Grooms with a View: Dan and Gregg.
(Photo courtesy of Bravo)
As far as guilty pleasures go, mine don't get much guiltier than The Disney Channel's popular reality series Bug Juice -- a Real World for the summer camp set. No, there isn't some icky predatory priest thing going on here. I just find unrefined early teen angst, well-packaged by the production company Evolution, to be a refreshing and engaging change of pace from your typical television fare.
When I heard that gay-helmed Evolution was behind another reality project, Gay Weddings, for Bravo, I set my expectations particularly high. Surely the folks who could pique my interest so well with evocations of childhood summers past would shine with subject matter -- gay couples formalizing lifelong commitments through ceremony -- of exceptional relevance to the urban gay thirtysomething demographic in which I'm so deeply entrenched.
But then the first two episodes of Gay Weddings arrived for review, and reality -- if you'll pardon the expression -- began to set in.
Alas, Gay Weddings is not the stellar example of reality TV I'd hoped for. It has a cheap, thrown together on-the-fly feel that might lend an artsy edginess if that's what Gay Weddings was going for. But the show's producers make it clear that they have no such aspirations. They've forced a strict formula of interviews, scenic cutaways, and editing-for-dramatic-impact -- perfected on MTV's The Real World and executed with more flair by Evolution in Bug Juice -- on Gay Weddings when something much looser and organic would serve the topic better.
Over the course of eight half-hour installments (aired two at a time for four consecutive evenings), Gay Weddings follows the tribulations of four couples: Scott and Harley, bickering, perhaps-incompatible middle class strivers; Lupe and Sonja, affectionate women of color in a conservative suburban setting; Dan and Gregg, a Hollywood power couple with money to burn; and Dale and Eve, attractive urban hipsters without an air of butch to be discerned.
Everyone gets "equal time" to reflect their take on gay relationships and what their perfect weddings should entail. Disappointingly, the overarching theme initially seems to be a preoccupation with displays of material excess, causing inevitable strife that producers amplify to the hilt. Without an established norm to follow, other than the money-sucking straight marriage-industrial complex, you'd think that couples on a show like Gay Weddings could radiate joy in their relationships and futures instead of harping on the frustrations of what should be minor details in event planning.
Of course, conflict is the foundation on which the reality TV genre is built, since it's the element -- conventional wisdom dictates -- that racks up the ratings.
Or is it?
Could a sympathetic audience of gay and straight viewers, and even more generally curious onlookers, be drawn to Gay Weddings and stay engaged by well-adjusted couples free of neuroses and minor drama blown out of proportion by the show's producers? Unless Gay Weddings alters its course dramatically after its first night out, we'll never know. And we'll simply be left with a slice of gay life that's too hard to swallow.
Gay Weddings premieres on Bravo at 10 p.m. on Monday, September 2, and continues daily at 10 p.m. through Thursday, September 5. Visit www.bravotv.com.