When Married At First Sight Australia season six landed on All4 earlier this year, the reality TV crowd in Britain became instantly hooked.
Unlike previous iterations of the show, this newly revamped, much more successful version of MAFS focussed less on true love ever after and more on the participants' group dynamics as the newlyweds moved in together to one drama-filled apartment complex. Unsurprisingly, this pressure cooker format worked wonders for the show’s popularity, so much so that the British version is now following suit, with a newly-redesigned series heading to E4 on Monday 30th August.
Following eight British couples as they embark on a ‘lifelong commitment’ with someone they've never met, MAFS U.K. is turning up the heat on the so-called love experiment. While the marriages are no longer legally binding, the weddings are extravagant with bigger budgets spent on gigantic stately homes and large (COVID-safe) guest lists.
But it's after the weddings that things are set to get even more interesting. Each couple will now have to live alongside their fellow cast mates, meet for weekly dinner parties and of course, attend the ever-important ‘commitment ceremonies’.
Spanning 21 episodes, the first focusses on introducing us to the cast on their (subdued) hen and stag dos. 26-year-old Geordie sales rep Nikita emerges as the most effervescent of the bunch. She is mainly on the hunt for a "fittie" with tattoos, green eyes and veneers. On the opposite side of the coin there’s 26-year-old wellness coach Megan, whose only real criteria is wanting someone to say "I love you" to her for the first time.
When it comes to the boys, 27-year-old Robert (who likes to go by ‘Big Bob’) is the show’s resident nice guy. He’s a jokester, a lover of musicals and wants someone to "grow old and stupid with". However, like most reality TV, there’s also plenty of toxic masculinity to go around. Take Luke, 36, for instance, who is scoffed at when he says he wants to take things slow in the intimacy department, or Franky, 47 who says his type is someone "who isn’t a minger" or "huge". Nice.
But MAFS U.K. isn't just about the straights. 27-year-old Daniel is Married At First Sight’s first gay contestant, sparking a landmark reality TV moment after years of notoriously failing in LGBTQ+ representation. Fingers crossed the presence of the Northern Irish sales rep has the potential to right some of those wrongs.
And what of the hosts? Married at First Sight's very own Australian dating expert Mel Schilling has been flown in to coach the newlyweds alongside Celebs Go Dating expert Paul Carrick Brunson. But it's the presence of The Sex Clinic's sex and relationship therapist Charlene Douglas that really has the potential to shake things up, with physical intimacy often proving to be a point of contention of the Australian version of the show.
With the cast featuring electricians from Doncaster and veterinary nurses from Essex, the series has (theoretically) strived to set itself apart from rival UK reality shows like Love Island, which was roundly criticised this year for featuring wannabe influencers instead of strangers looking for love. However, by the end of episode one of MAFS, it's clear not all the contestants are on the hunt for the real deal. With some of the contestants as young as 25, it's hard to believe that their experiences in the dating world are lengthy enough to force them into marrying someone they don’t know the name of. Although, after listening to some of the show’s The Apprentice-style taxi confessionals, you'd be forgiven for thinking the dating scene in the UK is not worth navigating at all (you can be your own judge of that).
For viewers who want to come into the show for the heartwarming weddings and subsequent baby announcements (Cam and Jules 4ever), there certainly is potential. But for those simply coming for car crash television, there's likely to be plenty of that too. With clips of future episodes including allegations of affairs, MAFS UK looks to be every bit as chaotic as its Australian counterpart.
The new season of Married At First Sight UK begins 9pm on E4 on Monday 30th August.