Michael Von Wurden. Remember that name. This man from Denmark created the TV series Gift ved Forste Blik – better known as ‘Married at First Sight’ in Australia and in any of the many countries that have taken this reality-TV format and run with it.
I know it’s a departure from my usual topics on the blog, but frankly it would probably be a lot better for everyone if this show hadn’t travelled its way out of Europe. For everyone involved and everyone who’s watched it. Which sadly, includes myself.
For those who are not familiar with the format, people are put into couples by ‘experts’, we have three experts in the Australian version, and in the first couple of episodes they get married without having met each other (or have they?) The main bulk of the show then follows them as they live together, sleep together, each week there is a ‘dinner party’ where all the couples mingle, and then a commitment ceremony where couples decide if they want to stay as a couple in the experiment or leave.
Here in Australia, ‘Married at First Sight’ is THE HIGHEST rating show on television right now, airing four days a week. They call it an ‘experiment’, contestants frequently tell the audience they are on the show to ‘find love’, and every episode seems to get more ridiculous than the last. The show is, in reality, NOT about people finding love, but it is about DRAMA.
Now in it’s fifth season, this is the first time I have watched. For a short period I was as ‘into it’ as anyone. I don’t know what came over me. This is the ultimate in trash TV. It sounds like it could potentially be boring, but it seems the producers know how to make sure it isn’t.
The couples seem, well, in about half the cases really poorly matched. Last year MAFS as it is commonly referred to was rocked by the scandal of two participants in different marriages having an affair. This year, we’ve had two such cases. The experts watch the full dinner parties, and the Producers are across everything that happens, and they are okay with that.
This year the personalities have been huge, setting the stage for high drama. Marriages appear set up to fail. For example, they paired Melissa with Dino this year. Melissa was highly strung, and full on. Dino was the exact opposite, into meditation and about as chilled and spiritual as they come. Maybe a good match for Melissa? Not at all. Melissa got more and more wound up through the ‘experiment’, angry at Dino, it all got really weird and they were the first couple to leave the show. I should also point out that at the commitment ceremony they are asked ‘leave’ or ‘stay’. Both people in the couple need to write ‘leave’ for the couple to be allowed to ‘leave’. It seems knowledge of cheating or verbal abuse by the producers and probably the experts (who are supposed to be monitoring the whole thing) doesn’t convince anyone to decide ‘you guys better leave’.
Clearly Melissa was not in a good place, and perhaps was unsuited to the show. I don’t think though that worry about the participants’ state of mental health is a going concern for the makers of the show. They had a 29 year old virgin on the show this year, and he lost his virginity on the show. A few weeks later the couple chose to leave. Obviously couples are encouraged to sleep with each other as part of the experiment. But the woman paired with this guy revealed afterwards that she had tod producers that she’d slept with a woman when she was around 17 years old. They told her to tell her partner, but to say that she ‘used to be a lesbian’. Which is not the same thing and evoked a much more emotional reaction from her partner. It was from that point that their relationship turned south.
Then there was Susie and Billy, a couple that entered the competition late as ‘intruders’ of sorts. Billy was driven to tears regularly by Susie, who clearly decided before ‘I do’ that Billy wasn’t for her. Neither came off looking good. Susie clearly had a lot of unresolved issues and Billy left the show a basketcase declaring it one of the ‘worst experiences’ of his life. 10,000 applicants, but more examples of people who shouldn’t be on the show for mental health reasons.
We’ve had ‘fiery’ Cyrell who used every chance to attack people, yell, shout, point her finger. Not ready for a committed relationship. Ning has massive trust issues, in fact they have turned out to be crippling at times. Heidi appears to look for the first chance she can to sabotage her relationship with Mike, who can’t keep his opinions to himself which frustrates her no end. Somehow they are still in the experiment as it enters its final week or so. I would argue strong that television is not the place to ‘fix’ yourself, and not in a relationship with a total stranger.
There are claims that many participants are ‘actors’, and certainly there is no doubt quite a few have had experience in front of the camera. Bronson, Dino, Melissa, Jessika, Sam, Billy and Susie have all been outed online as being in adverts or ‘Home and Away’ before being on the show. Perhaps they were selected deliberately because they could take direction.
And then we come to the ‘cheating’. In Australia, laws forbid people from marrying if they haven’t known each other for a month or two I think it is, so they are only married for the purposes of the show (elsewhere in the world the marriage is 100% for real). I am sure that those cheating on their ‘spouse’ have been encouraged by the producers of the show.
First we had Ines (who was paired with Bronson) and Sam (paired with Elizabeth – who disappeared for a week due to illness – possibly mental health). Ines stayed a week extra or maybe two so that she could pursue Sam. She professed she didn’t care about what anyone said or thought. She was a refugee as a young kid from Bosnia. They went to ‘bed’ with a camera and cameraman in the room. Who knows if it was for real at all. Ines wanted more, Sam did not. It all came out in the commitment ceremony where they both left. Ines had been cold to Bronson from the wedding when she greeted him with ‘Pleas take out your eyebrow ring’ coldly. How Bronson could think it was worth pursuing after the first week is anyone’s guess. Unless the producers wanted them to stay so that the Ines and Sam thing could play out.
Now we have Danny (paired with Tamara) and Jessika (yes that’s how it’s spelt, paired with farmer Mick). Mick has been pleading to leave the show for three ceremonies in a row. Jessika has had everyone suspicious. Tamara slept with Dan and then the next day he seemed to cold towards her. Others in the group KNOW that Jessika and Dan have been meeting up behind their ‘partners’ back. It happens at the dinner parties where the experts are watching – yet they fain ignorance.
It’s all a bit of a sham really. It’s promoting cheating as being ‘ok’, not only that Jessika and Dan are pursuing each other in front of the cameras. Why would anyone do that? Leave the show and see how it goes. Surely? Or… is it just people looking for fame? Because let’s be honest, a LOT of people are fame-searching these days.
Of the first four seasons, one couple is reportedly still together and that’s it. There are reports that two or three couples are presently together after this season – shot six months ago. We will see how that goes. But as an experiment, it seems to be quite the failure. But people being bad equals drama, and drama equals viewers. And I’ll stick it out until the end – which I think is only a week or so away. And then admonish myself for ever having watched a single episode.
What show is big where you’re from? What TV experience do you think is just ‘the pits’? Please do comment. And May the Journey Never End. Except for MAFS.
UPDATE: The Sunday episode did indeed go down the path I expected, and Jessika and Dan have been allowed to continue in the show as a couple. What the show is now promoting is lying, cheating and hurting people. It’s now officially worse than it was when I wrote the bulk of this three days ago. For those interested in real life, remembering the shooting of MAFS finished several months ago, Jessika and Dan are expecting a baby. Also, it has been reported that Dan is facing jail time on fraud charges. It’s a weird old world. But at 7/11 today I saw more than one magazine with Jessika on the cover. It seems, all in all, Jessika and her ilk win.