Monday 23 April 2018

Last night’s TV: Don’t Tell the Bride (BBC3)

It was a night for happy couples and their terrifying opposite, the couple at war says Diarmuid Doyle

On BBC3’s Don’t Tell The Bride (by a mile the tv highlight of the week), one man’s stupidity almost cost him a fiancée.

On Mi Na Mheala on TG4, two people from Derry recalled, for no apparent reason, their courtship, wedding day and honeymoon.

Meanwhile on RTE1, Mike Murphy and David McWilliams won the award for the night’s most convincing impression of a smug married couple. The Big Interview wasn’t so much an inquisition as a loving expression of mutual support. It doesn’t augur well for Murphy’s Bertie Ahern interview next week.

After three of these interviews, it’s hard to see the point of them. We learn very little about the interviewees, who are for the most part allowed to sit there and talk unchallenged about whatever they want.

Murphy looked as bewildered by what has happened to the country as most other people, and had clearly decided beforehand that McWilliams was some kind of guru, whose pronouncements were to be treated as commandments.

“David McWilliams, you’re always worth hearing”, he said at the end of 25 minutes which had mostly consisted of a McWilliams monologue..

The economist was challenged once, about a visit to his home made by former finance minister Brian Lenihan, during which he advised him to introduce the bank guarantee.

This Lenihan did, with the consequences we see all around us every day, but instead of quizzing McWillliams about his advice, Murphy obsessed about whether he should have publicised the visit.

McWilliams, for all his brilliance as a communicator, and his ability to be right more often than wrong, is one of the reasons we have the bank guarantee.

That Murphy showed no interest in pursuing this was a major failure on his part, a bit like neglecting to ask Bertie Ahern about his giveaway budgets.

We shall see next week how he fared with that challenge.

TG4 often gives the impression that it would make a programme about people’s memories of their bin collections, as long as they could articulate them in Irish.

Mi Na Mheala (which means month of the honey, or honeymoon) was as pointless as they come, featuring a trip down memory lane by Brian and Sinead Mullen, whose wedding day was much like anybody else’s but was deemed worthy of an entire 30 minute documentary by TG4.

Brian’s memories were entirely happy, but his wife felt compelled to repeat a story about a minor confusion at the altar over the rings. They both gave the impression that a successful marriage often depends on the careful preservation and agreed presentation of old grievances.

If that’s the case, Simon and Kaleigh, the English couple at the centre of Don’t Tell The Bride should have a happy future together.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, Don’t Tell The Bride gives an engaged couple a pile of money ($12,000 in this case) towards their wedding, as long as both agree that the man should do all the organising – from picking the dress to choosing the venue to deciding the guest list.

This is, of course, a recipe for complete disaster, and Simon quickly set about making a bonfire of Kaleigh’s dreams for her big day.

Like most brides, she wanted to be married amongst family and friends, but Simon thought Las Vegas would be a good idea.

While he and his best man wandered around Vegas looking at wedding chapels, Kaleigh (who had no idea where he was), was back home in England expressing her desire for a wedding that would be “sophisticated, sleek and modern.. no tack, nothing trashy”.

Her first inkling that selling her wedding to the BBC wasn’t her best idea ever came when she tried on the wedding dress Simon had ordered for her – a kind of cream-coloured straitjacket with frills. “This is a really bad choice - purely bad”, she said.

Simon was contacted by Kaleigh’s sister, a bridesmaid, and told to cough up for another dress, but there was nothing left in his budget for such frivolities. He paid for half of the new frock – her family chipped in for the other half.

The limited budget meant that Simon was forced to disinvite many of the guests. Kaleigh’s brother was axed; so was Simon’s sister. When she found out in the airport that she was expected to fly to Las Vegas to get married – without some of her closest family and friends - she had a meltdown.

“You’ve absolutely broken my heart”, she told Simon on the phone. “You’ve torn my family apart” .It was cliffhanging stuff. Would she travel to Vegas? Would she marry this lunatic if she did? Or would she kill him? And if she did, was there a jury in the whole of Nevada who would convict her?

In the end, she flew, she got married and had a good day. (Simon had abandoned the wedding chapel madness, and booked a nice ceremony at the Venetian Hotel).

“His heart was in the right place”, she acknowledged a few months later, looking back on her experience. Simon had dodged a bullet, but he’ll be hearing about it for many years to come.

If he can learn a few words of Irish, TG4 would like to talk to him.

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