You know a TV show is in trouble when its most interesting characters are total randoms – one a roped-in tourist and another a man-child called Nobbsy who wears what looks to be Mark Waugh’s wraparound 1990s sunglasses and says “Phwoar!” out loud.
Thus it came to pass on Wednesday for Seven’s dating bomb, The Single Wives, which drew dismal ratings of 375,000 across five major cities in its debut week.
The network’s aim in screening a classed-up romance show is admirable, but taking the higher moral ground means that The Single Wives is worthy – with a goal to be educational by using a more mature cast, none of whom are obviously drunk – but plodding.
Either that or it’s having a laugh at us all. Decipher this: A couple is kissing for the first time, and soaring strings play over a montage of a flowing body of water interspersed with a tree in front of a moon.
What message does it send? Switch channels?
Apart from visual and conversational cheese that lacks irony, at the heart of the problem is that only one of the four women – Sheridan, Emma, Sunnie and Nikki – looking for love after previous marriages has enough personality to carry the gig.
Which meant that, by episode three on Wednesday, producers were madly scratching around for someone, anyone, to add some zing.
Enter Michael, an Italian who was minding his own beeswax at a Sydney beach before he was homed in on by Sunnie.
Next minute, he finds himself at the world’s most awkward pool ‘party’ with her housemates, who fanned themselves like Victorian heroines when they clocked a topless Michael.
“He is classy and she needs classy,” said Emma.
“She did well there, didn’t she?” chimed in another, with the subtle implication that Sunnie was chopped liver.
“He’s like an Adonis,” said Sheridan. OK, we get it.
Trouble was, Michael got confused when he believed that a single woman inviting him to a social gathering as part of a dating show where romance is expected meant he could get frisky.
Sunnie shut him down fast, saying his hot continental blood made him misjudge Australian ladies. Exit stage left, Latin lover.
But the best was yet to come in the form of Nobbsy, who was rejected by divorcee Emma in the first episode but cleverly embraced by producers, who saw his “what even” potential and recycled him.
In his own way, he also captivated Sheridan:
Yes ladies….I seem to lose my marbles on this weeks shows 🕶. If anyone finds my common sense please let me know 😝 Don’t miss The Single Wives tomorrow and Thursday nights. The return of our old friend Nobbsy, the funniest day with @emmaisobella picking up men and I make some questionable decisions 🙈 #themansion #commonsense #thegirls #soulsisters @loveonseven #datenight #poolparty #manly . . . . #health #wellness #wellbeing #life #love #alignment #abundance #priorities #humanaf #realitytv #singlemum #singlemom #divorce #momlife m
A post shared by SHERIDAN ✖️ (@sugarfreemum) on
Nobbsy, a 31-year-old student whose real name is Ryan, fronted up to the harbourside mansion in an oversized singlet with safety pins on it, rugby shorts, a backwards baseball cap and the sunnies, accessorised with a truck load of enthusiasm.
The man was straight out of Central Casting, right down to his lines. Emma, he told her, was so amazing he couldn’t believe she even exists.
“Really?” she piped, trilling away with what the show’s resident dating expert Matthew Hussey called a “fake” laugh.
The ensuing conversation about nothing made Nobbsy think he was in with a shot, although he’s “not one of those blokes” who wants sex every night. Replied Emma: “No.”
Encouraged: “There’s no awkward moments so that’s tip top,” he said before beginning to massage Emma, which had host Fifi Box smelling wedding cake and saying how “comfortable” the woman looked.
“Trust me, she’s not comfortable,” said Hussey.
“Nothing about this situation is comfortable.”
You got that right. Except for Sheridan (who dismissed Nobbsy with one phrase: “I don’t like him”) in the role of charismatic sort-of villain.
The 42-year-old Sydney marketing expert is the only one of the four women worthy of marquee status because she’s divisive and forthright, with devious tendencies.
Twice divorced, she tried hard to be a sparkly TV bad girl on Wednesday, kissing her second husband’s close friend Daniel then giving him advice when he asked what to tell the ex: “Just lie.”
Mother-of-two Sheridan isn’t even sure she’s ready to fall in love again, she told The New Daily, and insists she’ll “never get married again”.
Still, “I do believe he’s out there”, she said of her next love, and she’ll know him almost on sight: “If I don’t want to tear your knickers off pretty quickly, it’s not going to work.”
Sheridan passed on her three tips for divorce to The New Daily.
“The first bit of advice would be females blame themselves, but it takes two to tango. It takes two for a marriage to break down,” she said.
“Number two is cut contact.
“And thirdly, avoid litigation if you can. If you can’t, get a good lawyer.”