As the title suggests, the concept of Married at First Sight on Channel 4 is rather simple, if not necessarily natural. When people think of marriage, images of smiling couples, white dresses and nervous in-laws spring to mind, and these images all make their clichéd appearances.
However, there is a difference, as the delightful tones of Stephen Mangan remind us throughout. These two people are getting married to each other without ever having met. All they know is each other’s first name, which would cause problems to even the most ardent of Facebook stalkers.
In the first episode of the second British series, we get an insight into how these couples are chosen through careful ‘science’, before meeting the first two excitable singletons.
First we hear lots of interesting facts about love, marriage, and, rather worryingly, divorce before moving onto a montage of people talking about how much they love love and how all they want is to be loved. It is all a bit exhausting and, in a way, mildly terrifying. Some of these people are only a few years older than me and already looking to reality TV to find ‘the one’ – it cannot be that hard can it, CAN IT?!
Then of course, there are the experts, who will all help and support these couples throughout the course of their budding relationship. They are kind of like the Avengers of the marriage world, except with less skintight leather and fewer abs. They use a weird combination of questionnaires, psychometric tests, and saliva to find potential matches amongst the 3,500 applicants. It is all jolly fun, but a bit of a drag really; we are here to see if one of them bolts for it at the altar, not to watch someone spit into a cup. Or maybe that is just me.
But then, finally, FINALLY, it is time to meet the couple. This week, it is 27-year-olds Clark and Melissa. Clark is a ‘business development manager’, whatever that means, and Melissa is a student nurse. The joy for the viewer comes as we see both make anxious stabs at what the other might be like. “I keep picturing Clark Kent”, muses Melissa. Not quite pal, not quite.
By the time of the wedding we are as excited as they are, wishing for everything to go without a hitch whilst simultaneously hoping, in a slightly sadistic way, that one of them makes a run for it on seeing their betrothed.
It is awkward, and there is no denying it, but perhaps Clark does not help the situation when he openly acknowledges that he has “a real thing about tooth to gum ratio”. That is the sort of thing that you keep to yourself until at least the second date.
This is not ground-breaking television, despite what they would like you to believe. It is an hour of high-quality reality programming that offers greater substance than most ‘dating’ shows, without ever really managing to create a sense of caring for its stars.
Much like these marriages, it is going to take a certain amount of time and effort before we fall totally in love with the show.
Image: Duhita Das