Case in point: In addition to a slate of programming about hoarders, obesity, religious couples with lots of kids and little-people couples with lots of kids, bridal and wedding shows have become a staple of the increasingly, ahem, unusual lineup that TLC offers.
Though there’s nothing more serious, more real than marriage, the institution is being sucked into the insatiable reality-TV/entertainment vortex.
WEtv struck the gold first with “Bridezilla” in 2004, featuring screechy and self-involved women who blame their selfishness and verbal abuse on the stress of planning for a wedding.
One of the crown jewels of the genre is TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” in which prospective brides and an entourage of friends, relatives—and sometimes even the groom—weigh in on her choice of gowns.
When did this become a thing?
Usually at the halfway point of an episode, the bride-to-be breaks down in tears from the bullying and the stress of trying to please everyone, to the indignation of the salesmen—who allow it to happen every week.
Yet, this show is as prim as high tea at Buckingham Palace compared to the brash, in-your-face “My Big, Fat American Gypsy Wedding.”
Think of the Duggars, only with fist-fighting and sequins.
“Big Fat Wedding” is a fascinating look inside a culture in which girls are encouraged to marry as soon as possible, and do so in blingy, five-figure gowns that defy description.
The communities showcased are unapologetic in their emphasis that a gypsy woman’s sole calling is to be a homemaker while the men go to work, usually in some type of construction business.
To prevent any whiff of scandal, unmarried teen girls are monitored and chaperoned within an inch of their lives. Parents hold lavish, over-the-top parties for their daughters, to showcase them to possible mates—gypsy mates.
Courtships, which sometimes are arranged by parents and can include cousins, are lightning quick. Yet no episode seems complete without a brawl, usually among women who take issue with their children’s or other family members’ marrying nongypsies, who are called “gorgers.”
No expense is spared on gypsy bridal gowns, which are custom-made and so extravagant that most can’t fit through a standard door or inside a limousine.
TLC also recently added “Curvy Brides,” thus combining two of the topics that seem to consume most of the network’s airtime.
Not to be outdone, Bravo TV offers “Married At First Sight,” the premise of which is exactly as billed. A throwback to arranged marriages, the show bids us to watch and see what happens when attractive people swap vows with a complete stranger!
Then there’s VH1’s “Naked Dating.”
But that’s a whole other column.
Given that wedding preparation has all the elements—drama, costuming, staging—it was built for reality TV. But once the lights go dim and the production crews pack up and leave, taking the fame and notoriety with them, what happens to the marriages left in their wake?