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Adios to Marriage Boot Camp: Why WE tv’s series has become a travesty

Nikko London, Margeaux Simms and Merika Palmiste - Marriage Boot Camp's first "throuple"
Nikko London, Margeaux Simms and Merika Palmiste – Marriage Boot Camp’s first “throuple”

After literally years of blogging WE tv’s Marriage Boot Camp, through the Bridezillas and then the Reality Stars, I won’t be writing about that television show, ever again. The show is no longer what it purports to be.

Marriage Boot Camp is a REAL relationship counseling program that existed for many years before it became a reality TV show.

Jim and Elizabeth Carroll co-direct the real Marriage Boot Camp, based out of Texas. They offer well-planned programs attended by real couples, in towns and cities across the United States.

They recently launched a new program geared for dating singles who want to find the best mates for healthy, happy relationships.

Reality TV first met Jim and Elizabeth Carroll on Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels when the KISS star and his longtime love Shannon Tweed were having problems.

The absolute BEST seasons of Marriage Boot Camp were the first two, when the couples participating in boot camp were the same people we’d seen on the epic Bridezillas reality show. After all, who doubted those women would need marriage counseling?

Then somebody at the network (or their production company Thinkfactory Media) decided they would draw larger viewing audiences if they used reality TV stars.

There have been a few BIG names from the reality world – JWoww, Speidy, The Situation, etc. – but with each notch up the reality ladder it went, the quality of the show went down. And you knew they were making more exceptions, and breaking more rules, to keep their stars happy.

And because it’s hard to find famous actually-married couples willing to have their relationships broken down and built back up on reality TV, every season seems to have fewer legally-wed couples, and more couples trying to decide if they should even get married.

The result: Dedicated viewers have called for a return to featuring the old Bridezillas couples for awhile now, but nobody’s willing to risk a ratings fail. So they continue to bring on pairs with no skin in the game, so to speak.

The last season was ridiculous. Tara Reid??? With a guy who wasn’t even her boyfriend, and some convoluted story about how she did it to help his reputation. Meanwhile, she was an emotional train wreck and stole everybody’s attention away from the couples who were actually there to get some help.

It made me angry. It made other viewers angry. It made their housemates angry. You could make an entire show about how screwed up Tara Reid is, why did they have to ruin Marriage Boot Camp?

But none of that nonsense set people off like the newest season of Marriage Boot Camp that launched on Friday night with new directors. Dr. Ish and Dr. V, two reality TV relationship counselors (Ish is actually a shrink) taking the place of the viewers’ beloved Jim and Elizabeth.

Dr. Ish and Dr. V, the new relationship experts on Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars
Dr. Ish and Dr. V, the new relationship experts on Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars

While they both have a laundry list of reality TV appearances to point to, neither one has ever run any kind of marriage counseling program before. I definitely don’t think that Dr. Ish’s appearance on Ex-Isle counts. That show was trash.

And Dr. Ish has never been married. Why would they think they could pick just anybody to run Marriage Boot Camp? Isn’t it important for the directors to have some credibility in the subject matter?

I could talk about the many, many reasons this is wrong — and cite examples of irate tweets from die-hard #MarriageBootCamp fans who say they’re never watching the show again — but there’s one very big, very real reason that this change is bullshit.

Jim and Elizabeth Carroll ARE the real Marriage Boot Camp. That’s Elizabeth’s daughter Ilsa Norman co-directing. Co-Director David Bishop is part of their program’s REAL team. Remember Co-Director Bobby Davis from the earlier seasons? A nephew. Not only is the real Marriage Boot Camp a long-standing and effective relationship-healing program, it’s very much a family business, too.

In other words, you can take Jim and Elizabeth off the show, but then, it’s not really Marriage Boot Camp anymore. And fans won’t be fooled. And nobody HAS to watch it because there’s nothing else good on for Friday night, because nowadays all they have to do is flip to Netflix or Hulu.

So why did Jim and Elizabeth Carroll leave the show? That’s the big question.

There’s a lot of speculation, but I’m going to go with “creative differences” until they say otherwise. I think it should be obvious to a lot of people that some of the things that go on, and situations that are orchestrated by production, might not be something that supports the overall mission of the REAL program Marriage Boot Camp.

Fan-favorites Jim and Elizabeth Carroll on Marriage Boot Camp before they left the show
Fan-favorites Jim and Elizabeth Carroll on Marriage Boot Camp before they left the show

For example, the newly-coined phrase “throuple”, describing a three-way relationship, is probably not in the REAL Marriage Boot Camp’s program’s guidebook at all.

The program that Jim first created in 1994, and grew with his wife Elizabeth, is a Christian faith-based ministry. While it’s widely attended by members of many faiths, the basic principles it’s founded upon are religious in nature.

Although they don’t discriminate against any couple, it’s a program designed to help heal relationships between husbands and wives, based on far more faith-based teaching than what we see on WE tv.

It’s a poorly kept secret that Jim and Elizabeth pray with all their TV bootcampers. It’s also no secret that production, and the network, have tried to prevent it as much as possible, and certainly don’t show that part of the boot camp, or other deeply religious discussions they do have on-camera with their participants, in the edited programs. And now, in their infinite wisdom, WE tv is featuring “throuples” on the show. Draw your own conclusion.

Here’s another thing that many fans don’t know about the real Marriage Boot Camp – it’s a non-profit. Jim Carroll is the owner of a large security company, wealthy in his own right.

He created his Life Enrichment and Marriage Boot Camp to help other people live happier healthier lives in good marriages because he felt it was a calling from God, not to make bank off of other people’s messed-up marriages.

Jim and Elizabeth Carroll do not NEED the WE tv Marriage Boot Camp, but WE tv needed the Carrolls, as a team, to keep this show on the road. Literally.

The tweets are almost 100-percent negative following the premiere with the new cast of directors. I can only imagine Elizabeth and Jim’s hearts are breaking as their rabid fans are going nuts on social media. Usually quite chatty, Elizabeth’s Twitter has been crazy quiet this week.

The fact that she’s not responding and talking about it means she’s not happy about the situation. And chances are nobody is spilling the beans – yet – for legal reasons.

I reached out to Jim and Elizabeth for comment, and received the following response.

They said: “Sandy, we cannot comment at this time except to assure our fans that our marriage is as strong as ever, and we miss the online dialogue with them all.”

Where will we see them next? Will there be another show?

“God has a plan,” Elizabeth assured me. But she wouldn’t clue me in.

Whatever the real reason for leaving the show, I respect Jim and Elizabeth Carroll completely, and look forward to seeing whatever new ventures they come up with. I feel certain they’ll be back in the public eye again soon. Too many fans love them to let them go for long.

Meanwhile, it sounds like Jim and Elizabeth are going to be inundated with couples who will go to their seminars and get the real Marriage Boot Camp experience, if they can’t watch them on the tube.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing Jim and Elizabeth Carroll did wrong was not protect the name of their program, which existed long before the TV show. It’s really a travesty to let them keep using the Marriage Boot Camp name without the main pillars of the program.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone

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