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Big guns come out in TV's new year ratings race

My Kitchen Rules judges Manu Feildel and Pete Evans are ready to welcome viewers into their new house.
My Kitchen Rules judges Manu Feildel and Pete Evans are ready to welcome viewers into their new house. Channel 7

A TV ratings battle royal is brewing as rivals Seven and Nine compete for your precious viewing time.  

Seven's reliable performer My Kitchen Rules returns for a ninth season, dishing up plenty of drama and the occasional 10-point dish, while 20 singles are heading to the altar on Nine's Married At First Sight.  

The two reality shows were close competitors last year thanks to Married's successful, if controversial, format shake-up and MKR sticking to its tried and true recipe of instant restaurants and cook-offs.   

Both give us heroes and villains to cheer and boo in equal measure, but what are these two tent-pole shows doing to win you, and millions of other Aussies, over this year?  

Married's producers have listened to some of the criticism about last year's boozy Sunday night dinners.  

Queensland flight attendant Ashley Irvin shops for her wedding dress in a scene from Married At First Sight.
Queensland flight attendant Ashley Irvin shops for her wedding dress in a scene from Married At First Sight. Marc Grimwade

"We monitored that more closely this year and we cut people off early a couple of times and put them on water the rest of the night," executive producer John Walsh tells The Guide.

"They may say or do things they never intended so we don't want to expose them to an awkward situation like that... No one really pushed back when we said 'I'm sorry, you have to be on water'."  

Despite one groom already being labelled as sexist, psychologist and matchmaker John Aiken says this year's participants keep each other accountable.  

"This is a much more honest, open group," Aiken says.

Married At First Sight matchmaker and psychologist John Aiken.
Married At First Sight matchmaker and psychologist John Aiken.

"There are some really outstanding women in the group, so if there's an issue then it's brought out and put on the table immediately.   

"The group dynamic is very powerful this series and quite surprising."  

This year's season of MKR boasts super-sized instant restaurants with the teams cooking for a whopping 16 guests (up from the usual 12), and a new venue: the "house'' of hosts Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.

"To do something a bit different is fantastic," Feildel says.

"Our house is brilliant. It has two amazing big kitchens in there and a really long table, so that's where some of the challenges happen."  

The 2018 My Kitchen Rules contestants who will cook in group one.
The 2018 My Kitchen Rules contestants who will cook in group one. Channel 7

The ninth season also features MKR's most fiery over-the-table clash yet in which the judges send one team packing. 

"There was a team that pushed the envelope a bit too far," Feildel says.

"It is a cooking competition so they're not supposed to be best mates but they're not supposed to have a go at each other either.  

"We had to remind everyone that we're here for one thing and one thing only: food."  

My Kitchen Rules and Married At First Sight premiere on Monday at 7.30pm on Seven and Nine respectively.   

Topics:  channel 7 channel 9 married at first sight my kitchen rules my kitchen rules 2018 television