Based on a popular British concept that’s spawned formatted versions around the world, “The Week the Women Went” is billed as a “social experiment,” which is a rather high-fallutin’ way of referring to something more akin to “Wife Swap” on steroids. The premise — having all the women leave a small town, and watching how the men fare without them — will be stretched over five episodes, set in the South Carolina hamlet of Yemassee. It’s certainly a savvy fit for Lifetime, even if the gender-stereotyping seems more suited to 1982 than 2012.
The premiere has quite a lot of business to get accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, introducing a vast assortment of participants before finally having the women take the long walk toward sipping daiquiris at a beachside resort while their men begin hunkering down to play Mr. Mom. (This includes, incidentally, planning for a pageant, adding the smallest of TLC twists.)
The South Carolina setting and narrator Jeff Foxworthy give the whole exercise a Southern-fried spin, including some of the overbearing mothers and the young guy who’s on the verge of proposing to his girlfriend (in the South, we’re told, families should be previously consulted regarding such matters).
Still, the whole concept hinges on the situations being relatable, as men unaccustomed to getting breakfast made and kids out the door wrestle with those chores. Think a greasier version of “Kramer vs. Kramer.” (On a disparate note, there’s also a broad thematic parallel to the 2004 movie “A Day Without a Mexican,” released the year before the British version made its debut.)
Not surprisingly, the program teases all sorts of drama to come in the remaining episodes, but the truth is once you’ve moved beyond the set-up, the only real moment that counts is the inevitable reunion, when the women return and the men, presumably, tell them just how much they were missed and how indispensable they are. Cue tears, roll credits.
“Seinfeld” famously operated under the mantra, “No hugging. No learning.” In the case of “The Week the Women Went,” those two familiar TV vices are pretty much the only reason for the series to exist.