Review of The Ultimatum: Marry or Move on — utterly horrible
Couples on the eve of marriage are encouraged by Netflix’s 10-part binge to leave their relationships and date someone new. This is reality television so terrible that you’ll wish for the universe’s hastened heat death.
Nick and Vanessa Lachey‘s most recent program, Love Is Blind, was presented by them (fixtures in the reality TV firmament over the previous 10-15 years for reasons that need not worry us now, or probably ever). This was (and still is, as a fourth and fifth season has just been ordered) a show in which strangers communicate through single “pods” without being able to see each other until various couples profess their love, become engaged, and then meet and get to know one another for a month before actually-factually marrying. I vividly remember the first season. “Absurd, repugnant, lovely, toxic, and wholesome in equal measure – and addictive as hell throughout… Crack-meth.” I was also thinking about how much more ruthlessly or successfully it might exploit emotional frailties, desecrate the fearful, make the private and holy public and worthless, and turn it into voyeuristic ratings bait.
So, bless my rhetorical socks, we finally have an answer! The answer is “certainly,” and it comes in the shape of The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On. The Lacheys introduce us to what is purported to be six couples, but by my immediately worried and feverish count, number at least 302, who all have one thing in common: one of each pair wants the other to put a ring on it or call it quits. Shit or Get Off the Pot might have been a better title, but the United States still clings to its Puritan heritage in bizarre ways, so marry or move on is the polite option provided.
At my age, I can’t be expected to remember 604 – or even 12 – participant names, particularly since they’re all identical, so I’ve labeled them blonks 1-6A/B (the males) and blermps 1-6A/B (the women). Homosexuality has yet to reach the Lacheyean world (but a second season featuring an LGBT cast has been promised). “A” signifies blondness, “B” denotes not-blondness, and that is basically all that is presented in this episode.
A handful of the blonks, to be honest, stick out (Jake for being nine parts puppy and apparently as nice a guy as reality TV has ever unearthed; Colby for being the only male ultimatum-giver and for having Garth Brooks vibes even before he puts on a Stetson in the final episode). A few of the blermps stand out in particular: April is a quick, funny, genuine charmer of 23 who should want to marry no more than… any quick, funny, charming 23-year-old. Alexis is a flint-eyed, lantern-jawed blond who wants a ring in exchange for the cooking, cleaning, and laundry she does for her live-in blonk (“Marriage is a financial and emotional transaction”), and Alexis is a flint-eyed, lantern-
Anyway. The couples are separated and invited to sit by a pool, eat supper, drink drinks, and see if they “spark” with anybody else. They then chose a new spouse with whom they would live for three weeks before returning to their sweetheart and choosing whether to crap or – I mean, marry or go on.
Everything goes exactly as planned, which is to say abysmal. Soon, candidates are crying, fans are yelling at the screen (Alexis’ rage after she chisels out of Colby – during their second drink – that he doesn’t see himself marrying her lingers with me still), and the Lachey/Netflix accountants are popping the corks in their poisoned lairs. The crack-meth combo is still as potent as it has always been. The reptilian component of your brain has gotten irrevocably engaged in 15 minutes, and the higher functions can only hope for an accelerated heat death of the cosmos before the remaining nine and three quarter hours are over.
It’s a heinous crime. Obviously, there is no moral basis for purposefully placing temptation in people’s paths (I believe it is one of the tenets in fact of quite a few world religions). It’s creatively bankrupt. It’s not educationally or intellectually sound. Every other phrase out of every other mouth implies that we construct a pyre and set feminism on it, since the struggle is undoubtedly lost.
But the entertainment, oh the entertainment. Escapism, escapism, escapism, escapism, esc Oh, the glory of letting hate for this and that blonk, and love for blermp 2A, who appears to be making her way to her rightful place on the arm of new blonk 6B, flow unabated through you, washing away the mental detritus of the day and leaving you cleansed, empty, and ready for the next day’s accumulation of cares and woes. It’s a shambles, yet you can’t go on.