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TV review: Seven Year Switch is morally bankkrupt...but I quite like it

PUBLISHED: 07:13 09 March 2018

Seven Year Switch - two of the participants in an unusual 'make or break' marriage guidance experiment

Seven Year Switch - two of the participants in an unusual 'make or break' marriage guidance experiment

(Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) CHANNEL 4 PICTURE PUBLICITY 124 HORSEFERRY ROAD LONDON SW1P 2TX

Four sets of spouses have been dispatched to an island to couple up with strangers for new TV show Seven Year Switch which sets out to save marriages - nope, I can’t see what could possibly go wrong with that concept.

I’m not sure when the psychologists all got together to agree that the best way to prop up an ailing marriage was to give each disgruntled spouse a new partner and move them into a luxury villa in Thailand with zero responsibilities but to be fair, it sounds fair more fun than counselling.

The premise of Channel 4’s new version of Wife Swap is a more convoluted version of the above, a reality show with a sprinkling of psychological book-learning sprinkled over the top in a bid to convince us that what we’re watching is a “valid experiment” rather than a romp-fest involving people who are so bored with their normal partner that they’d jump at the chance of a fortnight with a serial killer than spend another moment with him or her indoors.

Relationship expert Lee Valls (no, me neither – he’s like George Clarke kicked through Graham from Jeremy Kyle) has the unenviable task of creating a new set of couples from 12 unhappily married, or cohabiting, people who have reached the end of their collective tether.

Michelle got together with George when he was a bronzed muscle-man intent on romancing her: now they live together with their son and George gets a cob on if Michelle doesn’t have his dinner on the table when he gets home from work.

“The way I was brought up is that the man should be respected as a man,” he said, somewhat mystifyingly, “A man normally goes to work, he’s the provider, the woman usually stays at home and does all the, you know, woman things. The only thing I know is what my mum used to do for us. Looking at the standard my mum has set, it’s very hard for anyone to live up to it.” I bet family get-togethers are a right giggle for Michelle and her mother-in-law.

In Bristol, Nikki and Simon have been together for 11 years. “She tracked me down and stalked me. It was good. In a way,” said Simon, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, which was no enthusiasm at all. Simon has two jobs and no time for Nikki or their two children: she’s left at home all day alone, has suffered post-natal depression and announced the pair have no love life “or even any affection” in the same tone other people would use to describe a blocked drain.

Rachel lives with two children, one of them is a toddler, the other is in his late 20s and is her boyfriend. “I don’t want to grow old, I want to become a wizard,” said Tom, irritatingly. The pair met at university when Tom’s boundless desire for fun was attractive. Now the fact that he’s still pulling pints for a living and messing around all the time rather than helping around the house is driving Rachel mad: “I’m not asking for a Ferrari on the drive,” she said, “A car of any description would be nice.”

Finally, there’s Essex sweethearts Tony and Gemma: Tony is a royal pain in the posterior who – after being party to the creation of two children – has decided that he might like to be single so that he can “experience other relationships”. He’s living at his mum’s house while he finds himself, meanwhile, Gemma is doing absolutely everything else.

In a nutshell, the participants got together, had kids and it all went pear-shaped. What most of them seemed to need is a really good and permanently available babysitter and lots more sleep – the women, at least. The men mainly seemed to be doing whatever they wanted anyway.

In Thailand, we discovered the new couples would be sharing a bed, or at the least working out ‘coping mechanisms’ for only having one bed, which involved most of the women blithely accepting that the man would sleep on the sofa (goodbye, equality) and only Michelle and new ‘husband’ George arranging a time share.

It’s a morally bankrupt and unnecessary twist to a show that at least purports to be trying to help couples in crisis: is anyone’s marriage going to be saved by sleeping in the same bed as another man/woman? I don’t think it’s a tried and true formula for anything other than acrimony and a bitter divorce.

The moral bankruptcy, however, doesn’t make this show unwatchable (I know it should, but I am weak) - there’s a grim fascination in watching couples bellow at each other about who puts the bins out most or who gets the most sleep, mainly because it’s eminently relatable. Will the fabricated pairings strengthen the marriage or fuel breaking them up? Frankly, I don’t know, but I desperately hope that Nikki, Rachel Gemma and Michelle get rebooted husbands or, in the words of Saint Beyonce: “Put them hands high, wave it in his face, tell him ‘boy - bye.” Preach.


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