Freak Show and Tell: ‘Married at First Sight’ Makes the Case for Good, Old-Fashioned, ‘Expert’-Arranged Marriage


Every week, television documentaries present us with so many unusual people, with so many strange and/or disturbing problems, you might find it hard to keep up with all of them. That’s where I come in! Here’s an unflinching look back at TV’s Week in Freak Shows.

Married at First Sight (fyi)

Who Is This Now? Jason.

Why Are We Watching Him? He’s getting ready to marry a woman he’s never met and whose name he doesn’t even know.

How Did He Get Here? A group of “experts” has determined the perfect match for Jason from a field of 50 available applicants — so, actually, from a field of 25 women — for what everyone involved keeps insisting is a “social experiment,” as though that makes it OK.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? When “expert” sociologist Pepper Schwartz comes to Jason’s house to get a sense of what he’s like, one of the things she learns is that he’s nursing his mother through cancer. Some might say that means Jason shouldn’t make any impulsive decisions while he’s in the middle of this emotional crisis, but not Pepper Schwartz!

What Have We Learned? Pepper Schwartz may be an expert in the field of sociology, but apparently not in the field of ethics.

Catfish (MTV)

Who Is This Now? Kendra (if that is her real name, which it might not be).

Why Are We Watching Her? She’s having an awkward meeting with her online boyfriend, Brandon, who until recently thought her name was Kiersten.

How Did She Get Here? According to her, she “took over” a fake profile that already existed, filled with photos of another girl named Sara Grace (and with Sara Grace’s permission). Then Brandon became attracted to her after they became acquainted online, and there was never a good time to tell him the truth.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Every time Kendra feels threatened by pointed questions from Brandon, or from Catfish cohosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, she brings up the son she supposedly has, who’s supposedly sick with a vague ailment, and is supposedly just about to be admitted to the hospital for surgery (or is already there; she can’t quite keep it straight), which of course is why, instead of being with him during this crisis, she’s at a commuter hotel being filmed for MTV.

What Have We Learned? Some liars still think that whole Munchausen-by-proxy thing will let them weasel out of stuff.

Celebrity Wife Swap (ABC)

Who Is This Now? Barry Williams.

Why Are We Watching Him? He’s berating a virtual stranger named Jessica.

How Did He Get Here? Barry and Joe Piscopo, both single, have traded gal Fridays for no good reason.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Jessica, Joe’s assistant (and maybe more, though they’re both kind of coy about it), is filling in for Marie, a completely platonic friend of Barry’s who’s helping him raise his son Brandon for some reason and who also apparently helps him with his stage show — so in Marie’s absence, that’s Jessica’s job. Not being fully up to speed on Barry’s specific needs, Jessica has brought the wrong guitar stand to the gig, and Barry reacts as though she had smashed his guitar on the stage. Her apologies just make him scold her more, as though (1) that helps, or (2) Jessica needs to learn anything about the logistics of his career.

What Have We Learned? Barry has a very unrealistic notion of how important it is that the ’70s musical revue he puts on in Branson, Missouri, go off without a hitch.

Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars (WeTV)

Who Is This Now? Ryan and Trista.

Why Are We Watching Them? They’re trying to communicate their needs to one another.

How Did They Get Here? They met when she was the Bachelorette and he was the contestant she picked, and you’re never going to believe it, but now they’re having some problems in their marriage.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Boot Camp codirectors Jim and Elizabeth Carroll make them use hand puppets in the shape of cartoonish euphemisms for male and female genitals to tell one another what they’d like in the boudoir. It’s just not OK.

What Have We Learned? Now and forever, Jim and Elizabeth are full of crap.

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Botched (E!)

Who Is This Now? Charlotte.

Why Are We Watching Her? She’s looking into remediation surgery on her breasts.

How Did She Get Here? She got breast implants as a teenager, but after having her sons, she noticed that her breasts were sagging and the implants were rippling, so she had surgery again to touch them up. Unfortunately, her original surgeon had retired, and the doctor she found to replace him gave her much larger implants than she had wanted, which immediately started sagging worse than before, to the point where she now feels she has “grandma boobs.”

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Lindsey, Charlotte’s sister-in-law, is about to get married, and Charlotte is supposed to be a bridesmaid, so the two of them and Charlotte’s mother-in-law, Dona, have a discussion about the bridesmaid dresses: Lindsey, knowing about Charlotte’s insecurity and physical pain over her breasts, still wants to go with strapless dresses. So now in addition to all the other stresses, Charlotte has to worry about trying to schedule her surgery so that she’ll have recovered in time to wear this strapless dress in the wedding. Later, when all the female members of the bridal party go out to try on different options, Charlotte comes out of the dressing room to Lindsey and Dona openly laughing in her face at how her breasts look in her dress, with Dona adding for good measure that she thinks Charlotte’s breasts are saggier than Dona’s are. Is this helpful, ladies? It’s not like she doesn’t know she has problems with her breasts, given that YOU ARE ALL CURRENTLY BEING FILMED FOR BOTCHED.

What Have We Learned? Charlotte doesn’t need to spend any more time with these two jerks.

Filed Under: TV, Reality TV, Botched, catfish, Marriage Boot Camp, Married at First Sight, Celebrity Wife Swap