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Wednesday
Mar182015

'Married at First Sight' Season 2 is Serious Fun and the Real Deal

 

We're rooting for you Ryan R., even if your wife-to-be isn't. (Credit: A&E)

BY ROBBIE WOLIVER

Married at First Sight could be a joke. You know those ridiculous relationship shows with their panel of “experts.” A perfect example is the absolutely silly, salacious-with-no-pay-off Sex Box, where participants supposedly engage in public sex in a large box in front of a TV audience, while the annoying experts discuss the couple’s relationship. You can read here why Sex Box will leave you speechless. But A&E's Married at First Sight, just starting its second season, is no such joke. It’s the real deal, one that more than proved itself in its engrossing and highly successful first season.

Marriage at First Sight’s premise is that the panel of experts—sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff, psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona, sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz (yes, she goes there) and spiritual advisor Greg Epstein—who are all likeable and credible, apparently work very hard to determine who is compatible with whom. After being selected, the couples then have ten days until they marry—sight unseen, trusting that the due diligence the experts conducted (including checking everyone’s refrigerator) will work. They get legally married, have a reception, get sent off to their hotel room…and then a honeymoon. They then move in with each other. After four weeks of living together, and negotiating sex, they make up their minds whether they want to stay married or get a divorce. I would imagine if any of the participants and their disbelieving families saw Season 1, they would have less trepidation about Season 2. It is a modern (televised, of course) version of an arranged marriage.    

Not only was Season 1 of MAFS gripping to watch (read REVIEWniverse's Kenny Herzog's insightful take), it has produced some very strong marriages. (See: next week’s year-later televised marriage renewal between the originally cold-footed bride Jamie Otis and her hard-not-to-root-for groom Doug Hehner.) And who didn’t love and wish the best for Cortney and Jason? Only one of the arranged marriages, Monet and Vaughn, didn’t work. And we knew that would happen the minute we met Vaughn.

So Season 2, which debuted last night, begins with great promise. This season there’s an interfaith couple (Ryan D. is Jewish and Jessica is Catholic; Jessica hinted that her mother might not be thrilled if the groom isn’t Catholic) and an interracial one (Davina and Sean). Interesting leap.

While one of the potential couple’s pairing makes us nervous from the start—the sweet, good-hearted Sean Varricchio, 35, a trauma nurse from New Jersey, and Davina Kullar, 34, a driven pharmaceutical sales rep from New York City, who is Indian but only wants to be paired with “white men.” Sean’s parents are very much against this pairing of the two oldest participants, whose main commonality is that they were both bullied as youngsters. Davina’s family will not participate at all. They want a traditional courtship and wedding. Wait. Isn’t an arranged marriage traditional in India? (And Davina’s best friend Chris? What’s that about?) On the groom’s side, the apprehensive, very unhappy looks on Sean’s mom’s face are worth the ride, and methinks Davina might be a bit too much for Sean to handle, but that’s what a TV season is all about…we’ll see. We will definitely hear the experts talk often about this couple’s “hurdles.”  

Ryan DeNino, a 29-year-old hunk from Staten Island, was paired with Jessica Castro, a bubbly, emotional 30-year-old receptionist from NYC. When Ryan showed up at the wedding ceremony, Jessica’s mom yelled out, “Perfect!”

But it’s the Ryan Ranellone/Jaclyn Methuen pairing that we will be following most closely. Ryan R. is the standout star of the season, with his big toothy grin and goofy inclinations. But why do we love him most? He has taken it upon himself to be “uncle, big brother, father” to his orphaned niece. He’s also a mama’s boy, and it seems like we’re gonna just love Mom. He and Jaclyn seem to be the Jamie/Doug of this season, and at this writing, we don’t even know if their marriage will even happen. Jaclyn, a 33-year-old sales representative, seemed completely turned off when she first laid eyes on her intended, Ryan, a 28-year-old real estate agent from Long Island…uhm, I mean…Lawn Guyland. Ryan arrives with his gigantic white smile and his thick accent. Jaclyn, feeling the nerves and having the whole marriage thing sinking in, is not happy with the selection made for her.  And there’s a lot at stake for her. Jaclyn previously explained why she hasn’t had sex for two years. She’s picky. “If I’m not that into you, I’m not letting you into me, really,” she explains.

In a replay of Jamie’s initial hesitancy at the altar in Season 1, Jaclyn has her doubts as she meets her groom: “I first see Ryan and my gut’s just…oh man, like this isn’t…oh god, shit,” Jaclyn says in voice over.
“My initial reaction is like, ‘Shit,’” Jaclyn said. “His accent is going to really annoy me…When I saw him face to face, I was a little disappointed. It just doesn’t feel like this is the man that’s my husband.”

Remember when Jamie was repulsed by her husband-to-be? Now they couldn't be happier. Take heart, Ryan and Jaclyn. (Credit: A&E)

Ryan said “I do,” but Jaclyn hesitates for a long time, and the episode ends without her answering. Will she or won’t she?

This series is a fascinating experiment, with incredible drama. The weddings are harrowing to watch; the nervousness is palpable. And the awkwardness thereafter is reality TV at its best.

Married at First sight could have been as salacious and silly as Sex Box, but instead, it is a provocative, deep and often moving display of modern-day courtship, romance, love and attraction. It’s fun being a fly on the wall here.  

Season 2 of Married at First Sight airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on A&E.

For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow REVIEWniverse on Twitter.

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