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Married At First Sight truly a match made in Hell for the viewers

By Ruby Thomas

Published 29/07/2015

Blind Date: Cilla Black’s show
Blind Date: Cilla Black’s show

Of course there is going to be another series of Channel 4's Married At First Sight, because people hated it. As long as things stay out of the courtroom, moral outrage is what feeds the media machine.

Married At First Sight was supposed to be a "social experiment", but most of the techniques used are ones you would expect to find on match.com. And the final participants were selected from 200 candidates, a pool probably much smaller than Tinder's, even when you reduce your search radius to "within half-a-mile".

The only difference between Tinder and Married At First Sight is that it's televised, so it needs a certain headline-generating je ne sais quoi - call it television's Unreal Reality principle.

We all reject the odd suitor in real life, but don't get to push them face-first into a swimming pool, as in Man O Man. We all get set up on blind dates, but we don't get to talk to three candidates from behind a wall, then commiserate with Cilla Black if we pick a wrong'un, as on Blind Date.

God forbid we have 29 other girls to compete with and a man forced to display a video diary and perform a skill on a podium - a real-life Take Me Out sounds more Magic Mike than magic carpet, if you know what I mean.

And it doesn't get much odder than episode two of Married At First Sight, when we hear the narrator utter the words: "Jason will meet his mother-in-law before he meets his wife."

The point of reality television is not to reflect reality, but to drop a pebble in that reflection and create ripples. It taps into our anxieties, or pushes our buttons, so that we want to respond and the TV becomes an even greater part of our lives; not just a conversation topic, but a part of the conversation (as displayed to a post-modern degree of weirdness in runaway hit Goggle Box).

The irony is that the more buttons it pushes, the more people are likely to press the 'on' button for the next season. Jason Knowles, who married Kate Stewart on the show but split up with her two weeks later after her friend spotted him on Tinder (apparently an actual wedding was "too much haste, not enough speed" for Jason), has complained about the negative Press he's received since.

He wasn't prepared for the fact that all publicity isn't actually good publicity. In the Dante's Inferno of reality television, of course, bad publicity is good publicity.

Simon Calvert at the Christian Institute - who, funnily enough, isn't a big fan of the show - says it "ranks alongside getting married at 3am in Vegas".

I'm not sure I share his disdain for getting drunk and accidentally marrying your best mate, a la Rachel and Ross, in front of an Elvis impersonator. But I do see his point: Married At First Sight is sleazy, deeply unromantic and personally uncomfortable.

Why personally uncomfortable? Well, it speaks a bit too much about how our love lives are nowadays. When you have to switch on a machine or tap into a pseudo-scientific quiz to fall in love (and perhaps even when you find yourself in a boring, unromantic marriage), human feelings start to seem unnervingly obsolete.

Twitter users have ridiculed the show, including one who compared it to a "bad dystopian novel", and I can see their point: take the intuition and spontaneity out of love, stick it on the telly, throw in an obscene amount of free goodies (including a house in Bethnal Green) to try and incentivise a relationship, and this is what comes out.

The weirdest thing of all is that it doesn't even feel that weird.

Belfast Telegraph

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