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'Wife Swap' producers talk balloon boy's dad back in 2008

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Heene-family_lEven back in 2008, Wife Swap‘s producers knew Richard Heene — a.k.a. balloon boy’s dad — made for good TV. When speaking to EW one year ago for our Fall TV Preview issue, executive producers Stef Wagstaffe and Mike Gamson insisted their season 5 premiere, which featured the Heene family, would turn heads. “The dad in the family, he’s like this mad scientist,” Wagstaffe said. Here’s more of what Wagstaffe and Gamson had to say about the family.

EW: What can we expect out of season 5?

SW: Well, we’re kicking off the season with a very exciting show featuring a family of tornado chasers. And we have swapped them with a family that has made a business out of safety proofing. So you can imagine both families are questioning each other about their lifestyle changes. Really exciting change and the storm tracking family is out of this world. The dad in the family, he’s like this mad scientist. He has all these amazing theories that he’s trying to prove all the time and when they go storm chasing, they all pile into their SUV and literally drive right to the edge of a storm, and then he jumps out, jumps onto his motorbike with a camera strapped to his head and a rocket strapped to his back and drives right into the eye of the storm.

EW: And how does the safety-conscious wife deal?

SW: They didn’t actually hit a full-blown tornado, but they were in extreme weather conditions. And he was treating her exactly how he treats his wife, so he’s like, “Where’s this, where’s that? We have no time! Hurry up!” So it was really high-octane. I think even for the crew as well, it was one the most exciting shoots we’ve done. [The safety wife] was an amazing woman in her own right. We weren’t sure obviously with her cautious background how she would respond. And she was kind of disbelieving but she rose to the challenge. She went along with it and she really coped fantastically with this guy who was like a tornado himself. She really was amazing. We were really, really proud of her.

EW: Do we see any blow-ups?

MG: Oh yes.

SW: Well, the storm-chasing episode was pretty stunning from that point of view. The scientist dad and safety mom really – they had a very strange time because they really butted heads. Incredibly butted heads, like a couple we haven’t seen for a long time.

EW: Why?

SW: Because their philosophies were so wildly different and also the scientist dad has a very strained out attitude towards women. He sees that women after 25 are used up and not worth talking to. So obviously, safety mom, who is a very self-possessed woman, found that incredibly frustrating. So they just were constantly arguing about the parenting choices, the fact that these guys were basically sexist, but by the end of the swap, the scientist dad, he basically wrote a power ballad for her and sang it in the table meeting. He really sings it, and he’s emoting, and he’s singing it like a ’70s ballad, giving it all that he’s got. It was really quite a turnaround. That’s why it’s the first show of the season, because he’s just so entertaining.

Photo Credit: ABC

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