Wedding-themed torture porn

What's it all about?

A worthy (read: likely to implode) couple are given $25,000 to stage their dream wedding, the only catch is the groom has to arrange it all on his own, in only three weeks. The promo promises $25,000 bucks nights and an aquarium with Elvis, and the sure knowledge that couples are about to be tortured.

Our view

Clearly this show is a good idea. It must be. After all the good folk at Nine are running the UK version on GO! and their cousins at Foxtel are doing the same on Lifestyle You ... unless of course they're all just trying to cut each other's grass, but that's not very likely ... is it?

Firstly, let's be clear. This is not a competition. There is no prize. There are no rivals - unless you count the hoped for bride versus groom stoush. It's just a couple getting a free wedding in return for it being televised and them being tortured.

The show is unabashedly manipulating a life milestone in people's lives to generate an hour of titillating television. We are meant to laugh at the boofhead groom and pity yet judge the self-torturing bridezilla. Above all, the audience are meant to feel superior. So take your seat on the throne of judgment, say the producers, and switch on this wedding-themed, PG-rated, torture-porn. There's even a blindfolded bride in each episode to target the 50 Shades of Grey market.

The thing is, it shouldn't feel SO manipulated. Aaron and Mel, our candidates in episode one, are a credit to the casting director. He is such a boofhead that he chooses a Hulk to represent himself on the bridal cake, she such a princess that he selects a Barbie doll. Like a Looney Tunes cartoon gone wrong, Aaron has two voices, one on either shoulder, but they're both devils. There's his mate Matt, the one-dimensional bad influence, then there's the disembodied judgmental voice of Kate Richie...

... Ahhh Kate, where are the Summer Bay script writers when you need them? We only see our host, really more of a presenter, at the beginning and end of the show as she delivers her highly scripted pieces to camera, yet she's wearing enough make up to front a Broadway production, while walking down steps of a random ye olde building.

In between, Kate has overdubbed some judgmental condescending commentary to make sure we know how much of a boofhead Aaron is. The thing is, if they were given enough oxygen this couple would have come to life. Aaron, the "shoemageddon" inventing, grey hair finding man who lets his dog rest his balls on his foot, is great talent. Mel is a self-confessed princess in pants, specifically the pants in the relationship. These two get along like snow at the beach and the show beats that drum. Lots. For a long time though they ignore the fact that Aaron is besotted with Mel, and she adores him. Yes, she's given a cringe-worthy moment of contemplation by the side of a random pond where you can almost hear the producer shouting "we are going to keep filming until you cry", but for the longest time it's not clear if Mel is crying because she had to leave him or because she had to leave him in charge.

While the show consists of Aaron bumbling from bad idea to worse and Mel taking a tour of her dream (and notably considerably more expensive) wedding choices, this feels like a poor pastiche of other wedding shows. The show comes alive when Aaron gets something right. The burlesque lesson and Mel's beaming response give the show some heart, and give the ensuing misstep of no more bridal shower planning more impact. Mel suddenly isn't a bridezilla, she's just genuinely disappointed. Suddenly we like her, so we care!

Once the show finds its heart it is exactly the fish-out-of-water wedding show it promises to be, delivering this insane $2 shop, Thredbo, private jet extravaganza that is as shocking as it is memorable.

If – and that's a sizeable if – you like the concept, then ultimately there's some rewards here, however there's tweaking to be done so it doesn't all feel quite so much like a game of "let's judge the silly poor people who want to get married while we torture them".

In a sentence: Weddings are already contrived, so when a bride and groom are so heavy-handedly manhandled through the three weeks of the lead up it feels like a comic strip. But when the artifice is peeled back to reveal some heart, it's hard not to be swept up in the romance.

Best bit: Aaron faces the utterly unforeseeable (ie completely predictable) prospect of his bride being stranded in Sydney when the weather ... at Thredbo ... in winter, doesn't allow for flying in. Only a little undermined by the quick fix of being allowed to spend his own money to upgrade to a jet. Aren't there rules about that?

Worst bit: Kate Richie's cameo appearances. The highly produced style and flowery language of the script is at odds with the rest of the show. Her narration also veers too hard to judgmental. Hard not to compare to Fifi Box on Four Weddings who balances wry observation with a genuine desire that it doesn't all go wrong.

How'd it rate?: 583,000 viewers to finish just outside the top 20 for the night.

 

Next episode: Monday August 27th, 7.30pm

Worth watching again? Perhaps just the second half.

Grade: C for car crash weddings are more fun when the cars aren't quite so rigged to fail

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