Married at First Sight: I'm hooked, but divorce is looming

by Diana Wichtel / 06 October, 2017
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Why would someone marry a complete stranger on TV? Why not? 

Apparently, it’s harder to find someone to marry these days than it is to buy a do-up in Auckland, though there’s a reality show for that, too. “Online dating, mobile dating … There’s almost too much choice!” declared an expert on Three’s Married at First Sight NZ.

This show offers contestants the sort of choice viewers of early-evening broadcast television who want something other than reality nonsense get most nights: bugger all.

Why would 12 more-or-less normal people agree to marry total strangers for our entertainment? As in so many areas of life in our crazy times, the answer seems to be, “why not?” In the Australian version, the couples couldn’t actually marry. That country had the foresight to discourage marriage that had been considered for less time than it takes to make microwave popcorn. But our strangers actually tie the knot. As 51-year-old function co-ordinator and pole exerciser Claire kept saying, “Shit’s getting real.”

It’s about science, apparently. “The best way forward to find authentic love is reflected beautifully in this social experiment, Married at First Sight,” promised the show’s counsellor, Tony. I have no idea what that means but it sounds reassuring. It’s a social experiment. What could possibly go wrong?

So far it seems the show has selected contestants who are easily pleased – “I do not want a corpse,” went one wish list – though there are no ratings in everyone just getting on, which is what threatened to be happening by the end of episode one.

Luke is a bearded warehouse manager, surfer and something of a philosopher: “You feel humbled when you go in the ocean … It’s a whole lot of water.” He was matched with consultant Lacey, who wasn’t after a beard. Never mind. She was a good sport, even when Luke decided that wisecracking his way through the admittedly cursory ceremony was the way to go and chivalrously declared his bride a “7.2”.

Couples-to-be on MAFS: seductive, but not for long.

Couples-to-be on MAFS: seductive, but not for long.

Claire scored another comedian, 58-year-old Dom, a former policeman whose nickname in the force was Mr Fluffy. Claire just wanted someone taller than her and possibly less fluffy. Never mind.

Drama? Not really. Thank goodness for Claire’s daughter, who spent most of the episode not wanting a bar of this: “I’m over it. I’m done. I’m over it …” Enter Mr Fluffy, to charm her into submission. “I’d like him to be taller but he’ll grow on me,” mused Claire. Indeed, the couple were last seen in fluffy hotel bathrobes, snogging gamely for the camera.

The mercifully shorter Monday episode saw two more couples confessing to family about this marriage-market madness. “What aisle?” quavered Angel’s dad. “Not the supermarket,” said Angel. She seemed happy with signmaker Brett, and it was mutual. ”I can’t wait to absorb her energy!” beamed Brett.

But then, oh dear. As the experts matched flight attendant Vicky with builder Andrew, was I the only one yelling “No! No!” at the television? Andrew is a “rough diamond” with a pet pig. He confessed enigmatically that two of his former girlfriends had become strippers. Vicky loves Disney. At least she’s unlikely to become a stripper.

Her wedding vows came in the form of a poem, never a good sign: “I’ve walked this Earth on these two feet, uncertain, unknowing of who I’d meet …” It all went very awkward, very fast. Andrew ended up consigned to the couch, leading to such unromantic headlines as, “Bride Vicky refuses to sleep with husband Andrew”. It was all a bit tragic.

On the plus side, this social experiment tries to be a little inclusive, experimenting on a gay couple and a couple over 50. But at two-and-a-half hours a week, plus ironic online recaps, the series eats up as much time as some actual marriages. Like the couples, the show has hooked me in, but not necessarily for the long haul. Divorce may be looming.

MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT NZ, Three, Sunday, 7pm and Monday, 7.30 pm.

This article was first published in the October 14, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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