Ines Basic, this season's biggest drama queen. Picture: Channel 9
Ines Basic, this season's biggest drama queen. Picture: Channel 9

Why MAFS boss regrets 2019 season

NO-ONE switches Married At First Sight on expecting to see normal people searching for true love - we want the crazy.

But this season, with its verbal and physical abuse, bedhopping contestants and liberal use of the C word, has crossed a line for many viewers.

The non-stop controversy has made for sky-high ratings - each episode pulls in more than 1.2 million viewers - but MAFS executive producer Peter Walsh is not happy with how things played out and hopes he doesn't see a repeat of this year's "cheating and drama" when the show's seventh season airs next year.

"I wouldn't like things to play out the same, I wouldn't like people to see a repeat of what they saw this year," Walsh tells news.com.au.

"It would just be absolute chaos if it was all cheating and all drama. While it's fun to watch and it's great to promo, I don't think people will watch if that's all it is."

Ines certainly brought more than her fair share of drama to the season. Picture: Channel 9
Ines certainly brought more than her fair share of drama to the season. Picture: Channel 9

The now-exited Ines and Bronson were one of the first couples to horrify viewers when Ines exploded at her new groom, telling him she found his ex-stripper past "disgusting" and ordering him to "f**k off" while on a boat on their honeymoon.

Tensions reached a head at a commitment ceremony where Bronson retorted by calling Ines a "c**t", prompting relationship experts to leap to her defence.

In later episodes, the fiery Cyrell grabbed fellow contestant Martha by the neck of her robe, an altercation so violent that producers had to step in and restrain her.

More recently, new bride Susie has come under fire from both the viewers and the experts for repeatedly belittling her match, barista and model Billy - calling him "too small", "strange" and "not a man".

But it's the cheating that Walsh says he finds more unpalatable than anything else and there's been no shortage of it this year, with Ines and Sam betraying their partners with each other and Jess and Dan following suit.

He says the producers and executives wished the couples would play nicely with the person they're meant to play with.

"We don't actually like the cheating. It plays against the spirit of the experiment," he says.

Jessika and Dan were this season’s second cheaters. Picture: Channel 9
Jessika and Dan were this season’s second cheaters. Picture: Channel 9

However, he says the show's makers knew cheating was likely to take place once a decision was made to have all the couples intermingling, rather than living separately as couples, a change that happened after season three.

"We were prepared for it though," he says. "When we changed it for season 4 into the group dynamic, we always knew (cheating) was going to be a possibility. If you put 20 people together who have virtually only just met their partner we knew that this could quite possibly happen.

"So while we don't encourage it we knew it could happen, then it's just a matter of how to deal with it."

Another topic that has plagued this season of MAFS is the apparent mismatch of many couples (Bronson and Ines and Susie and Billy spring immediately to mind). What "relationship expert" in their right mind would think sensitive Billy was the right person for steamroller Susie?

But Walsh insists none of the couples are deliberately matched for drama and doing so would be potentially disastrous for the show.

"It's not in our interest to put someone nice with someone nasty," he says. "It's a misapprehension that people have.

"We want and need as many matches as possible to work over the show. We can't afford to have everyone drop out - unlike other programs where there are set elimination times each week, theoretically we could lose the whole cast in a single week.

"So it's not in our interest to match people for drama. Because they could just drop out and then we have no show."

Ines and Bronson were not, apparently, matched for drama but rather for a chance at true love. Picture: Nigel Wright
Ines and Bronson were not, apparently, matched for drama but rather for a chance at true love. Picture: Nigel Wright

If this is true, how does Walsh explain the complete mismatches that were Ines and Bronson and Susie and Billy? He says the "pressure" of the show brings out sides of people that were not apparent in the casting process.

"I was in the (casting) interviews with Ines," Walsh says. "Ines was very sharp-tongued and witty which we like for people who are going to be at dinner parties.

"The side of her you saw with Bronson came out under pressure which was something we hadn't seen.

"On the honeymoon she was quite scared of being on a boat. Under pressure that aspect of her personality came out that wasn't apparent to us on the way through (the casting process).

"I hope over the course of the journey we got to see some of the reasons behind why Ines behaved the way she behaved. She was a refugee and her father had PTSD."

Susie and Billy, he says, were also matched with the best of intentions before dropping a spoiler that the couple may not be on the show for much longer.

Billy and Susie, another match made in hell. Picture: Justin Lloyd.
Billy and Susie, another match made in hell. Picture: Justin Lloyd.

"Susie is such a strong personality and we felt Billy needed someone to bring out a more confident side of him," he says.

"Susie may not have reacted the way she does with someone else. Billy may have responded differently with a different partner.

"Bringing those two in and having them lasting only a couple of weeks was not something that we had in mind at all."

However, he says the show has no plans to change its format in any way that could reduce the drama when a new season goes to air in 2020.

The group mingling - something that doesn't happen on any other MAFS franchise worldwide - is something Australian audiences "love" and has become an accepted part of the experiment, even if it increases the likelihood of couples cheating.

MAFS Australia is the only franchise to allow co-mingling between contestants. Picture: Channel 9
MAFS Australia is the only franchise to allow co-mingling between contestants. Picture: Channel 9

When asked if he might consider casting more "normal" people, with less cosmetic enhancement and less over-the-top personalities to try and dampen down the apparent artificiality of the show, he says that's unlikely.

Next year looks like to bring more lovely, calm, genuine people like Cyrell. Picture: Channel 9
Next year looks like to bring more lovely, calm, genuine people like Cyrell. Picture: Channel 9

"It's a reasonable position but we're looking at outgoing people and it just so happens that sometimes those outgoing people have a heightened sense of fashion and the way they look," he says.

"We don't want people who are going to turn up and not say anything. And they have to be able to cope. It's very intimidating, sharing a bedroom with a stranger immediately. It's not something everyone can do."

Finally Walsh tried to put to bed once and for all the one big rumour about MAFS that simply won't go away.

"The 'they're all paid actors' thing is probably the single most annoying accusation," he says.

"They're not paid actors. We're doing 41 90-minute episodes. We'd need a hundred writers to write this stuff.

"And nobody could write this."

Alex Carlton is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @Alex_Carlton

MAFS 2019’s original cheaters, Sam and Ines. Picture: Channel 9
MAFS 2019’s original cheaters, Sam and Ines. Picture: Channel 9

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