Shedding for the Wedding
Fat couples compete for their dream wedding.
Bridalplasty has gone off the air for the season, leaving a hole in the lives of a fraction of the populace. It being that Bridalplasty is an E! reality show on which brides-to-be compete for one lavish wedding and many cosmetic-surgery procedures, you would not be incorrect to interpret "leaving a hole in the lives of" to mean "having extracted the souls from." (To signal that a contestant had been dismissed, the graphics team on the show's Web site superimposed an illustration of a scalpel and an image of the word cut across her headshot, and so, as the season ground on, the losers piled up like so many unwanted skin lesions in a medical-waste disposal bucket.) But also, with Allyson (wish list: brow lift, breast lift, tummy tuck ...) having ultimately vanquished Janessa (redo bonding of teeth ...) to win a beachside ceremony in Malibu, there was, for a few edgy weeks, a notable void on premarital-makeover trash TV. Into the breach steps Shedding for the Wedding (the CW, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET).
It is, of course, common to embark on a prenuptial fitness regimen. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American bride and groom hope to drop 162.9 pounds, jointly, by somehow getting the mother of the bride off of their backs, but Shedding for the Wedding contestants bear the additional burden of being fat.
The series introduces us to nine betrothed couples ranging in physique from somewhat husky to quietly obese, and it introduces them to an entourage of dreamweavers and taskmasters ranging from barking personal trainers to bleating wedding planners. The couple that sheds the most weight will win the ceremony of its mediated dreams. Depicting their triumphs and setbacks with imperfect sincerity, smooshing together various reality-show formulae with an awkwardness that is at times touching, the series sheds light on a corner of the psyche where the princess-y obsessions of the wedding culture meets a mutation of the great American tradition of self-improvement.
My, how they cooed last week when told it was time for a consultation with a florist! After one couple, Valerie and Dave, got a load of the florist's vision, they recommitted themselves to earning victory. "It's almost become like a celebrity wedding, things you only see on TV," said he. Compare this with her words at the end of a recent weigh-in ceremony, when she was torn about derailing another couple's hopes by saddling them with the dreaded "one-pound penalty": "It sucks because I really want to win this so that we can have the wedding that we deserve." Here, glitter-blinded entitlement meets the Hobbesian state of nature.
Also, it meets the Protestant work ethic, couples counseling, game theory, and footage of tubby people taking pratfalls. Of course, it wouldn't quite be a reality show if the sin of morose delectation were not also in the mix. Unlike some reality competitions, Shedding for the Wedding treads gently in fabricating its villains. The willing viewer has already adjusted himself to the fact that he is watching, in a typical challenge, the teams ploddingly attempt to carry four-tier wedding cakes along a 12-furlong obstacle course—up stairs, over a hill, through a wading pool, and down an aisle to the finish line, while saying things like, "Do you know how hard it is not to eat this icing off my nose?"—and with this kind of production, which intends to be good-natured, it helps to be fond of most of the people losing some of their perilous dignity.
Obligingly, the contestants make themselves likable, with the notable exception of disobliging, slothful, self-pitying Taylor, who's always full of excuses about why she isn't keeping up with her food journal. It wasn't too morally taxing to watch the young lady dry heave into a bucket while exerting herself on a treadmill. Watching this, you receive the entertainment you deserve: a decent gag.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Still from Shedding for the Wedding by Scott Humbert/The CW © 2010 The CW Network. All rights reserved.