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The Runaway Bride Got it Right: Run, Don't Walk from FOX's "Wedding Bells"

Midseason replacements are generally speaking not the strongest of series: they didn't make it out of the gate with the other newbies, they're lagging behind, and usually the network doesn't have as much confidence in them to aggressively promote them when faced with strong competition. Sometimes, just sometimes, there's a pearl among the swine (I'm thinking of The Office for example), but that's a rarity rather than a rule.

So it's hardly a surprise that FOX's new midseason series The Wedding Bells is more of the weak variety than the Next Big Thing. What's ironic (like rain on a wedding day) is that the series, such a throwback to the cheesefests of 1980s-era Aaron Spelling, is that it's written by and executive produced by David E. Kelley, who has in the past brought us some truly original series (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal) and some duds (Girls Club). Sorry Kelley fans, but it's more along the lines of so-bad-FOX-yanked-it-two-seconds-after-launching-it Girls Club than anything else. Shudder.

The premise is simple enough: three sisters (the Bells, natch) run a family-owned wedding chapel called the Wedding Palace, inherited when their parents divorced (warning sign #1!). The Bells--icy Jane (Teri Polo), pragmatic Annie (KaDee Strickland), and lascivious Sammy (Sarah Jones)--now run the place and their mission is to make their bridal clients as perfectly happy as possible on their wedding days. They have some help in the men of the Wedding Palace: photographer David (Love Soup's Michael Landes) who has an uncanny knack for talking down potential runaway brides and who happens to be Annie's ex; charmed-if-wounded wedding singer Ralph (Chris Williams); and flirtatious chef Ernesto (Costas Mandylor), who despite being Greek puts on what must be the very worst Italian accent in primetime history. Naturally, he can't help himself but flirt with married Jane, while her dull accountant husband Russell (Benjamin King) looks on jealously. (Yawn.)

In the pilot episode, the Bells have to contend with two weddings that are rife with problems: they've got a runaway bride who can't keep it together (Lucky Louie's Pamela Adlon) who leaves her poor finance standing at the altar not once but twice and whose incessant shrieking made me want to hurl my television out the window. The Bells also have to contend with a Bridezilla in haughty Amanda (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Missi Pyle) who is prone to referring to people eerily as "Mr. Photographer" or "Wedding Planner." It's odd to say the least. She also offers proclamations like "this hand is for matrimony." Oh, and did I mention that her viper-like mother is played by Delta Burke, who says things like "I'm an acquired taste" over and over again and tries to bribe the minister into slipping "Jesus Christ" into the ceremony twice?

There's a lot of hand-wringing, longing glances, bad bridal behavior, and below stairs chatter (not to mention every single song ever recorded about or mentioning marriage) to fill an entire series of Oxygen docusoaps. But what isn't here are engaging characters, snappy dialogue, or anything resembling reality. Wedding Bells is an over the top, cartoonish soap that seems to be jarringly out of touch with the current decade. All I needed for the bad 80s flashback to be complete was for someone (anyone) to end up falling into the pool, preferably in a wedding dress. Alas, in the series opener at least, my hopes for that were dashed.

FOX seems to want to give The Wedding Bells a fighting chance and is launching it post-American Idol for a "sneak peek" this week before it settles into its regular berth on Fridays. While it may garner a few curiosity-seekers tomorrow night, it will be interesting to see if the series can sustain itself without a juggernaut like Idol as a lead-in. If it can't, expect that the big event the sisters (and David E. Kelley) are planning for will be cancellation.

"The Wedding Bells" premieres Wednesday night at 9 pm on FOX.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Dateline (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC); American Idol (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search of the Next Doll (CW); Primetime (ABC); House (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: 48 Hours Mystery (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: American Idol.

Tonight, the top 8 male contestants perform for their chance at pop credibility and probable future anonymity.

8 pm: Gilmore Girls.

I've given up on this once-great drama, but for the few of you out there still watching, here's what's going on. On tonight's episode ("Gilmore Girls Only"), Lorelai, Rory, and Emily go all Ya-Ya on us and take a road trip to North Carolina for a wedding, while back at home Lane goes into labor. I'd say it was laborious still watching this series, only now I'm not.

9 pm: Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll.

What am I? A glutton for punishment? (Apparently.) I'll give this show one shot to win me over after cruelly snatching away the timeslot from Televisionary fave Veronica Mars. On tonight's premiere episode, 18 wannabes audition for the chance to become one of the Pussycat Dolls and fade into obscurity forever!


Anonymous said…
Pussycat Dolls? Are you serious?!?

What happened to all our talk at the TCA? You disappoint me! :)

re: Wedding Bells. No real surprise considering how long this has been in development. There's a reason it hasn't made it on the schedule till now.
Jace Lacob said…

I've not forgotten the conversation we had at the TCA, but I want to see what a glorious trainwreck it will end up being. In all honesty, I am sure I'll only be able to make it through a few minutes without vomiting in rage.
Anonymous said…
ok, then. I guess I can allow it. But only if you produce proof of said rage vomit. A picture will suffice.
I've never been a huge David E. Kelley fan (aside from Ally McBeal) but this is really a new low for him. As you said, it definitely has a "dated" feel to it and, while the premise is kind of "cute," the storylines and characters lack originality (and dignity, for the most part). It took me half the episode to realize that was Teri Polo. What did they do to her? I know she's supposed to be conservative but she looks 10 years older and is sporting a soccer mom haircut. Ouch.
Anonymous said…
Televisionary! You disappoint me by watching Pussycat Dolls! Even with all the vomiting in the first episode, its still a sight (and ear) for sore eyes. I've seen the first episode and I think they should have run a meter for how many times they play "Don't Cha!" The song is practically on loop!

Wedding Bells looks stupid.

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