Who knew arranged marriages would become so popular in the US and make such compelling and informative reality television, such as Married at First Sight?
On the biggest day of your life, could you imagine walking down the aisle to say “I do” to a complete stranger?
Sure, it’s possible if your parents and your new partner’s family had gotten together and agreed to the match.
Arranged marriages are common in many parts of the world.
In that case, your family members would’ve shown you a photo of your new life partner and even shared some details about their life and family.
But we have a new twist on arranged marriages with the reality TV series, Married at First Sight (yes, I’m late to the 10 season long party).
Trusting the “Experts”
Fans of the show are already familiar with the rigorous vetting process, however first the production team moves into a city and begins scouting for local participants.
Apparently, they give a solid elevator speech, collecting 20,000 applicants who go through the ringer with multiple interviews, questions, a background check, psychological testing, and home visit (aka a deep dive into the secrets the underwear drawer tightly holds).
Ultimately, it is the world’s toughest job interview with endless hurdles to become a “guinea pig” (aka spouse).
This newfangled science/expert matchmaking is constantly referred to as an “experiment” after all.
After winnowing down the candidates, we sit in suspense as the sociologist, the sex therapist, and the spiritual counselor discuss the compatibility of three to four potential pairs.
Henceforth, we are gripped by the unfolding drama as our experiment shifts into reverse by putting a ring on it, then hoping our guinea pigs become friends and finally lovers (aka ”grow in love”).
Observations (Only from Seasons 1 & 9)
If only Netflix and Amazon Prime had gotten their hands on more seasons!
As absurd and over-the-top as reality TV shows trend these days, there are a number of interesting things to note about this series.
#1: The experts provide some great insights and relationship guidance for single and married folks alike!
They share tools and tips on how to communicate, develop trust, and build emotional and physical intimacy.
Good skills for everyone to apply in any relationship!
Also, you can “grow in love” even if there’s zero physical chemistry initially.
Who even knew that was a thing (says the single person) and apparently lucrative?
After being physically un-attracted to her husband and crying through her wedding, Jamie Otis did eventually fall in love with her match, Doug.
You’re then rewarded with a whole spin-off series! Thanks, Lifetime!
#2: There are 27 year olds out there who have exhausted all dating options and given up hope of meeting anyone.
Meet lovely Cortney Hendrix and Jason Carrion.
If at 27 these attractive young people have run out of options, I guess we’re all doomed.
Oddly enough, the beautiful couple recently split up only to get engaged to new loves in the blink of an eye! Who needs matchmakers?
#3: You’d better enjoy watching a highlight reel of your lowest points . . . repeatedly if you become a guinea pig.
Having a roommate can be challenging enough and then that brand spanking new roommate is your ride or die.
Things are gonna get tense and heated and then you’re going to have meet with the experts and watch a highlight reel of your less than stellar interactions (Beth and Jamie, this one’s for you).
And then you’re under contract to participate in the reunion episode where you get to relive these low-lights and have to explain yourself.
And then you’re still under contract to do the talk show circuit and re-re-re-watch clips of yourself at your worst and field more probing questions . . . perhaps for the rest of your life.
#4: In arranged marriages, family members intervene to mediate and to help resolve disputes.
And in our experiment, we have Dr. Pepper and company for a whole two months. Then you’re on your own, lucky couple who don’t decide to divorce!
Monet Bell rightfully called out the experts to provide more support after Season 1. Daily producer notes now, anyone?
#5: Honesty, in the long-run, is the best policy.
Compare Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner versus Matt Gwynne and Amber Bowles.
Ironic that Jamie couldn’t conceal her initial lack of attraction to Doug if she had tried. But he makes a handsome groom and a beautiful cat-lady bride.
And now Jamie and Doug have a fairy tale romance and popped out two little ones.
Whereas Matt pretended to be into Amber at the start and then ghosted her after the honey-moon to pick up women.
#6: Are we watching an hour-long music video or a TV episode?
The constant over-the-top music makes mundane scenes, like walking on the beach or into a restaurant to meet your friends for lunch, seem super dramatic and wondrous.
Just compare Seasons 1’s soundtrack to that of Season 9.
But to think how spell-binding it would be to instead have David Attenborough’s narration of our guinea pigs mating rituals . . . particularly that of Keith and Iris.
Oh, never mind.
#7: Our married couples know when the camera crew is dropping by to film.
So, we’re not watching our guinea pigs in their “natural” environment (that is the nature of reality TV after all).
In fact, Amber spilled the tea that Matt would show up just before the crew’s arrival and then bolt again.
#8: Jamie spilled the beans that the camera crew prompts the couples on what to discuss.
The crew can’t be there filming all day—they have other things to do! Not sure what, but stuff!
In other words, we are not privy to all their conversations and private moments.
#9: My, what long and unnatural pauses before responding to both banal and serious questions!
The production team must be inserting shots of the guinea pigs just zoning out between takes, otherwise how painful it would be to hold a conversation with one of these newly-weds.
#10: Is “Decision Day” really necessary?
The guinea pigs could actually take a hard pass at the altar and get away scot-free (unless of course they signed a contract with Lifetime obliging them to say “I do”).
The pairs aren’t legally bound to each other until they’re whisked off to the court-house early the next morning for a second ceremony, according to Amber.
And good thing show producers figured out how to ratchet up the suspense and drama since Season 1 by separating the couples the night before Decision Day.
Producers understood that we need a climatic ending to this two-month marriage test-run! Or maybe the experts do. Who’s to say?
#11: We, the viewer, are the third wheel in these marriages.
You can’t escape becoming emotionally invested in these people and their hyper-intense relationships!
As the silent third partner in this marriage, when do I get to chew Matt out for leaving Amber and me at home alone to sob over his insensitivity and infidelity?
Also, how did the Government Security Clearance-intense-vetting-process not weed him out?
Like a politician, he prepared some empty sound bites like, “I’m doing the work,” but the experts never drilled down and asked for examples (other than his hard work to pick up women).
No more politicians on this show, please!
#12: When is this show going to have same-sex couples already?
Apparently, the glitch is keeping the pairs separated to remain faithful to the premise: Married at First Sight (not second, third, etc.).
Perhaps it’s in the works for the US version. Fingers crossed!
Experimenting with Love
As many know, this experiment is filmed in 19 countries to date . . . and exponentially expanding with spin-offs to feed our bottomless romance/train-wreck cravings.
With only nine experimental couples still married—a success rate of 26%—the experts’ picks are worse than if left to one’s own devices.
Yet, we do learn from the couple’s habits and interactions as the experts intervene with insights and pointers. In the process, we all become more self-aware!
Armed with this new knowledge, we can stick with the old fashioned way of falling in love: Tinder.
But then how are we going to snag those spin-off series and get stalked by fans who obsessively demand to know every detail of our personal lives, like how our “Basic Caucasian Sex” is going?
Right. All the spin-off series, like Married at First Sight Couple’s Cam, answer those burning fan questions!