When it first aired last summer, FYI's “Married at First Sight” was a rare surprise, a show that transcended its gimmicky twist to be a refreshing and honest look at relationships. The couples really were married; cameras followed them as they got to know each other as husband and wife and grew to love each other.
Not so much for its second season. Like the first season, one of its relationships ended in divorce at the end of the experiment. But another couple that stayed together on the show's finale, Jessica and Ryan D., appear to be headed that way after she filed for an order of protection against him, citing death threats that may have been made at the taping of the reunion. The petition for the order of protection says, according to a report, that Ryan D. had a microphone on at the reunion when he said, “She”s f–king dead. When I get back to Brooklyn she”s f–king dead, this girl.” The petition also states the couple broke up in February, after he cheated on her; this despite that fact that during during the finale, Jessica and Ryan D. claimed they were staying together.
I asked A&E for a comment but the network hadn't responded as of this writing. The show's producer, Kinetic Content, replied to my questions with this statement. It reads, in part, “We document their journey for six weeks after their wedding, but we can't control how they behave, or govern their actions after production. Our thoughts are with these individuals, and as always we have offered each of them significant aftercare resources.”
That sounds like the kind of care and concern I'd expect from the show, which again, was very thoughtful in its first season. But it strongly contrasts with what an anonymous person has said, claiming s/he worked on the show and asserting that it was produced very differently, from rushing into production without background checks to producers trying to talk Jessica out of filing for a restraining order. (She did that last Thursday.)
Regardless of how this plays out from here, this is an ugly end to what was a strong and often fun series.
Yes, in season one, one of the relationships didn't work. Over the six weeks in which cameras followed the couples, Monet and Vaughn's relationship shifted dramatically. They were passionate and sexually attracted to each other at first, but eventually grew distant and confrontational. It was an interesting cycle to watch unfold; to see what didn't work between them but did work for the other two couples, both of whom are still married. One of those season-one couples, Doug and Jamie, started off on a bad note: Jamie crying in the hallway after marrying Doug because she wasn't attracted to him. However, her attraction to him grew, and with that came a lesson for us all in relationships.
These marriages have always been an experiment, even if they were legally binding. But it was an experiment done with compassion and, it seemed, caution and care. The men and women weren't just paired up because they wanted to be on TV. Instead, the show went through a detailed six-month process that ended with experts matching up six people.
And those experts weren't just going to match anyone; the first season might not have happened had they not been able to match those who were willing to participate. The show's producer told me last year that “it was really scary as a producer; we didn”t know that we were going to get people who would agree to do the show,” Chris Coelen said. “We thought we might come out of these workshops with nobody–with nobody agreeing to do it, let alone people we thought we could match.”
In the second season, I just haven't been as connected to these couples or their process. Those who stuck with the show have told me that it felt less documentary-style than season one, which may have been a result of the way it was produced or it may just be familiarity with seeing this before.
It's true that meeting someone on Tinder, Grindr, Match.com or eHarmony might result in a bad match, and it's also true that some marriages end in awful ways, from loss of connection to infidelity to domestic violence.
But that doesn't exonerate the show's producers or network. When people agree to be married, basically, by a television show, they're placing a considerable amount of trust in the people who've arranged the marriage. If part of the process was rushed or shortcutted, as has been alleged, that would be unacceptable. (Kinetic's statement says “undergoing extensive background and psychological checks by third parties” was part of the process.)