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A Reality TV Wedding

I feel like I should apologize in advance for actually clapping eyes on the Trista and Ryan vows: I'm contributing to the ceaseless prattle surrounding this spectacle, and that realization makes me want to take a scalding shower until the shame is washed away. However, I did end up watching because the laundromat I was at had it on, and at some point I had to stop blowing quarters on Ms. Pac-Man and spend them on the dryers, and so there I was, twitching as I waited for the bride to walk down the aisle.

Prior to Wednesday night, I had nothing against Pachelbel's canon. I used to think it was a fine choice for the interlude before the bride's march down the aisle: as a child, a local rehab center used it as background music for their ads, and so I always associate the song with alcoholic excess -- appropriate enough for most wedding receptions and some marriages. However, after hearing a group of musicians play it interminably has permanently dulled my enthusiasm for that song.

Seeing the wedding permanently dulled my enthusiasm for pink. As Trista made her appearance, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a very expensive live-action Barbie commercial. It doesn't help that the bride looked like a Barbie doll: a team of experts had buffed and shined her until she fit into some commercial template for "attractive," thus rendering her devoid of anything resembling personality or style.

Don't get me wrong: I have no idea if Trista has any personality or style on an average day. My first exposure to her was during ABC's ill-conceived tie-in with the Miss America pageant, where Trista was supposed to be offering a just-folks commentary on the proceedings. If the people of America are a bland, inarticulate and opinion-free bunch, then she did just fine. Otherwise ...

In any event, the Trista doll was walked down the aisle toward the groom doll, through a series of camera shots that more or less broadcast the harsh truth that the groom's rank in this spectacle was somewhere below the bouquet but above the pink chair slipcovers. A ceremony that provided neither spiritual context nor secular sentiment concerning a serious commitment commenced. And then the two dolls kissed.

When my girlfriends and I played Barbie wedding as children, this would have been the point where GI Joe and his friends crashed the wedding and made off with the groom for an escape to the French foreign legion, or where the Darcy doll, who towered over Barbie at 12.5", came stomping in with Amazon fury and took down Barbie WWE-style. Sadly, neither scenario played out during the live-action equivalent.

ABC missed their opportunity there. It's been plainly obvious from the word go that this wedding was less about two people cleaving to one another and more about at least one of them cleaving to the public spotlight. Based on their previous wedding specials and a deluge of ancillary press I skimmed while waiting in line at the grocery store, the newlyweds more or less roped friends and family into playing preordained roles in a scripted made-for-TV drama. There was nothing authentic about this entire experience; it was manufactured for public attention and should have rewarded the public accordingly. Having something in the wedding go hideously wrong in some way would have been great TV: The Bachelor's entire premise is predicated on heavy scripting, as are television weddings. That script inevitably includes jilting, natural disasters, appalling gaucherie or assassination attempts. ABC peeled off from the script and left me wondering, "A year's relentless hype for this? FOX would have at least insisted that Evan Marriott and Paris Hilton crash the bridal party."

Events like this illustrate why ABC is getting waxed by the competition: they spend money stupidly. I'm not saying they should have chucked the $3.8 million dropped on this nuptial snoozfest at a deserving charity instead; that would have done nothing to increase their viewership, and ABC's in the business of making money, not improving the world. (Their programming alone should tell you that.) I'm saying ABC should have spent their money better. They should have remembered that this made-for-TV spectacle was made for a TV audience, not for Trista and Ryan, and that this wasn't about her dream (as she was so fond of reminding anyone who came within 50 feet), but our petty entertainment demands. What I saw this week wasn't a TV-worthy event but a very expensive, very Barbie home movie. If I want to see Barbie movies, I'll watch Todd Haynes' "The Karen Carpenter Story." And from now on, if I want to see TV weddings done right, I'll try to do my laundry when the TV's showing Style channel's Melrose Place reruns.


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