Why MAFS is more real than most Kiwi drama

Alex Casey,
Spy News,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 3 October 2017, 8:38PM

It would seem the contestants on Married at First Sight NZ are looking forward to different things from their arranged unions to a complete stranger. Vicky is chasing her Prince Charming Disney dream, Claire is blunt in her pursuit of "sex" and Brett, well he just seems happy to be there. Like all the men, actually.

We're two episodes and four weddings in now, and Married at First Sight NZ is already shaping up to be unmissable television for anyone with two eyes and a heart. When else do we get to see real New Zealanders talk about their emotions and be this vulnerable? If an engineered social experiment is what it takes, then so be it.

After initial doubts on the bride's behalf, Clare and Dom were smitten.

As social psychology expert Pani Farvid says, nodding emphatically, more New Zealanders are single in 2017 than ever before. Haydn is done with the small talk. Angel is sick of "sticking in my rod and pulling up a crab every time", which I hope is a metaphor.

In this Tinder age where you could swipe left on your soulmate because you don't like their profile photo, it hardly seems risky to let two qualified experts do it for you. Wielding iPads and writing all over glass doors like academic graffiti artists, Tony and Pani seem like the real deal.

Although they haven't cast the diversity net wide, there's at least two contestants over 50 and two who identify as gay.

We have Dom, a dewy-eyed, 58-year-old, retired police officer, who was headed to tie the knot with sasspot, pole-dancing, leather jacket-wearing Claire. Theirs seemed an unbeatable match, only to be usurped on Monday night with the cheshire cat grins of Angel and Brett, who admitted their faces "hurt from smiling" after the wedding.

Angel and Brett didn't stop smiling from the moment they met.

Elsewhere, surfer and deep thinker Luke, 34, was having some of those infamous deep thoughts. "You feel humble in the ocean, it's a lot of water" he says, "it's a whole lot of water."

These are the local characters that none of our dramas seem to get right - genuine, funny, awkward and warm. Monday night also proved that it won't all be peachy either, as Vicky and Andrew's relationship began to fray about an hour into the wedding reception. Vicky took overly affectionate Andrew aside to gently tell him to stop touching her so much. He whipped out the "I'm just trying to be a nice guy" defence and women everywhere winced on their couches.

Seeing her tiptoe around the issue, trying not to upset him, was painfully familiar to watch. It's not often we're privy to such a nuanced example of gender politics in local primetime.

Vicky was left uncomfortable by husband Andrew's over-familiarity.

That said, the wedding ceremonies themselves have absolutely no chill, and put everyone under a microscope to squirm. Luke can't seem to modulate his volume at the altar as Lacey approaches, crazed Dom yells "Come to Poppa!!" like Pennywise from It at the horrified young men who are about to become his step-children.

Come to Poppa!

"How are you?" asks Angel of Brett at the altar. " Thirty-four," says Brett. With no soundtrack and nowhere to hide, the weddings are the perfect place to see just how high the awkward Kiwi freak flag can fly.

Where The Bachelor NZ franchise now comes with a sheen of cynicism after hurricane Jordan, the debut week of Married at First Sight feels surprisingly authentic and left me misty-eyed and hopeful for the rest of the series.

Where things will get interesting is when that glow wears off, the true colours come out and some of the relationships inevitably fall apart. But for now, let's just enjoy the honeymoon period shall we?

Read more:MAFS bride refuses to sleep with husbandMAFS: Two weddings and a tantrum