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Appointment Viewing: Cooking With Coolio and Stripping With Sugar Ray in Celebrity Wife Swap

Alex Casey watches the return of Prime’s Celebrity Wife Swap, and recaps the dramatic first episode starring Coolio and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath.

What’s it about?

Celebrity Wife Swap USA invites two undeniable has-beens to put their poor wives forward for the most bizarrely, seemingly pointless task of all time. Hopping in a limo to swap lives for a week, the non-celebrity wives are asked to adhere to the rules of the new celebrity household, and eventually bring in their own changes to help and enrich the lives of the languishing millionaire families.

In the episode I watched, Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath swapped wives with Coolio. It’s the ultimate showdown between a gangster’s paradise and a halo-laced bedroom. Who will win? Nobody. Not Coolio. Not Sugar Ray. And definitely not you. Coolio’s girlfriend Mimi travels to Sugar Ray’s suburban mansion, and Karen Ray travels to the outskirts of Vegas to spend time with the Man With the Flow. It’s a tense meeting for sure:

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Once the formalities are out of the way, the new wives read the home manual. Because everyone keeps a bound book of rules in their house, especially Coolio. The wives have to stick to the rules no matter how much it pains them. In Karen’s case, she has to endure Coolio’s terribly slow method of cooking. Coolio takes about three hours to prepare a huge chicken dish that appears to be just drumsticks and mayonnaise:

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Eventually and arbitrarily, the wives decide that it is time to bring in their own set of rules. For Sugar Ray, this means Mimi is going to teach him to stop following around his kids gently singing ‘When It’s Over’ at all hours of the day. The Karen and Coolio dynamic is pretty fraught at this stage, as he has called her “homie” several times and left her alone to do the housework whilst he plays gangster golf all day.

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In the end, the pairs get together to swap back their precious wife cargo. What have they learnt? Mimi needs more alone time when she goes back to Coolio. Mark needs to back off his kids a bit. Coolio needs to learn to cook faster. Oh, and probably stop hating women. They go back to their respective mansions slightly richer than they were before, with zero intentions on changing their ways.

Who’s it for?

Die-hard fans of people who were a bit famous in the mid-90s.

What’s working?

Coolio is REALLY working as onscreen talent. He’s highly hateable, with a dangerous mix of horrific sexism an a sporadic childlike sensibility. His persona is like his hairstyle, mostly empty nothingness with random barbs of extreme absurdity. There’s a great moment when Karen says she is cooking dinner that night, and Coolio screams from across the kitchen like a three year-old:

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The celebrity element barely comes into play at all, aside from when you see how desperately Coolio is clinging on to his young thuggish persona at the age of 50. Sir Sugar Ray could be an accountant for all I knew, his career and touring never factored at all in his daily responsibilities around the house. It’s almost as if… these people aren’t actually famous anymore…

What’s not?

The crucial thing in the celeb situation is that these people are probably already very rich. It’s hardly a traditional Wife Swap when there are nannies and housemaids lingering around. It feels like there is far less at stake when you know that Coolio can just drop another recipe book and pay for his kids to go to college. Obviously, the overarching bad thing about this show is the insinuation that the wife is the “disposable” one, with the onus is always on them to “fix” everything. You could try to write a book about that Coolio – oh wait, I remember your stance on gender roles:

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Should I get amongst it?

Fans of the original Wife Swap format might be left unsatisfied with the lack of complete batshit insanity. There’s a big difference between a middle American having a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be on the telly, and the front man from Sugar Ray just paying the bills. I can’t expect there will be anyone as iconic as Marguerite Perrin this time round, let’s put it that way. In future, you can look forward to the likes of Kendra Wilkinson and Gilbert Gottfried – but I have my suspicions that nobody will ever top Coolio.

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Celebrity Wife Swap USA airs Fridays on Prime at 9.30pm

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