What Fresh Hell: You can now date your ex for reality TV, ‘cos ratings.
Every year we stray further from God’s light with a newer, stupider concept to turn into trash TV.
I thought Channel 9 had peaked in 2014 with Married At First Sight , which now in its fourth season. It constantly has the highest viewership in its time slot.
Then, last year Channel 7 tested the loyalty (and sanity) of its viewers with Yummy Mummies, a series that followed the gestation of four self-appointed socialites as they sabotaged each other’s baby showers and publicly shamed breastfeeding mothers.
Needless to say: the latter flopped. By the second episode its ratings had plummeted to not even the top 20, and this was pitched by Seven as primetime viewing.
Now the station has begun advertising for its latest shit-fest Back with the Ex. The promo shows Lauren explain that her boyfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve via text, and in just over a minute, we learn that this guy is the epitome of manipulative man-trash. He ruined Lauren’s Christmas, got her a voucher for breast implants as a birthday present and is accused of being overly controlling in their previous six-year relationship. Yeah, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt too.
It’s no surprise that Channel 7 is sticking to the formula of publicised dating. Sophie Monk’s season of The Bachelorette broke ratings records on Channel 10, with the season finale racking in more than 1.4 million viewers (who all let out a collective sigh of relief when she didn’t pick stage-five-clinger Jarrod.)
While Channel 7’s First Dates isn’t the top-rated show (last year’s season was beaten by Nine’s The Block), the fly-on-the-wall view of innocent couples meeting and chatting resonated with viewers and let us cringe or clap based on the chemistry of each couple.
The problem with Back with the Ex however, is that it isn’t just stupid, trash TV; it’s borderline dangerous. The 70 second promo chops and changes between aggressive arguments, and picture-perfect montage moments – complete with the couple riding in a horse and carriage.
The issue with this premise is that it shouldn’t make people hope for a happy ending, but it probably will. The preview has already romanticised the concept of unhealthy relationships and toxic masculinity. The boyfriend is seen posing naked for Lauren to paint before asking: “Which muscle is your favourite?” Because apparently objective attractiveness overrides being a Grade-A dick to women, let alone your partner of six years.
As with any reality show, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s been fabricated. This guy might not be the villain he’s been portrayed as. But even then, glamourising the idea of a toxic relationship and pushing the premise that emotional manipulation can be forgiven with an apology and some token couple selfies is downright ignorant.
Obviously, this isn’t the first show that explores the opportunity of rekindled love. MTV’s Ex on the Beach has a cult following, starring cast members from other UK reality series like Geordie Shore. But at least with Ex on the Beach they spend the whole time on an island paradise and have the opportunity to socialise with other people and potentially find love (if you want to call it that) with someone they hadn’t already tried and failed with.
If shows like Big Brother, Geordie Shore and Jersey Shore can be slammed for promoting unhealthy lifestyle choices, Back with the Ex should certainly be tarred with the same brush. In a society that still has trouble defining the difference between a shitty partner and actual emotional violence, the last thing we should do is turn that into a commodity by making it into a real-life drama.
So, for the love of all that is holy, please don’t give in to the commercialisation of other peoples’ personal turmoil and make sure you tune out of this crime against Australian television.