The week in TV: Married at First Sight

Published here at Celebmix

It used to be a staple of Saturday nights, along with a pot noodle; watching a singleton question three other singletons, who could hear but not see them, to choose which one they wanted to hook up with, ‘The choice is yours’, the voiceover bellowed.

(However, these days, I’d rather empty the contents of a vacuum cleaner into my mouth than eat a pot noodle.)

Cilla would then whisk the lucky couple away to East Berlin or something for a holiday, while she performed covert operations for the Soviet Union, and we’d find out how the date went and whether the couple could stand each other – those were the days.

I am of course talking about Blind Date, a bit of harmless tat, which sadly ended in 2002.

Apparently, a few couples did get hitched and lived happily ever after; and it all started with those initial idiotic questions:

“Listen sweetheart,” rapturous applause. “If you was a animal, right, which animal would you be?” Stamping of feet.

“If I was an animal, I’d say, I’d be a…Lion.” More screaming.

“Why?”

“So then I could claw your eyes out.” Frenzied laughter.

Imagine that. But these days we’re too sophisticated for that carry on. Nowadays, you only get married if you’re absolutely perfect for each other. And by perfect I mean down to the atomic level perfect; that science can prove with numbers, stats, psychology, emotional history, careers, face symmetry and yes DNA, that you’re the perfect match.

Forget, all that old school stuff about meeting people through friends, going to bars, socialising, and getting to know somebody; just hand the whole lot over to science. Science knows everything.

That is essentially the idea behind Married At First Sight (Channel 4). If you’re expecting a group of nut jobs (again), living with their mummies and collecting guns and ammo magazines, you’re going to be disappointed. The ‘contestants’ (let’s call them that) are ‘ordinary’ thirty-something, successful professionals, who can’t seem to find ‘the one’.

So, Channel 4, whittles 1500 applicants down to 15, (half of 15 is 7.5, the science is exact, you see), then science gets to work on them, until the experts (including a priest), come to an unanimous decision about which couples are the best match. They then go through the process of telling their families and friends that they’re getting married to a complete stranger for television.

There’s one poignant moment when contestant Jason breaks the news to Mum, who then cries in the kitchen over sausage rolls and miniature pork pies, “I’m finding it all a bit difficult,” she sobs.

“This is what happens when Jason goes to London,” comments his brother.

Devon boy Jason recently moved to London, for work, and is finding the place a bit too much, life’s hard there – the dating scene isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Incidentally, Jason looks about as out of place in his family home as a crocodile being kept as family pet. The nasty city has changed Jason beyond recognition – he’s so sophisticated and metropolitan, he now needs science to decide his perfect partner – that’s how special Jason is. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for,” he says, as he picks out his suit for the big day, in some really expensive shop in London.

The contestants then go on stag and hen nights: one last frolic before the big day. By the way, if you’re not finding this really weird, then you should, it is very odd.

Everything about it is odd. From city high flyer Jason and his red neck family (I’m still wondering whether he was adopted); the posh girl he’s marrying, whose initially shocked Mum is now really excited, and even helping her pick out wedding dresses; the blonde girl with the brown teeth, who seems to spend all her time in the gym, who’s marrying that other bloke with the beer belly; to the bloody priest who seems to be condoning all this madness.

But why marry? It’s a bit extreme, right? Yes, but that’s what makes this ‘ground breaking social experiment’ (yeah right) so entertaining. Of course, it makes a mockery of the institution, for the sole purpose of chasing viewing figures, and speaks volumes about the empty atomisation of our culture. But, it is entertaining – at least in a baffling way.

Here’s what I will think will happen: it won’t work out. For the simple reason that the ‘experiment’ is still part of this virtual, depersonalised dating culture that the contestants claim has alienated them – it’s just been taken to another extreme level. That, and something tells me marriage is a little more complicated than the stats and results would have us believe – no matter how scientific.

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