Married at First Sight. Has there ever been a more morally reprehensible premise for a television format? Throwing the sanctity of a binding legal commitment of love between two people to the whims of entertainment. You can only imagine the types who would turn up for the casting.
And yet, in my opinion, CPL Productions have pulled off a brilliant show. So far this ‘social experiment’ isn’t simply a throwaway headline hitter, it’s an emotion-filled production which hits at the core of one of our deepest fears; eternal loneliness. The first episode explores the casting process, introducing an expert team of psychologists, geneticists, sociologists and religious figures who test and interview 1,500 British singles looking for love. Most of the participants are in their late-twenties to mid-thirties, and, frustrated by other options, are turning to science to see if they can find a partner to share the rest of their lives with. Can there be a more human quest?
Having made three potential matches, the experts contact the successful participants. It’s a magical moment, as each of the six are told only the name of their potential life-mate. Emma and James, Kate and Jason, Sam and Jack.
They’re an attractive, intelligent and ambitious bunch and most have prioritized their careers to the point where they’ve either not had enough time to go on dates, or have simply not found the right one. They don’t seem desperate to fling themselves into the arms of the next random person they meet, rather they seem trusting in the notion that there might be a science to finding their other half. Their commitment to the experiment is central to the show’s success; this is not simply a window for ditzy characters to achieve instant fame, but instead an opportunity for authentic, thoughtful people to take a chance to achieve happiness.
Having spoken with her family Sam gets cold feet and pulls out.
The rest of the show follows the brides and grooms as they announce their wedding to their families, organize their hen and stag dos and choose their outfit before the big day, next episode. This is a canny format. Unlike the self-contained episodes of Don’t Tell the Bride, The Undateables and Take Me Out, Married at First Sight compels me to set a reminder to watch next week when the couples will be meeting each other for the first time down the aisle.
The papers have stoked the show’s controversy claiming:
‘It’s Tinder taken too far’: Social media outrage over first episode of Married At First Sight show in which strangers get hitched for ‘belittling marriage’ – Daily Mail
“Twitter in DISBELIEF at couples who marry on show – ”Who is that desperate?!” – Daily Mirror
“It’s certainly entertaining television – Don’t Tell the Bride meets Take Me Out with the ante upped. And then upped again, seriously upped.” – The Guardian
“Married At First Sight is Channel 4’s latest atrocity as couples tie NOT at altar” – Mirror Online
“Married at First Sight: social experiment or exploitation?” – The Telegraph
But I think they’ve somewhat missed the point. Despite my dubious preconceptions, this production revolves around a narrative of hope, excitement and a search for happiness. I hope they find it.