On TV: Wedding Day

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Reality show creator-producer extraordinaire Mark Burnett is best known for social Darwinist reality franchises Survivor and The Apprentice, but he occasionally dabbles in less cutthroat programming, most recently the feel-good, feel-stupid Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? His new effort, Wedding Day, premiering tomorrow night on TNT, represents a new high (or low) for Burnett's less competitive endeavors. In trading immunity challenges and the boardroom for neutral color schemes and china patterns, Burnett has created a series so benign that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition feels edgy and tension-filled by comparison. MOVE! THAT! VEIL!

Each episode of Wedding Day makes the dreams of one deserving couple come true and the producers pulled no emotional punches in the first installment. Holli and Steve, an All-American couple, were set to wed last year, until (a few minor piano chords) Holli was in a car crash four days before the wedding. Steve spent the wedding day watching over his comatose would-be bride, and months later, TNT will give them a wedding that will ease the memory of 52 days of unconsciousness and extensive physical therapy.

Every wedding, style and makeover show (Wedding Day hybridizes all three) needs experts and/or gurus. The Ty Pennington and Paul DiMeo are Alana Dunn, celebrity event planner and food expert, and Diann Valentine, celebrity wedding producer and designer. Together, they use their low-energy charm to rally Holli & Steve's eager Michigan community to create a dream day. Unlike Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the Harlem Globetrotters and the cast of Wicked do not pitch in to make the centerpieces.

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Dunn leads the men as they makeover the church while the women gasp and coo at Diann's suggestions for a decadent reception (a candy bar AND a martini bar). After Holli describes her ideal wedding dress and shoes, Diann whisks her away to New York City. Holli giddily picks her gown heels and gasps that "the Manolo Blahniks and Badgely Mischka were a dream come true." I guess, once you accomplish the dream of waking up from a coma and learning to walk again, Carrie Bradshaw's fantasies are next on the list.

If you have seen any other wish-fulfillment shows and possess a vague understanding of product placement, you know where this is going. Nationwide Insurance swoops in with a life-changing gift and the DP brings out the soft filters to ensure that everything in the frame is appropriately tender as the wedding approaches without incident.

The promotional literature for Wedding Day describes TNT's "first-ever unscripted drama" as "everything a good drama should be, from the compelling and relatable people and stories to the climactic build to the big day." The problem is, all the drama is front-loaded into the set-up (woman in a coma, a nurse who cares A LOT) rather than the episode action. I hoped for misplaced rings, runaway brides, drunken toasts, backbiting bridesmaids, and even minor issues with the florist. Instead, Wedding Day plays like a less jazzy Today Show wedding segment or a higher production value version of Say Yes to the Dress or any of the other TLC wedding shows, albeit with less drama. Drama is TNT's alleged bread-and-butter, but it seems like Burnett & co. left that back in the jungle. RATING: 4.



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