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Married At First Sight: Yes, people really do want to wed a total stranger

“Follow a group of brave people who have agreed to get married to someone they’ve never met” is how Channel 4 is promoting its new, controversial reality TV offering.

Starting tomorrow night, Married At First Sight follows a format that began in Denmark and has been successful (in terms of viewing figures at least) in Australia and the United States. It tells the stories of British singletons who are willing to marry a complete stranger in the hope of finding their true love.

It isn’t just a case of plucking names out of a hat, thank goodness. For this important task, a panel of experts (including a vicar, a professor of psychology and a social anthropologist) carefully analyse everything from DNA and physical features to relationship history to decide which bride meets which groom for the very first time seconds before saying “I do.” (Or at least, that’s the plan — time will tell whether they all make it down the aisle.)

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It may be a new type of dating show (making Take Me Out look positively tame) but it attempts to answer age-old questions. What is true love? Why do some people struggle to find it? And what makes someone “the one?”

Surely, the answer — the same for each one — is simple. True love is elusive, magical and beyond that impossible to define. Even by so-called “experts.” Don’t we all know, from our own experiences, that two people can seem perfect for each other in every way yet still can’t make love last?

Unsurprisingly Married At First Sight has been attacked from all quarters. Newlyweds from the Danish version of the show issued a warning to U.K. candidates and a bride from the U.S. series declared it was the “worst decision of my life.” Some relationship experts have labelled it “ridiculous” and “a gimmick” that “makes a complete mockery of the concept of marriage.”

Three couples are taking part in the U.K. version and we know for sure that one of them did tie the knot: Emma Rathbone, 32, and James Ord-Hume, 33. We’ll have to watch to the end of the three-part series to find out whether they decide to stay married but early indications suggest it’s not all rosy.

“We don’t fancy each other,” they told The Sun, with Emma adding that they’ve both agreed, “if we met in the pub, we probably wouldn’t stop for each other. Obviously attraction is very important and that can affect your sexual relationship, so we have some work to do in that area.”

Love at first sight? The jury’s still out. Married at first sight? Probably not.

Video credit: Channel 4/YouTube

Married At First Sight starts on Thursday, July 9 at 9 p.m. on Channel 4

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