In 2001, I appeared on The Montel Williams Show. It was my first television gig and while I am not sure how smooth I was on camera, I loved it. Now, 13 years later, after over a decade of being a television talking head, this week I will be appearing as a regular (yes, in the actual credits) of a new FYI show called Married at First Sight. (MAFS first aired in Denmark in 2013.)
You read that correctly. Yes, Married at First Sight. Blind arranged marriages. You probably think that this is crazy. I understand, because when I was approached to do this, my response was: "Are you kidding me? I am not entertaining this idea."
I have said these words before. Many times before. I have been asked to participate in some of the most outrageous, exploitative, salacious shows imaginable; I have turned every one of them down.
Though I made certain assumptions about this experiment, I took a call with one of the producers. I listened to her tell me about the premise of the experiment. I heard words that resonated with me. Documentary. Provocative. Thoughtful. And then the question that hit home: "Logan, what if four experts in their respective fields -- social scientists -- can help to create meaningful relationships?"
I felt something stir in me. "Before this goes any further, does anyone get voted off an island? Does anyone win a boatload of money?"
She replied with an answer I wasn't prepared for. "Absolutely not. This is not one of those shows."
"May I see the original series from Denmark?"
And that was it.
I watched eight straight hours of Danish television complete with subtitles on my phone. I was hooked. It was provocative, it was thoughtful and unlike most programs I watch these days, I rooted for these couples. This was feel-good television.
I agreed to be part of the team with three other professionals that I respect immensely: clinical psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cilona; Humanist chaplain, Greg Epstein; and sociologist, Dr. Pepper Schwartz. There is no question that I am proud of what we have done.
Married at First Sight isn't just a television show; it is a social commentary. I worry that we are so used to jumping in and out of relationships that we don't even know what's worth fighting for anymore. We tend to run at the first obstacle instead of working our way through challenges. This experiment asks people to commit so that they have to fight for something. They have to put the work in -- the work that we all need to put in -- into partnerships.
Married at First Sight is not an indictment of traditional dating nor does it undermine the sanctity of marriage. I understand that before viewing this, people may not agree. That being said, I have been married for 14 years. And all of us should have the right to experience marriage if we so choose. Though the construct of marriage may not work for everyone, this particular task was not one that I took lightly.
But I believe that television can transform us. I am confident that our couples and our audience will learn things about themselves that they had never given a thought to before. In other words, the MAFS process is as meaningful as the outcome.
To that end, my personal mantra has always been "Be provocative with a purpose." My experience in Married at First Sight aligns with that perfectly. I am confident that our audience will agree.
Married at First Sight premieres on FYI on Tuesday, July 8th at 9 pm EST. The MAFS casting special airs at 8 pm EST.
Follow Dr. Logan Levkoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LoganLevkoff