MAFS can’t turn back now, even if it wants to
IT'S been just 10 weeks since Married At First Sight's most controversial season to date hit our television screens, but to anyone who's gone to the arduous effort of actually tuning in every week, it feels like a lifetime.
We've seen cheating scandals, unfounded rumours aplenty, grown adults discuss their sex lives with the fervour of teenagers gossiping in the school toilets during lunchtime, public shaming, private shaming, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and even physical abuse.
According to those behind the scenes, though, this season was simply a colossal accident of fate gifted to us from the higher powers; television gold that was never meant to be.
"We've been told in no uncertain terms by those in charge that next season cannot be a repeat of what you've seen this year. The bosses have heard the complaints from viewers loud and clear," one producer told me.
And if you thought the behaviour that made it to air was bad, apparently it was nothing compared to what sits on the cutting room floor.
"What you saw of the participants in this season was the best of them; there was a lot of footage that didn't make it on [the show] simply because it was so bad. It made the worst of the group look even worse," the producer said, which is truly terrifying when you think about it.
But according to Channel 9, moving forward, there will be no more husband and wife swapping, no more late night trysts, no more blaming bad behaviour on too much boozing at a group dinner party, no more obsessions with 29-year-old virgins and "former" lesbians. The grass will be greener on the other side, they say. The show will return to its roots of using science to pair strangers together in an effort to see if love can grow. Respect, communication, and other key foundations of love will reign supreme, apparently. The only problem for Channel 9 is, though, is there can be no turning back now.
For all of the complaints and backlash against Married At First Sight, this season has unquestionably been its most successful to date.
Last year, drama was famously introduced to the series via the 'secret affair' between Davina Rankin and Dean Wells. The pair never actually cheated on their respective partners, but the storyline was the stuff of ratings magic and the series hit its stride in a way it never had before. You can hardly blame producers for seeing a gap in the market and running with it.
This time around, viewing stats show that around 1.35 million Australians are tuning in every night to watch Season 6's two-and-a-half-month-long car crash experiment. On some evenings, as many as 1.85 million people are watching. To put that into perspective, Channel 7's My Kitchen Rules, which runs at the same time and vies for a similar audience, has an average viewership of just over 800,000.
These numbers are the stuff of television dreams. And in a market swamped with more competition than ever, they talk. So for all of Channel 9's promises of returning to a wholesome show about everlasting love, they're surely going to have to stick to this new-found formula. If they don't, they risk a ratings slump that will see the show and the company suffer.
The ratings also show that for better or worse, this season's offering is the kind of television people want to watch. So for as long as we're demanding, they'll surely have to keep supplying.
What's that old saying? Don't hate the player, hate the game.
Katy Hall is a columnist for RendezView.