NBC’s “Home Sweet Home” show, in which families exchange homes to see how their counterparts live, is presented to audiences as a social experience. But that’s the one unscripted television has already made.
Certainly, past instances of this particular kind were much more oriented towards provocation. ABC’s “Wife Swap” and Fox’s “Trading Spouses” both explained in their headlines: Indeed, both shows saw one of their family members go viral, with the personality of “Trading Spouses. ” “Warrior god” raving about the ungodly things she had been exposed to and kiddo “Wife Swap” “King Curtis” complaining about having her access to bacon restricted by her new replacement mother.
“Home Sweet Home,” created by Ava DuVernay and produced by her ARRAY Filmworks shingle, is unlikely to cultivate such massive personalities. The interactions between the two families in an episode provided to critics seem studiously subdued, even as the standards of reality TV have become a little less wild since the heyday of “Wife Swap’s”. This is a low-fi, heartwarming, persistent and enjoyable watch, built on a small-scale recognition not that our differences are jarring but that our similarities are fundamental.
The episode provided begins with the Patriarch of the Vasiliou Family saying “I think whatever your culture, whatever your religion, we are all human and we should all love each other.” It’s not overly complicated for the next 40 minutes. This boy, who is Greek-American, briefly moved with his wife and four children to the home of the Wixxes, a black lesbian couple raising three children.
For a while, families are left to think about what the life of their counterparts should be like, using the home decor as a general guide. The Wixx explore Greek Orthodox practices, while the Vasilious undergo guided meditation while holding crystals. (Among the mellowest and best drawn elements of the first episode are the Wixx parents’ attempts to create new traditions and their anxiety that they have lost ties to ancestral eating habits and religious practices, due to the breakdown of slavery; the Vasilious, in their on-camera days, had much less to deal with.)
Later, all parties meet friends of their counterparts and share their hypotheses. Namely: Nick, Vasiliou’s father, explains to a lesbian couple who are friends of the Wixx that he thinks he is with a single mother: “I haven’t seen a lot of husband, man around. Or maybe a mom and a grandmother. Informed that he is wrong and that indeed the Wixx children share a donor father with other children he sees playing in front of him, he replies “I would never have said that, even if I had guessed that, because that it is… yeah… ”
It’s a moment of intrigue. One of the four parents in this episode doesn’t think it’s at least appropriate to speculate on alternative methods of starting a family. Or something! It’s impossible to know, because by allowing it to stop, the series reveals a trend that we would have liked to overcome: politeness. The drive toward constant reconciliation is virtuous, but you don’t have to fancy a prolonged fight to recognize that there is something dramatically inert about a culture shock show that is all culture and culture. no shock.
The road to Vasilious and Wixxes reunion is paved with slight misunderstandings, all rushing to serve a larger sense of the ability of families to come together. This is because they are united in a shared meal with far less unresolved leftovers than not satisfactorily established. “We could talk for hours, just all the questions I have alone,” says the father of the Vasiliou family at the end of the episode; It is telling that we are moving forward before delving into these questions, having simply established that asking probing questions is a good thing to do when you meet people who are different from you, but also identical.
“Home Sweet Home” comes from a good place in a nationally divisive moment, and families looking for a group watch could certainly do worse. But some of DuVernay’s powerful curiosity and ability to transmute genuine unease into grace, so clearly evident in other of his televised works, is lacking here. If the title of “Wife Swap’s” pointed to its provocative embrace for itself, “Home Sweet Home’s,” a cliché that doesn’t tell us much, does the same in an opposite direction – indicating how much it does. it’s easy to let the best of intentions get the best of you. instead of something much more stimulating and nourishing.
“Home Sweet Home” will premiere Friday, October 15 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.