Married at First Sight is back! I’m (Aminda) obsessed with this show, the fourth season premiered this week. If your cable doesn’t include the FYI Network on which the show airs, or you missed because, um Bachelorette MTA, no worries, you can catch MAFS at FYI.TV.
The show opens with a brief explanation of its raison d’etre – help singles find the partnership of their dreams. Apparently, the modern dating scene, with countless ways to meet people, makes it easier to find dates but more difficult to find love and commitment. Is that like how buffet restaurants are full of lots of things that are OK to eat, but not really anything we want to make an entire meal of?
The process starts with a large-scale audition designed to winnow out three compatible couples to be set up in arranged marriages. Yes, legally binding marriages, that will require a divorce if they wish to separate. The show films for six weeks, requiring them to stay together at least that long (and hopefully longer!)
Before you go judging this show as degrading… well, give it shot. There’s actually tons of relationship wisdom. It’s not quite the role-driven, frankenbite-laden, ominous music-filled sensation that is the Bachelor.
These are arrangements with a modern twist (FYI Network also has a show on traditional arrangements. It’s called Arranged). A team of experts shoulder the responsibility for the matchmaking – all with different professions but fields that allow them insight into human behavior and relationships. Dr. Pepper Schwartz is a sociologist, Rachel DeAlto is a dating and relationship coach and Calvin Roberson is a pastor and counselor. Rachel and Calvin are new this season, so it will be fun to get to know them!
The intense matchmaking process involves extensive questionnaires, interviews and background checks. So, out of thousands, the selected couples are:
Nick and Sonia: quirky, caring Sonia is matched with reserved Nick because they share values, education, ambition and have a similar “energy”.
Derek and Heather: Flight attendant Heather is matched with optimistic Derek because they are both attractive and intelligent with good temperaments and similar thinking patterns.
Tom and Lillian: creative, free spirited Tom is matched with affectionate Lillian because they will motivate each other’s entrepreneurial pursuits and because Lillian has the love Tom wants. (no mention of whether Tom has anything to offer Lillian – hopefully there’s more to this match!)
Of course all of them explain how they are ready to marry and settle down after flailing unsuccessfully in the Miami dating scene. The first two seasons of MAFS were filmed in New York City and the third in Atlanta, so this is the first opportunity for Miami singles.
OK, I have to wonder if the experts make any extra contingency matches? Like, in case people just can’t find the time to take this on, or they bail?
Sharing the News
After a matched individual finds out that they have two weeks until they are married to a stranger, their first task is to alert their friends and families. Kudos to all six of them for being able to eloquently share this crazy news without a script, or a teleprompter. Waiting until after the alcohol had been served was definitely a smart move.
The families, not having time to rehearse their response, are not quite as articulate. We’re first introduced to Nick’s mom who we later find out is very well spoken, however being choked by this bombshell, her reaction is a pleading “No. Nononono.” Sonia’s dad can only spit out a single syllable “huh?” and Tom’s brother a “what?!” Then Derek’s mom is stunned completely speechless.
After they get a few moments to check and see if they’re being pranked (Oh wait, the camera’s aren’t hidden. Or is that part of the prank?) the families resign themselves to the reality of the situation and muster up some support, like Nick the high five and “go for it” Nick gets from his mom’s boyfriend.
Planning and Shopping
We actually see very little planning, which makes me assume that there is a wedding planner is involved in putting these weddings together in two weeks (I will have to find out). What’s really missing is the cake tasting, because that definitely the best part of wedding planning.
All we get to see is the tux, ring and dress shopping. All six appear to go to the same ring shop and talk to the same salesman, who acts surprised each time he’s told that they don’t know their spouse-to-be.
Tom jokes about wearing a Dumb and Dumber tux, while the producers prompt Lillian to tell us that she hopes her groom to be won’t be wearing a bright orange or baby blue tux. She clearly doesn’t get the movie reference as she seems completely clueless about why there’s a risk of those very specific colors making an appearance.
Sonia says she hopes her groom sees her in her dress and thinks “damn, she’s hot”. Based on previews, it seems this might be a little foreshadowing. Meanwhile Lillian and her friends debate pearls vs no pearls while Heather’s team debates watermelons.
So I can’t decide which would be more stressful for a woman… planning a wedding in two weeks, or the stress of having two weeks until being filmed for TV (hair, nails, spray tan, facial, brows, lashes, diet, NOW!)
The couples get some relief from the ulcer-inducing stress of having two weeks in the form of an alcohol drenched bachelor party.
Good guy Nick disappoints his juvenile friends (who are really into hamming it up for their 15 minutes of fame) by not spilling any juicy drunk secrets.
While Tom parties in an ice bar, it’s Sonia who tells us her feet just aren’t cold, they’re freezing. Tom’s friend Chris’ brain appears to freeze up too, as he morphs from the funny RomCom sidekick to creepy drunk guy with some weird, slobbery message to the bride to by about how “Tom’s coming for you”.
Derek piously swears not to do anything that he would not be proud to tell his wife the following day, setting him up perfectly for a lap dance. Then he swears that they kept the night classy and PG, just like his cuddle-filled wedding night will be.
Derek also tells us that he’s afraid that it will be an ex-girlfriend he finds walking down the aisle. OK, so this would be a valid fear if the show was filming in Arlington Iowa, but Miami, a city of 5.5 million, how many exes does this guy have? Even Tom is afraid he’ll encounter a Tinder match – or at least one he’s swiped left. (What are the chances? I’d say like one out of million)
The Wedding Day
A cute tradition on the show is to have the couples exchange pre-wedding gifts with their mystery spouses. Sonia gets cold feet socks from Nick to keep her freezing feet from running away like she feels like doing. Nick’s friends approve of the scotch he receives from Sonia, though the alcohol still doesn’t give him the diarrhea of the mouth his friends hope for, so they come up with the brilliant suggestion that he throw himself in the ocean if he’s not attracted to his bride (hmmm… more foreshadowing?). Fortunately Nick’s cute mom is more optimistic that everything is going to be alright, including her own performance as a mother- in law. (though she’s right that most women do appreciate a mother-in-law who mind’s her own business.)
Heather is, understandably, having a bit of stage fright and not feeling herself. This can’t be an unfamiliar feeling for a flight attendant, so hopefully she works through it.
Lillian has a meltdown about Tom’s bad-omen gift of a pearl necklace while Tom insists it’s a classy, traditional gift with absolutely no hidden meaning. Hey, at least he didn’t write anything in her card about a school boy.
Tom describes his wedding day feelings like waiting in line for a rollercoaster. A perfect analogy since rollercoasters are always awesome and worth the wait. Unfortunately roller coasters do get shut down due to inclement weather, and that’s exactly what happens as the wedding is about to begin, and where we’re left hanging this week.