MAFS producers reveal secret to the show's huge success: 'Authentic'
Married At First Sight recently kicked off its milestone tenth season.
Married At First Sight may be up to its tenth season this year, but there’s no denying that it still remains one of Australia’s most popular reality TV shows.
The Channel Nine series has been a ratings juggernaut ever since executive producer Tara McWilliams - who recently become Endemol Shine Australia’s director of content - took over in 2016 and transformed it into the show it is today.
Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle about the new season, Tara reveals why she believes MAFS stands out from other reality shows and is so successful in the ratings.
“We're always trying to keep the experiment as authentic as possible,” she says. “So whatever the experts come up with, whether it's confessions week or intimacy week, it's the basis of the week that generates storylines and experiences but it's not the main focus.
“We want to leave enough space in the show for the relationship storylines to breathe, and I think that's what sets us apart from other shows. We’re not weighed down by format. If we want to spend half an episode on two people’s relationship because really that's where all the storyline is at the moment and that's where all the drama or the entertainment or the conflict is, then we want to be able to do that and not feel pressure.”
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Tara went on to say that the show hasn’t tried to “reinvent the wheel” over the past few years because she doesn’t feel like there’s any need to.
“A new cast is what's fresh and they bring new storylines and new experiences in,” she shares.
“The sets, where we do our commitment ceremonies, our dinner parties and where they live, don't really change. We don't have a need to do that because that's not why people are tuning in. That’s the world they exist in, but people are tuning in to meet these new fresh people and the stories that they're going to bring.
“What I love about the cast of MAFS year after year is that they're prepared to go all in,” she continues. “They come on, they’re true to who they are, they’re not trying to be someone else, and I think that's what makes the show so fascinating to watch.”
'Everything happens organically and authentically'
Nine Network’s executive producer John Walsh also tells Yahoo Lifestyle that there was no pressure for MAFS to make any major changes for season ten because “the whole idea of trying to top what you've done is very dangerous”.
“If we tried to top season nine, what does that mean?” he remarks. “We bring four sets of twins into the show? Is that topping season nine by having something more extreme? Just going more extreme is not making it better or bigger. We’re being smarter about it.
“We have great confidence in the team that when they get the cast assembled they create an environment where love has the opportunity to happen and crazy things have the opportunity to happen, and that all becomes part of the mishmash season of MAFS where everything happens organically and authentically.”
John adds that despite having a big team of people working behind the scenes, the show is “very hands-off”.
“The producer’s hand is very light on MAFS,” he shares. “We really rely on the cast and their storylines to develop organically, which is a bit scary because we don't have the luxury of The Bachelor or MasterChef where we know that there's going to be a format and a weekly elimination and we know that by the end of the season, we're going to have three couples left.
“With MAFS, technically we could lose all the couples at the first commitment ceremony. That’s one of the scary things, and we do fly by the seat of our pants quite a bit. We have had seasons where we completely lost four couples in one commitment ceremony very early on.”
'It’s unheard of'
John Aiken, who is the show's only relationship expert to have appeared on every season, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that one of the most “exciting” parts of his job is seeing how the participants evolve throughout the filming process.
“They’re complex and layered and they do come out at various times and do things and say things that really shock,” he details.
“And after ten seasons, that’s why it's so exciting for me to still do it because all of that is going on every single time and people that I've met before they go into the experiment really surprise me. Even though we go through an exhausting assessment process, they totally surprise me.”
He adds that it feels “absolutely amazing” to be working on season ten after starting the series back in 2015.
“It was a very small show back then, sort of a fly on the wall type of thing, and we sat around afterwards having filmed it and we thought, we can't see where this is going,” he admits.
“You know, this is a show about relationships and everything was about cooking, singing, dancing and renovations. So it is a complete surprise to be sitting here 10 seasons on, essentially a decade for me, and it's a real privilege for me. Because it's very rare to be a relationship expert in front of the number one show. It's unheard of.”
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