The Watcher - Take my wife -- please

ABC claims that Fox's "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy" (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) ripped off its upcoming "Wife Swap." But this watcher suspects both networks' execs caught the episode of "Chappelle's Show" when the husbands of white and black families traded households.

Fox's debut episode bore an eerie resemblance. A rich white woman leaves her Asian husband to live with a working-class black family for a week. She blasted country music. The family blasted rap. It was the classic battle between Country Music Television and BET, which guarantees silly but irrelevant arguments that are perfect for reality TV.

Fox relies on families from different regions of the country and economic classes to create tension, not just race. But this artificial tension may have a more lasting effect on families than the $50,000 prize money. The second episode featured a mom switch between the Bowers, a working-class family from Massachusetts, and the privileged Pileks of California. The Bowers family bears strong resemblance to the Connors from "Roseanne," both in physique and the way they bicker with each other. The well-to-do Pileks eat healthy, exercise and sport perfectly bronze tans as if poster children for Woody Allen's image of the West Coast.

At first, swapped mom Samantha Pilek seemed like chum thrown to the sharks. She spoke like a motivational speaker promoting positive thinking. The families carried on life as normal, making this one of the more real "reality" shows on TV. They didn't have tasks or challenges to face beyond choosing dinner. Samantha took the daughter, Katie, shopping. She took the son, Erik, to meet a chef to encourage his budding culinary interests. Her niceness spread to the Bowers, who showed each other more common courtesy. When Pilek left, the kids teared up and the husband got up early to help her with her luggage — which the Bowers didn't do when their real mother headed west.

Lisa Bowers, on the other hand, made life at the Pilek household miserable with her backhanded comments. She heckled the son, Zack, during his batting practice. She antagonized the daughter, Katie, during her singing lesson. For Lisa's return home, her family greeted her with mediocre enthusiasm, but Samantha received hugs before she even got in the door. While the Pileks may have a new-found sense of appreciation for Samantha, the Bowers seem to realize that their mother may be the real-life Grinch.