiancée left behind about the family. As Gayle reads it and learns about the Busey household, Busey emerges and tells viewers: “I’m Gary Busey. Prepare for the worst. Prepare for the best! And expect the unexpected.”
I’m going to say that the moments where Gayle and Gary were together were probably the funniest moments of the show. At one point, Gary tried to convince Gayle that he's had many past lives, including being a Native American and fighting at the Alamo. Gayle patiently listens, but you can tell she is a little surprised. In most of the interactions, we learned that Gayle is kind and beyond patient, while Gary is unpredictable but loving.
When Steffanie entered the Haggard household, she learned about Ted’s previous scandal and almost instantly felt compassion. But the most important moment of the interaction we saw between Ted and Steffanie arrived when the topic turned to gay marriage.
Steffanie asked Ted if his church was welcoming to the gay community, to which Ted said, “We welcome everybody to our church.”
She followed up by asking him if he believed in gay marriage. Ted responded, “We are hesitant on gay marriage because of the semantics, but we are for civil unions!”
Then Steffanie replied, “I’m not going to dance around the words. I believe two people who love each other should have the right to be married. And have all the benefits that a married couple have.” Away from Ted, Steffanie admitted she believed that Ted couldn't speak freely because of his position, and that he has to say what he thinks the public wants to hear.
Another watershed moment in the Haggard household happened when Steffanie held a family meeting with Ted and three of his children. It was supposed to be a meeting with the family, but it turned into a major blowup between two of his older kids. They bickered over whether their father spends enough time with them individually, and it was refreshing to see them let their guard down and be real. An awkward moment, but that's what makes good reality TV.
At the end, the significant others reunited again. Ted Haggard talked religion with Gary Busey and his fiancée, and offered his services should they decide to marry in a church. (Can you imagine Haggard marrying Gary and Steffanie? That might bring in even more viewers than this edition of “Celebrity Wife Swap.”)
What did you think of last night's episode?
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