Entertainment TV ‘A modern suburban fairytale’: The Single Wives brings a touch of class to TV dating

‘A modern suburban fairytale’: The Single Wives brings a touch of class to TV dating

Sheridan, one of the stars, gives viewers the 'no way' eyes after a bad date. Photo: Channel Seven
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For self-confessed cougar Sheridan, the premiere of Seven’s The Single Wives involved a lot of disappointment and unbridled crying.

After meeting 40 men on the first episode, “There was no chemistry. There was no electricity. There was no rip your clothes off. There was nothing with anyone,” she said.

“And that’s what I need with my personality or it’s never going to happen.”

Casting is everything on reality TV shows, and for The Single Wives it’s more vital than ever.

The show has just four women – Sheridan, Nikki, Sunni and Emma – as its stars, so there’s no room for error. All have to be likeable, intriguing, fun, to make investing in them worthwhile.

Sheridan is the clear early breakout star. At kick off, she seemed confident, even brassy, dismissing potential suitors as a stream of “too short Danny DeVitos” or “possibly bald under that hat”.

A Welshman was cut off at the pass for not being patriotic enough towards Australia. A firefighter was dissed for “driving trucks around in circles”. Some interesting chat up lines were showcased: “I’m 41 – I don’t look it, I know. It’s because I don’t eat inflammatory foods.”

But of course, TV being TV, Sheridan’s dismissive facade hides vulnerabilities and, snap. Soon the twice-divorced mother of two was sucking in air as she confessed to rawness from being cheated on, then was magically well on her way to being rebuilt from the ground up.

While the idea of breaking down walls is mandatory for all TV relationship shows, the way The Single Wives goes about it makes it a fresh, if not entirely interesting, addition to the ubiquitous genre.

It’s almost a throwback; it doesn’t rely on contrived stunts, rivalry or fake villains and drama. There were no bikinis in the first episode, no apparent drunkenness and no bitchiness.

There was a 45-year-old called Chad who claimed not to have a mobile phone.

The premise is that four women who have been married before spend four weeks together in a Sydney harbourside mansion, being taught how to date again by relationship expert Matthew Hussey.

Urbane Englishman Hussey, billed as the world’s foremost dating expert, is the early linchpin of The Single Wives because he makes the show informative rather than just entertaining.

matthew hussey
Dating expert Matthew Hussey and co-host Fifi Box talk through the performance of the stars during dates. Photo: Channel Seven

That point of difference may ultimately be a turnoff for some viewers – where is the delicious embarrassment of bumbling idiots declaring undying love after two dates? – but it’s also a win because it’s a key difference.

The Bachelor and its spinoffs have no guru other than Osher Gunsberg, whose major skill is reading date cards, calculating the number of roses versus contestants and telling women they look amazing.

The ghastly Love Island didn’t pretend to have any interest in promoting real connections beyond the physical, and Married at First Sight’s trio of experts appear laughably inept, scripted stooges of the producers.

The show started with the women having a meet and greet at their new pad, and their backstories being shown to some actual violin music.

Young bride Emma ended her marriage three years ago when she realised she’d made a mistake. Nikki gave birth to her son four days after her husband died in a motorbike accident. Indian divorcee Sunni is under cultural pressure when it comes to finding Mr Right.

After praising each other’s hotness, they almost immediately began a speed dating exercise. Hussey, with the amiable Fifi Box reduced to a stream of inanities, monitored their work via video link and gave instant feedback.

The new skills were put to the test at, yes, a cocktail party – which Single Wives called a ‘mixer’ because every other reality dating show has cocktail parties – during which the women were instructed to get the phone number of someone they felt “a connection” with.

The bigger issue will be whether audiences feel enough of a connection with the women. With no obvious facial fillers, fake tan or apparent desire to merely boost social media fame, they make for non-standard reality TV fare.

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