Aug. 14, 2002

The Old Switcheroo

By Roy Rivenburg
Home Sweet Hades: What do you get when you cross ‘‘The Prince and the Pauper’’ with ‘‘This Old House’’? Answer: a popular new British TV series called ‘‘Changing Rooms,’’ in which two neighbors swap homes for 48 hours and remodel a room in the other’s house. There’s also a U.S. version called ‘‘Trading Spaces.’’

It’s a decent concept, but it needs more drama. As things stand now, the neighbors rarely freak out or get mad when they see what’s been done to their kitchen or living room by the folks next door. That might change if the participants had wildly different backgrounds. For example, a Baptist family from Texas could be matched with a gay couple from San Francisco. Imagine the fireworks when the Baptists return home to see their living room has been converted into a sadomasochism dungeon, while the gay couple discovers the floor of their living room has been outfitted with 625 gas jets to simulate the eternal flames of hell.

Another idea would be to have a celebrity version of the show in which, say, President Bush and Queen Elizabeth trade places and remodel each other’s official residences. At the end of the show, Bush would come back to Washington to find a throne in the Oval Office and Secret Service agents dressed like the Beefeater guards from Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, the Queen would discover that her doorbell now plays ‘‘La Cucaracha,’’ and all the royal tapestries have been replaced by cowhides. Future celebrity episodes could pair the Osbournes and the Osmonds.

But why stop with swapping homes? Here are some ideas for spinoff shows:

-- ‘‘Trading Faces.’’ Neighbors take turns putting each other under anesthesia and hiring a plastic surgeon to alter any body part they choose.
-- ‘‘Switching Governments.’’ Each week, leaders from two countries restructure each other’s system of government. In the season premiere, Canadian officials transform the United States into a benevolent dictatorship, while U.S. leaders oust Canada’s prime minister and replace him with Richard Simmons.
-- ‘‘Changing Jobs.’’ In episode one, a lumberjack and a heart surgeon trade jobs for a day, with hilarious results.
-- ‘‘Changing Channels.’’ Television characters switch shows. Mr. Ed replaces Silver on ‘‘The Lone Ranger.’’ Capt. Stubing from ‘‘The Love Boat’’ trades places with Capt. Kirk from ‘‘Star Trek.’’ And boxer Joe Frazier swaps with fictional radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane.

Off-Kilter Encyclopedia of Useless Information: President William McKinley owned a parrot named Washington Post.

Weird Polls Bureau: God is the fifth-most important person in the world, according to a survey of children by the ‘‘World Almanac for Kids.’’ Yahweh trails President Bush, ‘‘mom,’’ ‘‘dad’’ and Osama bin Laden, but ranks ahead of ‘‘Harry Potter’’ author J.K. Rowling, the Olsen twins and ‘‘Jeopardy’’ host Alex Trebek.

Peanut Power: A giant, 32-foot-tall peanut invades Los Angeles. Read our story in the Aug. 14 L.A. Times.

Supermarket Tabloid Story of the Week: The Statue of Liberty is about to go under the knife. The always reliable Weekly World News says Lady Liberty is getting bigger breasts. Public reaction has been mixed. One critic blasted the ‘‘modernization’’ plan, saying, ‘‘Why not give the Venus de Milo some arms, or repaint the Mona Lisa so she has more voluptuous lips?’’ But a French fashion designer insisted the statue was long overdue for a makeover: ‘‘She also needs to have a new hairstyle and maybe lose that unflattering gown and wear a tank top to show off her abs.’’

Unpaid Informants: Ann Harrison, ‘‘Uncle John’s Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader,’’ Wireless Flash News Service.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
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