Still, we’ll have to wait a bit for that one. Monday’s episode focused on introducing us to half these wedding hopefuls and their disapproving elders. The show might be subtitled “The Forbidden Weddings”, but “Australia’s Worst Parents” would’ve equally done the job.
There’s Terry and Margaret, the conservative parents of Hank, 26, who disapprove of his girlfriend Lily, 23. She’s a “controlling feminist vegetarian” who’s “programmed” their Hank into “cleaning the floors” with “leftie jargon”, is how they put it.
When Hank breaks the news to his olds that he’s proposed to Lily, they’re less than enthused. “We can’t have dinners together now because she’s vegetarian”, Margaret offers, not even metaphorically.
Ange, 23 and Dylan, 31 are a gay couple; Ange’s dad John is the kind of person to use that ol’ biblical defence, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. “Into hell with them,” he says, when Ange breaks the news that the pair are engaged.
Oddly, the producers have lent John’s homophobia a tragic bent: he’s a widower, who raised his three children singlehandedly after his wife Greta died from breast cancer. Dylan thinks John’s religious fervour is covering up some sort of guilt towards his dead wife, that he somehow “failed” in not delivering Ange into hetero-wedded bliss. He admits as much when he tells Ange that there was “a lady’s touch missing from our household.”
“I’m going to tell you something right now,” she shoots back in the episode’s most emotional scene. “If I could be attracted to males, I would. I didn’t set out to make life harder for myself.” She adds that maybe she doesn’t even want kids at all.
“Well that’s a good thing, ’cause you won’t f— their heads up,” John shockingly replies.
The question’s been asked before: what would lead ordinary locals to showcase such personal savagery on national TV? Ange offers perspective when she says if the argument had happened at home she would’ve hurriedly brushed it under the rug again. On Seven’s production clock, she’s forced to confront it. If there’s ever been a justification for reality TV’s icky exploitative streak, that’s about as good as I’ve heard.
Which brings us to the episode’s breakout star, if cruelty embodied could be described as “starry”. Fatima, mother of Seyat, 19, is no fan of her son’s girlfriend Jess, 21. “Jess is very dirty, very dirty. She’s disgusting, she smells like cats. I believe Jess is a slutty party girl, I don’t want my son to date a whore like that,” goes her lighthearted introduction.
There may be something to Fatima’s argument that the pair are too young to be married, but there’s perhaps a better way to make the point than by calling her son’s girlfriend a “prostitute” and a “sook” who can’t cook, or, as another promo sensationally hints, even offering her $10,000 to just walk away. “Where’s the respect?” yells Fatima, as Jess quietly endures the verbal barrage.
Jess tries to stand up for herself, but it’s useless. “People don’t see that I’m the one who stopped you from clubbing, stopped you from going out, tried to get you a full-time job, wrote your resume, applied for jobs for you, pushed you to be your best,” she convincingly argues about her positive impact on Seyat.
“His life was better before!” Fatima jumps in. “He’s always home now, look at him, he’s put on weight.” Jess runs off bawling, while Seyat, heftier or not, silently slumps.
One episode in, and there’s already around 300 therapy sessions worth of issues to unpack. I’m hooked. At the risk of saluting a franchise of embedded evil (you know, allegedly): MAFS, thank you for showing the way.
Rob Moran is an Entertainment reporter for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times.