As informed and intelligent reality TV viewers, we expected the Seven Year Switch to be many things. Shocking. Awkward. Morally dubious.
So, of course, over 850,000 people tuned in for its debut and many of them have continued to watch. And I am one of them.
‘Why watch it?’, you ask. ‘It’s bad TV. Just switch it off!’, shout the (logical) people of Australia.
But guys, if I don’t watch it, I’ll miss out on how bad it can get. And seeing how bad reality TV can get is one of my favourite pastimes.
So boy, did I watch. I watched HARD.
But I didn’t get what I was looking for. I wanted fame-hungry, fake people with huge dramas and even bigger personalities. I wanted to zone out of my life and have absolutely no feelings for an hour or so. I wanted to make fun of the couples and laugh at their problems. ‘You need to get over yourself!’, I planned on yelling at my TV. ‘No wonder you’re having relationship troubles!’, I expected to shout.
But I didn’t think, let alone yell, any of these things. Because instead I felt sad. And I didn’t plan on feeling sad.
Of course, there was the predictable awkwardness and lack of rationale behind any aspects of the show. As usual, people on Twitter said it better than I could:
It was that last Tweet that really said what I was thinking. Inside each of the four relationships were serious issues – ones many of us can relate to.
There's Brad and Tallena, a couple from Brisbane, who met on Tinder. While this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, there's no punchline. Because their biggest issue is around money.
They want to get married, but Brad doesn't want to spend $10,000 on a wedding. Tallena is angry because he recently spent $3000 on a television. He plays golf every weekend, and is obsessed with his bird which is heinously named 'Squishy'. Tallena does all the cleaning, and Brad spends all of his free time doing anything but spending time with her.
When the psychologists take the couple into the bedroom, Brad remarks, “It’s not really easy talking about a bedroom when nothing really happens in there apart from sleeping." He continues, “I can’t remember the last time Tallena touched me. I want her to be more affectionate.”
Of course, Tallena has her reasons. “Every time we used to fight, Brad used to take my ring off me," she tells the therapists. She cries, he cries. It's just sad.
Then there's Jason and Michelle. Michelle is clearly an absolute saint, taking care of the couple's four-year-old son and eight-month-old daughter essentially on her own. Again, one of their main issues is around money. Jason runs a motorbike business during the day and does web design during the night, just to pay their bills. This schedule leaves hardly any time for Jason and Michelle to spend any time together.
What probably a little close to home for lots of viewers is Jason demanding that Michelle go back to the person she was when they first met. “I’m never going to be that person again, though. I’ve changed, I am different,” she says through tears.
God. This is just depressing.
I think Tim and Jackie are probably meant to provide some light-hearted, comic relief, but being in a relationship with a complete lack of romance isn't that funny. The couple met at the gym and are fitness trainers. Jacki runs the business while Tim lays on the floor.
Seriously - this show does nothing for restoring my faith in men.
It's the absence of affection that really gets to Jackie. “He doesn’t like public affection. He’s not very romantic,” she says. Tim describes Jackie as a "bossy b**tch".
Yeah..this definitely isn't funny.
Watch Tim and Jackie. Post continues after video.
Jackie admits that Tim has "only ever said, ‘I love you,’ in a text message once in three and a half years. I took a screen shot of it and kept it.” How...romantic?
Finally, we have Ryan and Cassie. Cassie has a nine-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and together, Ryan and Cassie have an 11-month-old. At first, their issues seem pretty superficial.
Cassie gets frustrated because Ryan has no concept of reality.
“He wants to be a pilot for a big commercial airline," she says. "He wants to get rich from Keno.” Oh.
But just as we've almost had enough of peaking inside other peoples broken relationships, Cassie tells us something we weren't prepared to hear. The couple had a baby boy, who at 37 weeks old, passed away. While she grieved, Ryan simply avoided the topic, and it's created a wedge between the two.
This show is way too real for reality TV. I'm used to jungles, and celebrities with annoying voices, and cooking competitions, and really sexist dating shows. I'm not used to real life staring right back at me through my television screen.
After the show, I just felt really, really sad. I pitied these couples - and I hate using that word. I pity the sense of helplessness that leads you to go on a reality TV show to fix your relationship. I genuinely hope that in some way, this terrible show benefits the contestants. Whether they realise they're better apart, or stay together, or forge profitable new careers as TV hosts or Instagram celebrities. Because there has to be some relief from the tragedy that is the Seven Year Switch.