Show of the week: Married At First Sight

Married at First Sight is a show in which total strangers agree to marry on their first meeting, based upon the opinions of a sexologist, spiritualist, psychologist and sociologist. Explaining its origins, Red Arrow’s managing director, creative operations, Michael Schmidt, says Married at First Sight “was created by Snowman in Copenhagen for DR3, which wanted it as one of the lynchpins of the channel”.

According to Schmidt, “the scope of the experiment and the title create the marketing, and the show sells itself. We have sold a lot of versions, but we and the broadcasters cannot always advertise that in advance because it can affect the casting before it is produced.”

Countries where the show has aired include Denmark and the US (for A+E), while ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany and Channel 4 in the UK are also known to have signed up. There is also reportedly “a big broadcaster in Russia”.

Despite the shock value of the concept, Schmidt says: “It is actually very authentic. When you watch it, you realise it’s about people with a problem. It answers a question everyone is concerned with: will I find the right partner?”

Particular challenges with a show like this include screening and selecting contestants. “We have no final say as to whether they stay married, which is hard for us as producers. Usually we are careful to have final say.”

Echoing other shows with elements of surprise, recommissions are also an issue, says Schmidt: “DR is producing the second season now and moving it to their main channel DR1. The casting process is trickier the second time around because the cat is out of the bag and we will have to weed out some people, but that’s not so different to season two of a Big Brother or Survivor.”

Schmidt says most Western countries could air a variation of the show, but it’s a process Red Arrow is controlling very carefully. “If one country, however small, messed it up there would be repercussions everywhere, so we have to make sure each one doesn’t change the brand,” he says.

Red Arrow International is selling the show and has struck a raft of deals for the finished US version.

The show: Married at First Sight
The producer: Snowman
The distributor: Red Arrow International
The broadcaster: DR3 (Denmark), FYI (US)
The concept: Couples are matched by a team of experts and then marry upon their first meeting