Married At First Sight Australia became the hit reality show of lockdown, with its explosive drama and heartwarming love stories. And now the UK version is back – but following the same “reality TV-style” format as the Down Under version.
While previously MAFS UK has been more of a social experiment – where experts have tried to perfectly match couples through science – this time the show runs for weeks and is designed to create drama, bust-ups and entertainment too... just like the Australian version.
So far, many fans have been moved by some of the touching stories of the new contestants looking for love – such as MAFS’ first ever gay couple, Matt and Daniel, who seem genuinely excited to make their marriage work.
But Twitter has also been divided over whether the UK contestants want love or fame – with one writing, “Most of these folk want to be famous – not married!” and another posting, “The MAFS Aus contestants were much more authentic.”
Someone who knows all too well how the set-up works is MAFS Australia star Melissa Lucarelli, 39 – who gives Closer her take on whether the UK show this year can rival the success of the Australian version.
She was one of the most memorable contestants from series six of MAFS Australia due to her bubbly, caring and loud personality – but Melissa is just as memorable for the doomed relationship she had with her “husband” Dino Hira, who – with his interests in yoga and spiritual healing – was not a match for her.
Melissa applied for the show – which aired in 2019 – with hopes of finding The One, after she’d been single and celibate for eight years. But when the experts matched her up with Dino – who was her total opposite – her hope dissipated and the couple ended up clashing over their different interests and approaches to life.
And on MAFS UK, there seem to be similar mismatches. During Morag and Luke’s wedding, viewers were shocked when Morag said she didn’t want kids while partner Luke did – which he called a “deal-breaker”. Meanwhile, Nikita told the cameras at her wedding, “He’s not at all what I ordered.”
And Melissa now says that she believes the experts make mismatches on purpose, and while it’s frustrating for the contestants, it makes the show a great watch, so the UK version could well prove as popular as MAFS Australia. She says, “When I joined the show, I naively thought, ‘This is going to be it for me, I’m going to meet my Mr Right!’ But I was partnered up with a man who I had absolutely nothing in common with. I know some relationships often work based on the couple being opposites, but it was totally ridiculous.
“Looking back though, I can see the producers want mismatches because it makes great TV. They’ve got it right in the past with some couples – look at Jules [Robinson] and Cam [Merchant], who have a baby together now. But while it’s great to see some love stories, we want to see fights and fall-outs too, or we’re going to turn off the TV. And I’m sure the experts have done the same in the UK version this year.”
While Melissa didn’t find love on the show – but has “broken her no sex drought” once with a man after a night out – she has had success in her career. After amassing 190k followers on Instagram, she now has a career as a social media influencer – something which a 2019 UK survey said that one in five teens want to be.
And this year, many of the stars already have a large social media following, or have had brushes with fame before. Contestant Nikita – whose job is an influencer – already has a huge following on social media, and counts Geordie Shore stars Sophie Kasaei and Chloe Ferry as some of her best friends.
Check out: MAFS Australia – where are they now?
MAFS Australia Mark, Jule and Jessika – where are they now?
His romance with Ning Surasiang broke down in series six. But Mark, 42, did find love with netballer and presenter Bianca Chatfield, 39 (below). And last week, the pair announced they are expecting a baby together.
Two years after the show, Jules, 39, and Cam Merchant, 37, are married after having a second, legal wedding, and are parents to 11-month-old son Oliver. They even had a spin-off show about their "real" wedding.
She had an "affair" with co-star Dan Webb behind partner Mick Gould's back. Jess, 28, split with Dan and has had other romances – including being linked to Geordie Shore's Scotty T. She's just starred on Big Brother Australia.
Meanwhile, many of the other contestants have starred on TV shows already – with Essex veterinary nurse Morag having been on Take Me Out in 2018 and model Ant appearing on quiz show Your Face Or Mine with his ex partner.
And so Melissa says that she hopes the contestants this year are on the show for the right reasons and are as authentic as they were on her season.
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She adds, “In my series, we had normal people with normal jobs. We had some who were open to starting a career on social media, but the others were just authentically looking for love. I definitely didn’t go on it with the hope to become famous. I was definitely in it for love – I had been manless, sexless and dateless for eight years, and so I really wanted the experts to help.
“I think now, because the show’s become so popular, there will no doubt be people who go on it for fame. You can make a great career off the back of a show like MAFS, and I have. But I hope the UK contestants aren’t more interested in fame than love, or viewers won’t be as invested.”