This is TV at its cruellest and most excruciating
AS If Channel Nine's hit reality show Married at First Sight wasn't tacky enough, it's now dispensed with any pretence of actually matching the "newlyweds" to be compatible.
It's all about amping up the grotesquerie for ratings.
With the excruciating pairing last week of Jo and Sean, who took one look at his bride as she walked up the aisle and said, "Oh shit", the show has hit rock bottom.
Now in its fifth season, it's just trolling.
Sean, a 39-year-old bar manager from Adelaide who lives alone, goes from humble romantic to a taciturn, sweating wreck.
Jo, a 39-year-old single mother, also from Adelaide, is introduced in the first scene doing shots in a pub wearing devil horns and a veil while screeching and laughing at her own jokes.
"I'm foxy Jo Jo and I'm a whole LAHT of woman". Cue hysterical laughter.
"Because I'm bigger than Ben Hur people don't know how to take me."
The three matchmakers describe Jo as having a "big personality".
In fact, the producers are playing a sly little game here. They go out of their way to associate the word "big" with Jo because their real goal is to fat-shame her while pretending to celebrate her lusty personality.
Of course they will deny that. But this is the cruel subplot that makes this particular coupling into water cooler dynamite.
It begins the moment Sean half turns, with an expectant smile, to sneak a peek at Jo as she walks down the aisle, an explosion of white taffeta froufrou on top of platform thongs with the word "Bride" picked out in diamantés.
His eyelashes shudder momentarily as he takes in the full vision, and then he quickly turns away and mutters "Oh shit". The blood drains from his face and he is never the same again.
The knockabout Aussie who described himself as kind and said: "Dating apps are cutthroat and not very good for your self esteem. People are very very cruel in dating apps," now finds himself on the horns of a dilemma.
He is shackled to this woman who makes his blood run cold for at least a month. They have to sleep in the "marital" bed and go on a honeymoon together to Singapore. The cringe-worthy expectation of the show is that the couples will have sex and then tell us how it all went.
Dear Jo lacks any self-awareness, which makes the show oddly compelling. She has a naive faith in the producers who are coldly manipulating the two of them behind the scenes for ratings as if they were a circus freak show.
But it is Jo's obliviousness to Sean's distaste for her that provides the pathos.
The louder and lewder she is the more he retreats.
She's a combination of Jane Austen's Lydia Bennet, and Muriel in Muriel's Wedding. There's a heart of gold in there somewhere. If only she'd shut UP.
After the wedding they are separately asked their first impressions.
"I don't think there's, like, there's not like a massive spark straight a away," says Sean.
Jo, on the other hand, is ecstatic: "Bing bing bing bing bing! Winning! Jackpot! You won the lotto! … The experts were spot on. He is for me, couldn't be any more perfect."
Sean's best man divulges: "Jo's a little bit different to what Sean would normally go for in a girl but … she's a great girl. Great personality."
No one says what they really think because they know what the problem is. Sean is a fattist.
It doesn't matter that Jo has a pretty face and lovely blue eyes, is plucky and generous, and would tone it down if he'd just give her a chance.
Sean is determined to be "awkies", as he puts it.
And now Jo is looking forward to the honeymoon. "I can't wait to get back to the room…
"You never know, the old sneaky massage oil might just come out and persuade him over. Buckle in, buddy, because you're in for a big ride," she shrieks. Bwahahaha.
And so ensues the most mortifying scene in the history of television: the bridal suite.
Jo stretches alluringly across the bed and tries to drink champagne sideways, with the inevitable cleavage spill while Sean hunches on a chair downing beers.
Jo tries to entice him by getting him to unlace the back of her wedding dress. He undoes it half way and she says: "I need to take it off, like, I want to take my dress off."
This hits him like a thunderclap. He reels back, a look of horror on his face. His eyes roll up in his head as if he's about to collapse. But then blessed relief as she toddles away, still clothed: "I need to pee".
Of course there's a nosy producer prodding a terrified Sean about when he's going to consummate the marriage.
Out comes a jumble of incoherence.
"Um, sexually I'm not ahhh, errr, like, it's probably something that is, um that's ahhh, yeah, it's something that, yeah, I haven't thought about at all."
Almost one million Australians watch this abomination. Why? It's a cruel social experiment which somehow serves a need in our disconnected world to observe human behaviour under pressure and calibrate our own emotions.
But the cost is an elaborate joke on the unsophisticated, largely bogan contestants by cynical television professionals who know exactly what reaction they're eliciting from the audience, while pretending they're all about empowering Jo and helping Sean to find love.
Later in the series no doubt they will engineer some sort of a redemptive moment.
But it won't hide the fact that they are exploiting ordinary decent Australians so lonely they are willing to debase themselves on a tawdry TV show that sends millions of dollars into Nine's coffers but gives them nothing in return.
All they get for giving away their privacy and dignity is a lifetime of embarrassment.