Shamelessly exploiting women at their most emotionally vulnerable and men at their most inconveniently clueless, “Don’t Tell the Bride” is just irritating enough to possess all the hallmarks of hit format. Following in the “Bridezillas” tradition, this U.K. import gives an overwhelmed groom £12,000 (about $20,000) to plan a wedding in four weeks, the condition being that his intended has no say in the matter. Tears and stupidity follow, all slightly undermined by an obvious question — namely, if the big day is so sacred to these gals, why leave it to the self-serving whims of reality TV producers?
The young couples, we are told, “agreed in the presence of a lawyer” to abide by the rules, which stipulate that the groom must pick out the venue, dress, etc., with no input from his soon-to-be wife. In the premiere, this yields a lot of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, while he tries to keep the budget down with suggestions — such as doing without linen or throwing a barbecue — that, if pursued, you pretty much know will get him killed.
Mostly, then, it’s a reality contest from the groom’s perspective. Yet because women are the most obvious audience, the producers keep cutting to the bride, fretting about the wedding she’s dreamt of potentially being ruined. Many will doubtless be sucked in by the drama when the first bride warns, “There could be tears,” but based on how contrived the concept is, it’s difficult not to think, “Well boo-hoo.” And when one bride’s mother talks about balancing “real world vs. perfect world,” that doesn’t quite compute, since the show is rooted squarely in the surreal world.
Each installment conveniently culminates with the wedding, though given the build-up, the actual event receives relatively short-shrift — the better to zero in on the grooms agonizing over how to allocate their precious funds. Wisely, the BBC has juggled the episode order to place what was the premiere — where the bride’s hysterical antics leave one inclined less to say “Congrats” than “Condolences” — later in the run. Of the three installments previewed, the most-laid-back couple already has a toddler together.
Ultimately, all the show really does given the couples’ willingness to transform their wedding vows into reality fodder is deliver another pretty good argument for gay marriage — although one suspects “Don’t Tell the Other Groom” would be fabulous, if not quite so fussy.