ABC’s “Wife Swap” follows a familiar formula. There’s the happy, clean-cut family that goes to church and plays Little League. And then there’s ... the other family.
Stephanie and Chuck Sundstrom of Gilbert knew they’d be set up for all of America to judge: the ones with a messy house, suspect diet and dangerous hobbies. But it didn’t quite work out that way, says Stephanie Sundstrom, 35, who spent two weeks with a prim and proper Massachusetts family for the show.
“We ended up being the family that was fine,” says Stephanie, 35. “It was an eye-opening experience for her, though.”
The Sundstroms, who work at Firebird International Raceway, had never seen “Wife Swap” before an e-mail seeking a racing family to appear circulated around the drag-racing community.
“We did the show ... to show how much fun we had drag-racing as a family,” says Chuck Sundstrom, 39. “We wanted to show drag-racing is a family sport.”
After interviewing them, producers pounced. They were especially enamored of the Sundstrom’s laundry habits: Everyone — including kids Lindsey, 15, Tanner, 13, Conner, 9, and Andy, 7 — throws their clean clothes on a pool table until they’re ready to wear.
“Am I really the only person in America who puts their laundry on a pool table?” Stephanie Sundstrom says. “Once every six months we had a party and use the pool table, and other than that it’s just sitting there.”
Meanwhile, Joy and Paul Tower were raising their three children to be as proper as possible: They wear ties to public school, and can’t hang posters on their wall unless they’re framed.
“The house was so clean I didn’t think anyone lived there,” Sundstrom says. “You know those model homes you go to look at? That’s what it was like.”
The first week, Sundstrom learned Joy’s painstaking process for cleaning the kitchen while Joy went for a ride in a dragster. The second week, Sundstrom tried to show the Towers a good time while Joy cracked down.
When the couples reunited, Joy did the crying, says Sundstrom. In the emotional encounter, she pledged to make changes to her household.
“I think she thought she was going to go on there and show how perfect her family was, and it didn’t happen,” Sundstrom says.
But after filming wrapped in December, the Sundstroms went back to doing what they always did — including keeping clothing on the pool table.
The Sundstrom family’s episode of “Wife Swap” airs 7 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.