Should You Survive “Surviving Marriage”?

Surviving Marriage (Photo: A&E)
Surviving Marriage (Photo: A&E)

Surviving Marriage drops struggling couples into a South Pacific paradise to work on their problems. Does this form of therapy make for good TV?

A&E has had an odd relationship with relationship shows recently. Last fall they experimented with isolating online couples for a week in Love Prison, which sorta worked as compelling TV even though most of the couples drifted apart. This past Sunday, the network debuted a look at open relationships between married couples on Neighbors with Benefits, which could be interesting or a train wreck.1 Tonight features the premiere of a couples therapy adventure program called Surviving Marriage, which includes elements of Love PrisonSurvivorThe Amazing Race, and…Best Week Ever?

The premise of the series relies heavily on the concept of “Extreme Marriage Therapy.” In this case, one couple each week is dropped off on an island to fend for themselves while looking for backpacks with instructions for activities to work through the conflicts that have brought them to therapy in the first place. The exercises are designed to antagonize one or both members of the couple, thereby inducing conversation and ideally resolution. At least that’s what the two alleged doctors talking directly to the audience tell us. The screener did not include on-screen graphics, so I wasn’t able to catch names for the professionals, but that may not be important, as they are not on location with the client or seen interacting with them in any way. The professionals’ primary purpose is to narrate, or in many cases tell us what happened because video must not exist. Also, the doctors are more into the symbolism of each activity, which gets progressively more ridiculous as the hour drags on.

Aside from the flimsy concept of highlighting what would be the most annoying team on any given season of the Amazing Race, the production values are not great. Within the episode offered as a preview, one of the participants is shown conversing with the camera operator, complaining about the demands of the production. This isn’t the type of reality show where breaking the fourth wall serves a purpose, other than to demonstrate why this concept may not be a great way of resolving marital problems.

If the participants find success in determining the future of their relationships, more power to them. But the structure of the show and the general form the production has taken makes for one mess of a program.

Surviving Marriage debuts on A&E Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern.

  1. Or an interesting train wreck. Fingers crossed?  

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About Mike McComb 1001 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: