Thank goodness. Our favourite guilty pleasure Married at First Sight is back on our screens.
The show that parades as being a genuine, expert-driven matchmaking exercise (they even do a very scientific-looking pheromone test that consists of someone in a lab coat forcing a person to sniff a T-shirt), but you suspect is more about bringing strong personality types together in a confined space to make wildly dramatic television.
A group of journalists was invited to watch the first episode of the new season, and chat to one of the show’s relationship experts, John Aiken.
Aiken promises that viewers will see “things they’ve never seen before” this season.
“This year we’ve got some really unusual outcomes … behaviours and actions that we really haven’t seen ever before,” he says.
“Some things happen that will certainly create some controversy.
“I’ll be interested to see how it lands … Keep in the back of your mind that when you’re seeing it, we didn’t see it coming either.”
- Meet the brides and grooms here
After dropping that enticing nugget, Aiken goes on to reveal there is another Cam and Jules style love story this season (side note: He was invited to Jules and Cam’s wedding but all the experts had calendar clashes and couldn’t make it. They sent their best wishes).
When he is quizzed about whether the show’s producers are genuinely trying to create successful relationships or if they’re purely choosing people for entertainment value, he jumps to the show’s defence.
“We have to have love stories,” he says.
“Yes, people watch it because there is drama and let’s be honest, there is a lot of drama that happens on the show … whether it’s arguments or betrayal or baggage coming up from the past.
“There are issues that blow up, but at its core – and one of the reasons it’s a success – is it’s based on a fairytale: Do they fall in love or not? If we don’t have love stories in there, it’s just not going to work.
“When we sit down and match we really are thinking ‘we’ve got to get people over the line here’.
“It’s easy to put two people together who argue and leave after a week, but people just aren’t going to come back and watch purely for that”.
When questioned about whether the people going on the show are authentically looking for love (or have other motives, such as increasing their profile and Instagram following), he says he is constantly surprised by people.
“It’s true that some people definitely have thoughts of other things afterwards,” Aiken says.
“When the show starts you start to see sides of them that you’ve never seen before and you couldn’t have predicted.
“You can only assess them for so long before the show starts filming. And then you put them in this extreme environment for 10 weeks and their true colours come out. You see behaviour that surprises you.”
Aiken goes on to talk about some of the people we’ll meet this season and points out that for the first time in the show’s history there’s a lesbian couple.
“We also have our country boy, Josh, who you are going to love. He’s really good looking with a great sense of humour.
“Then there is Poppy, who is a solo mum with young twin boys. This series we do have a bunch of solo parents in there who have struggled to find love.
“Then there is introvert Connie, who is super vulnerable. That’s a really nice story you’re going to see”.
He says he tries very hard not to have favourites.
“You try and be objective, but there are some people who really move you,” he says.
“You’re going to see moments in the commitment ceremonies where it gets very raw.
“It’s never easy being dumped, especially when it’s done in front of the whole of the country. That’s rough … so you do feel for them.”
He says the participants this season are “a little bit more complex”.
“Last series you got a sense of who Jess and Martha were early on, but with this season as the show unfolds you’ll see different layers to these people.”
Aiken says this year the participants have been dealt more tough love than ever before.
“We’re more direct with our feedback this time around … it’s so we facilitate them trying to get there, faster,” he says.
“There are some more challenges in there too that you haven’t seen before”.
Aiken says the show has made him instantly recognisable to fans around the country, and he is often stopped for selfies, usually in airports and shopping centres.
He says as the show has grown more popular, he has had to develop a thick skin.
“People get really polarised about the show and the matches we make and what happens and people want to tell you their thoughts. There’s a real hunger for it.”
He’s not lying about there being a hunger for MAFS. Last year’s season finale was watched by 2.6 million people.
So will this season live up to viewer’s lofty expectations?
We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before viewing the first episode (so we can’t give away any more details before the show airs), but we will say this: Strap in. It’s shaping up to be a beauty.
The new season of Married at First Sight premieres on Nine on Monday, February 3 at 7.30pm