Let me take you, readers, back to a gentler time. It was 2015, and Australia snuggled onto their couches to watch a brand-new dating show called Married At First Sight. There we met four couples looking for love: there was affable tradie Alex and his fun-loving but cautious bride Zoe. There was the hot-and-cold farmer, Lachlan, matched with the fiery Clare. There was the pleasant, attractive Michelle and James. And then there were two people called Roni and Michael, who we’ve forgotten but no matter.
The point is, this was a slower, happier, low-key Married. No dinner parties. No living in one big apartment block. No cheating with other couples. No giant blow-ups. With just four couples to follow, we got to know every contestant intimately and we cheered them on. We hung onto their small, contained, but very real ups and downs, ones that mirrored our own relationships. We wanted them to succeed. We rooted for love, as vigorously as today’s couples love to root.
Fast forward to 2018 and Married has basically become Big Brother in a Bridal Gown. There are so many couples we can’t get track (does anyone remember Alycia and Mat at this point?). The close proximity of the contestants encourages everyone to compare their spouse with the other options – leading to discontent, flimsy bonds and the hell that is Dean and Davina. One contestant, Justin, seems to think he’s on Shark Tank rather than holding Australia’s hearts in his hands. It’s just not Married and it’s just not right.
It’s telling that the only couple to have lasted beyond the screen (with the possible on-again, off-again scenario of Season Two’s Erin and Bryce who claim they’re getting married in real life but we’ll see about that) are Season 1’s Zoe and Alex, who have a baby girl together, Harper. Their love was given space and room to grow. That’s what we wanted to see. The fairytale. The fantasy. If we were looking bust-ups, cheating and heartbreak, we’d just look at our own lives.
Yes, the ratings tell a different story. This season has broken all previous viewership records, yadayada. Of course we’re all addicted to the cheap thrill of cheap drama – it’s McDonald’s viewing. You know it’s bad for you but you shove it into your face anyway.
But just give us back a little bit of the slow-cooked, home-made magic that was Married Season 1. We crave it. We need the nutrients in this sea of junk.
Bring on a Telv and Sarah spin-off show.