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On Celebrity Wife Swap, what’s changed and what hasn’t with The Queen of Versailles

On Celebrity Wife Swap, what’s changed and what hasn’t with The Queen of Versailles
David and Jackie Siegel on ABC's Celebrity Wife Swap (Photo by Gene Page/ABC)

If you’ve wondered what has happened in the years since The Queen of Versailles, ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap offered one last night. Its stars David and Jackie Siegel were on last night’s Celebrity Wife Swap with Party of Five star Jeremy London and Juliet Reeves London.

Those who’ve seen the outstanding, must-watch documentary might have experienced the first part of the episode like I did: constantly recognizing things from the documentary to see what changed and what was the same.

Things had changed: they have a private chef in the house and a staff of 30 or so people. The narrator referred to “an army of staff.” Construction has resumed on their massive house named after Versailles but designed to resemble the Paris hotel in Las Vegas.

But even though they’re financially better off, most of what we saw felt rather familiar. That included the people–Jonquil, who’s now 21; the Siegel’s limo driver; and, I think, maybe, the nanny Virginia, who was the hero of the film–and the chaos of the house.

Also familiar: David Siegel’s behavior. “This is gonna be nice because I can legally swap wives,” David Siegel said before introducing his kids and getting their names wrong. His objectification extended to Juliet, too: “She’s not filling out her dress as much as Jackie would, but there’s plenty there,” he said.

He also suggested she seek more “cozy” accommodations. “Isn’t that what wives do? Spend the nights with their husbands?” he said with his hand in Juliet’s lap.

When Juliet arrived at the house, she recognized the Siegels in a photo and said she’d seen the documentary, but the way it was edited suggested she didn’t initially recognize the house or its three fridges. Odd.

No reality series for the Siegels

The format of the show is pretty thin and forced, though it works because the fish-out-of-water contrast does sometimes lead to insight, and maybe even change. After the week of inhabiting Jackie’s life, Juliet told the Siegels, “of everything you have, your family is the best thing.”

For what it’s worth, Jackie told the Orlando Sentinel that producers were mostly responsible for the enforcement of the rules. “They [producers] had Jeremy be pretty stern with me, following through with his wife’s rules. They wouldn’t let him budge. He made me shovel cow manure. At first, I felt he was kind of a mean person. He was doing what he was instructed to do,” she said.

As to the Siegels’ future on television, coached or not, a pilot for a potential reality series on an NBCUniversal network was filmed last fall but now appears to be dead. Instead, Jackie said recently they’re looking to produce a follow-up documentary, though, obviously, it wouldn’t be produced by the filmmaker they sued.

After Celebrity Wife Swap, I’m not so sure about that, in the same way I doubt how successful a reality series could be. That’s because the themes of the Siegels’ lives haven’t really changed all that much since The Queen of Versailles, which ultimately did a better job of illustrating those ideas and covering this territory.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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