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Pop CultureOctober 24, 2023

Married at First Sight NZ has a big curse to break


Married at First Sight NZ is set to return in 2024 after a five-year hiatus. But can it escape the legacy of dodgy contestants and production scandals? 

Perhaps reality romance isn’t dead after all. Last month it was announced that Married at First Sight NZ would be returning to our screens next year, inviting singles to “step into the spotlight and embark on a remarkable journey to find love” in 2024. “This is a rare opportunity for singles to potentially find a lifelong partner,” the press release reads, “while navigating the exciting twists and turns of this one-of-a-kind reality TV experience.” 

For anyone familiar with the “twists and turns” of MAFSNZ, the news probably came as a shock. We’ve had three cracks at the social experiment, which sees total strangers meet at the altar to be “married” and then immediately move in together, between 2017-2019. And, aside from golden couple Brett and Angel, almost every contestant has emerged from the series pissed off at production, pissed off at each other or pissed up at the Viaduct.

Brett and Angel, an exception to the rule

While Married at First Sight Australia has leaned into becoming a pure pantomime and monster of the week show, Married at First Sight NZ always contained a simmering, uneasy, and distinctly cursed energy, which would spew forth occasionally in public scandals and shock headlines. Let us look back at some of the most cursed MAFSNZ moments, and hope that we can, as a nation, find the right incantation to mutter to the reality TV gods before 2024. 

This piss weak cup of tea (season two)

Fraser Lee’s cursed cup of tea

I’m easing us in because things are about to get MUCH more gnarly, so let us briefly remember in season two when policy analyst and gaming enthusiast Fraser made his wife Monique the weakest cup of tea ever committed to the silver screen. “I’d made perfectly good cups of tea for Monique up until that point,” Fraser told The Spinoff. “I just got performance anxiety that day.” 

Hidden camera in the couch (season one)

In 2018, season one MAFSNZ contestant Hayden Daniels told the NZ Herald that a producer on the series had hidden a camera between couch cushions in the apartment he shared with then-TV-wife Bel Clarke. When Clarke discovered the camcorder, Daniels alleged that producers “chased her down the road trying to get it off her” and that the footage contained crew members mocking his then-TV-wife. “It was surreal,” he said at the time.  

The contestant who was edited out (season three)

Just over a week before season three was set to air in 2019, Stuff broke the news that contestant Chris Mansfield was facing outstanding domestic violence charges in the United States, with his former partner claiming that Mansfield “almost killed me.” MediaWorks said they “were not aware of these allegations” and were “looking into it as a matter of urgency.” 

Married at First Sight NZ contestant Chris Mansfield

Within 48 hours, MediaWorks announced it had made the decision (one we’d grimly see made again during FBoy Island in 2022) to edit Mansfield out of the series entirely. “Today’s move comes just eight days out from the show’s premiere, a tiny timeframe with which to re-edit the show to excise his storyline,” wrote Duncan Greive at the time. 

This axed storyline also included Mansfield’s onscreen wedding to MAFSNZ bride Aimee Collins, who described the news as “a nightmare”. “The entire experience has been very, very traumatising for me,” she told NZ Herald. She also revealed that the pair left the experiment early, and that she had voiced concerns about his behaviour to production on their honeymoon. 

The contestant who was bad on Tinder (season one)

During season one of Married at First Sight in 2017, it emerged that contestant Andrew Jury had sent “abusive, sexist and racist” messages on Tinder in 2015. These messages included calling the woman a “whore” after she refused his request to “satisfy my Asian fetish” on the app. “I’m so embarrassed and ashamed. I would take it back if I could, but as I deleted all my dating apps ages ago I can’t apologise to the individual in person,” Jury said in a statement. 

The contestant who was still married (season three) 

Rosemary Cruickshank in 2019

A mere three days before the third season was set to air in 2019, the franchise was rocked by another scandal – contestant Rosemary Cruickshank was still legally married to someone else. And not just any old someone, but Kelvin Cruickshank from Sensing Murder. “I was happy for her until just recently when I discovered she has taken my name into the show,” the celebrity psychic told NZ Herald. “This has disappointed me no end.” 

The slut-shaming tirade (season three)

As I wrote at the time, MAFSNZ season three was a bleak journey that began with a man being axed for domestic violence charges, and ended with another man calling a woman a “slut” five times in one sentence. “Vicky’s looking like a slut on TV, and she’ll probably always look like a slut on TV because she is a slut,” said Jimmy. “And sluts will be sluts.” Two days later, MediaWorks announced that MAFSNZ would not be returning to our screens… until now. 

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