But really, Jules, what’s the point of it all?
That’s about all I kept saying at my television set as I watched the first episode of Australia’s Perfect Couple.
Here’s another variation on the dating / reality genre with 8 couples competing for a big cash prize and the title of ….Australia’s perfect couple. It is based on the US series Here Come the Newlyweds.
The couples are young, mostly white Anglo-Saxon and mostly heterosexual (wait, am I watching homeMADE again?). They are all assembled in front of a rambling rural estate (no it’s Farmer Wants a Wife) ready to face off against a series of challenges to test their devotion to one another (hang on, it’s Temptation Island).
On offer is $100,000 and more thrown into the kitty for each correctly completed challenge, up to $250,000 by series’ end.
Host Jules Lund explains their first challenge will see the men blindfolded and kissed on the cheek by the women, but can they correctly guess which is their lady? Rivetting stuff. One of the gay guys faces an identical challenge as he is swiftly pecked by a bunch of male models and his partner.
Next we watch Lund hosting a ‘getting to know you’-style chat in which some of the couples talk about their backgrounds. Funnily enough, this is the most interesting part of the show. Hearing Harps and Nav, who are practising Sikhs, talk about overcoming a family tradition of ‘arranged marriages’ was both enlightening and fascinating. Shame they weren’t afforded a one hour doco of their own.
Same sex couple Robbie and Dan also had an interesting story to tell. Being together for eight years and having a 12yo foster daughter breaks stereotypes about gay couples only having short relationships. They can’t help but mention the inequity in Australian marriage law that exists for them, which elicits sympathetic comments from their new-found friends / competitors.
Lund asks the couples a series of trust questions, along the lines of “how many sexual partners did your partner have before they met you?” or similar. These have the nasty ring of a wish list from The Moment of Truth.
Next challenge involves one partner hooked up to some electricity -I kid you not- who is subsequently zapped each time their partner fails to navigate an electric ring through a maze of metal. Maybe this is Moment of Truth after all, but at least that lie detector didn’t zap anybody back.
By the end of the episode the couple who had accrued the most points wins either elimination ‘Security’ (think Immunity), or a wad of cash.
Linking all of this apology of ideas together was a dance / pop soundtrack, seemingly determined to keep the mood buoyant.
One other very curious addition was a kind of bedroom-cam that eavesdropped on couples chatting candidly about their rivals. It had all the hallmarks of FOX’s trashy Paradise Hotel.
As a result the overall tone of the show is inconsistent. Is this about couples who love each other, or are prepared to bitch and fight for money? Am I watching the aspirational heart of Farmer Wants a Wife or the backstabbing of Temptation Island?
The casting of the show also skews too young. Why couldn’t somebody who has been married for 35 years be considered Australia’s perfect couple? And why are they all so photogenic? They look like they have been shipped in from The Hothouse.
For his part, Lund does a good job with the slight material he is given. He presents as a nice guy and his ease relaxes the contestants. You can’t help but wish his agent worked harder before agreeing to gigs on Big Questions, Hole in the Wall and, alas, Australia’s Perfect Couple.
The biggest issue remains the lack of an end point. Idol gives someone a recording career. Farmer brings strangers together for romance. Loser gives overweight people a physical makeover. Project Runway kickstarts a design career. But Australia’s Perfect Couple appears to do little more than reward the pursuit of money. And how long till a tabloid newspaper dishes the dirt on ‘perfect’ couples anyway?
Really Jules, what’s the point?
Australia’s Perfect Couple screens 7:30pm Wednesday on Nine.