Have you ever thought about a past relationship and wondered if you made the right decision breaking it off? Well if you have, Netflix’s latest Australian reality show may just be for you. For everyone else, Back With The Ex does nothing to quell the reality TV tropes that stigmatize this genre, reveling in all the usual drama that comes with this sort of show. While the idea is interesting, the execution is anything but as the four couples talk about their past problems and try to work through them while sticking to a very rigid but very predictable formula.
The first episode begins with an introduction to the four main couples we’ll be spending three weeks with during the show’s self-proclaimed “ex-periment”. We meet 57-year-old Peter who hasn’t seen his ex since his early 20s. Jeremy and Meg were on and off for 7 years and now Jeremy feels it’s time to find out once and for all if they’re compatible together. Kate cheated on her boyfriend, sleeping with another man while drunk, but now ex boyfriend Kam is ready to give it another shot. Rounding out this quartet is workaholic Eric who’s ready to see if the time is right to rekindle his flame with ex girlfriend Lauren.
After formal introductions during the first episode, we catch up with our ex’s through a series of face to face interviews and real-time footage across the remaining 6 episodes, with a series of different challenges and tasks given to test their resolve. All of this builds toward the final episode where we find out if these couples are sticking together or going their separate ways. In other words, whether the time they’ve spent has been a big waste of time and effort or whether there’s something meaningful here to take from the show. The result is unfortunately more lacklustre disappointment than outright enjoyment. The finale concludes this experiment with a lengthy tribute to our four couples and a very brief update on what these four pairings have been up to since the time filming ended.
The problem with Back With The Ex is its reluctance to really showcase something different in a crowded sea of reality TV offerings. The set up is largely familiar and very early on we get our first taste of drama as one of the ex’s dramatically leaves midway through a meet-up. The rest of the episodes follow this usual formula of build up which leads into manufactured and over the top drama. At times, it’s difficult to tell whether some of the characters on the show are genuinely unlikable or scripted to be that way. Jeremy and Eric both come across as disingenuous at times and Kate’s incredulous reaction to Kam’s inability to trust her after, y’know, she cheated on him, is an annoyance too.
Still, there will be a crowd that’ll be instantly drawn to Back With The Ex and if you’re a fan of reality TV and want more of the same, look no further for your latest telly binge. For everyone else though, Back With The Ex retreads familiar ground and fails to mix up a stale formula that’s certainly run its course now. Sometimes things are best left untouched and when it comes to past relationships, sometimes ex’s are just that for a reason.