Alex Casey watches the first episode of Married at First Sight NZ, and falls hook, line and sinker for a 58 year old man named Mr Fluffy.
Of all the things to anticipate in her upcoming marriage to a complete stranger, Claire (51) is only looking forward to one thing: sex. It’s the raunchy hen’s night for the women of Married at First Sight NZ and, in a bar across the city, their mystery grooms are having their stag do. Although they may not have cast the diversity net very wide, the brave singles include two people over 50, two who identify as gay, and two blonde women who own slogan throw pillows (Vicky’s says ‘dream’ on it, while Bel’s says ‘rise and shine’ – make of that what you will).
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, is it really any riskier to let two experts match you with your ideal partner? Besides, relationship counsellor Tony Jones and Pani have got to be proper professionals otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to write on glass doors and wield iPads like that.
For the premiere of Married, it was all about our first two couples. There was Dom, a 58 year-old retired police officer, who was headed to tie the knot with sasspot, pole-dancing, leather jacket-wearing Claire. Dom says things like “here’s to the last forever” without a shred of irony, and was nicknamed Mr Fluffy for his advanced empathy skills while he was in the force. Where do they find these legends? Palmerston North, that’s where. 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. In an agonisingly Kiwi scene that would be probably be deemed “too much” for Flight of the Conchords, Luke tosses a rugby ball down on the farm with his bro. “Oh yeah, I’m getting married to a stranger, by the way.” He grins. “It’s a bit different though, eh?” His bro responds. “Yeah it’s a bit different.” Later, Luke will drop his lovely new bride Lacey in the mud during their photoshoot so he can do a burp. Bit different eh, and somehow completely charming and convincing in its authenticity.
A great deal of humour from the show can also be chalked up to the editors. Claire agonising over whether her new husband will be shorter than her is met with footage of Dom dancing around his hotel room in nothing but a towel, undeniably very short. As Lacey nervously banters with her evil twin about what her groom will be like, we cut to Luke chopping back a beer in the sun and wearing a weird hat, then donning a reindeer jumper in a month that couldn’t be further away from December. Her one hope is that he doesn’t have a beard, which of course he does.
The wedding ceremonies themselves have absolutely no chill. Luke can’t seem to modulate his volume at the altar, and a crazed Dom yells “come to Poppa!!” like Pennywise from It at the horrified young men who are about to become his stepchildren. We also get a small taste of the tense family drama to come. After all, it wouldn’t be a Kiwi wedding without someone sobbing in the toilets. “We need some one on one time” cries Claire’s daughter Rebecca, borrowing a catchphrase from The Bachelor NZ. Matters are resolved, and we leave the couples in their Rydges hotel rooms. Lacy and Luke look glassy-eyed and happy, and Dom and Claire’s extremely loose bath robes speak volumes. “Leave it a bit to the imagination” scorns a garter-wearing Claire, far too late.
Where The Bachelor NZ franchise now comes with a sheen of cynicism after hurricane Jordan, the premiere of Married at First Sight felt as dewy-eyed and optimistic as Dom soldiering on through a batch of completely munted pancakes for his young daughters. But I once cried at a picture of a volcano that looked like it was smiling, so it’s probably no surprise that Married at First Sight has won my heart already. Where things will get interesting is when that glow wears off, the true colours come out and some of the relationships inevitably fall apart. For now, let’s just enjoy the honeymoon period shall we?
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