I don’t think anyone’s sane any more. That is the reluctant, and more than slightly discomfiting, conclusion to which I was driven by The Wedding Coach. Possibly on a more optimistic day in a more optimistic time, I would have limited myself, comforted myself, by reckoning it to be merely non-Americans who are still burdened by sanity. But I have met too many British brides, seen too many other programmes about weddings elsewhere, to fool myself for long. No, we must face facts. Nobody is sane any more.
The eponymous coach is Jamie Lee. She is a comedian, actor and writer. One of her books was about her experiences planning her own wedding. This is enough, in an insane world, to qualify her for the role of coach, and to form the basis of an entire Netflix series.
The whole thing is so noisy and chaotic that those of a nervous disposition are advised not to approach it without sedatives working their way thoroughly through their systems. The basic setup is this: Lee and friend – a different comedian pal for each episode – attach themselves to a couple who are about to get married and are under stress, and purport to solve their problems.
In the opening episode, for example, we have Erin and Travis. Travis proposed while they were hiking through Yosemite by attaching a note to their dog’s collar that said “Marry Dad?”, but there’s nothing that can be done about that now. They are planning “an elegant outdoor wedding” at Travis’s mother’s house. It unfortunately has a picturesque stream running through the garden, which has allowed Erin to conceive of them arriving for the ceremony by canoe. They are also planning a variety of “bro games”, a fortune-teller tent, and an absinthe bar because of “Instagram pressure”.
“We’ve been told we have to entertain everyone,” says Travis. They are under so much stress, they have recently stopped having sex. Insert your own joke about good preparation for marriage here, please. I am too exhausted by the exercise in lemming-like idiocy to do it myself.
Lee bins half the “entertainments” – one of her handful of helpful moves in the series – and sends them to recover their genital mojo by handmaking wedding centrepieces at the worryingly named Bitter Root pottery studio. She doesn’t burn the canoe while they’re away, which seems an oversight.
They make it to the wedding undrowned, which becomes even more of a pity when the sense of foreboding that has been growing ever since the dog collar story is fulfilled … They have indeed written their own vows. Travis, apparently, is like a “very solid suitcase, and you know that you have everything wherever you’re going to go”. Let us draw a veil.
Every episode is conducted at a pitch and volume more suited to the third act of The Towering Inferno. It takes reality television’s ability to build non-problems into a drama (“She has what I call “Bride-solation!”) and then a crisis (“Between the spreadsheets, you gotta get between the bedsheets!”) to somewhere surely near its event horizon – though much as you long for the resultant implosion, it never comes.
Still, non-problems are better than the real ones Lee and her plus-one come up against. Deep and abiding family tensions, for example, between one bride’s father and stepfather (which of them should take part in the first, father-daughter dance representing the merest tip of this particular iceberg) are addressed by little more than Lee hugging poor Markesha and assuring her “I got you!” Actually, virtually no one’s got Markesha, who has been largely abandoned by her friends, including the ones supposed to do her hair and makeup and sing at the ceremony. Her bridesmaids turn up a bare 20 minutes before she’s supposed to head down the aisle, and one of them looks ready to kill. I want to uncover the rest of that iceberg, but alas it is not to be.
Of course common sense prevails at no point (beyond the binning of the bro games). Of course no one says, “You don’t have to have a father-daughter dance.” Of course no one says, “Disinvite the frat boyfriend who is odds on to ruin everything,” or, “It’s one day – buy a cake, invite some friends – who’ll actually turn up, Markesha – and a priest/shaman/canoe-caulker ordained by the internet and get it done.” That would destroy the whole purpose, however stupid and misdirected, of the thing.
But what’s left is an exercise in frustration. It’s too earnest about people’s Special Days, the comedic presences jar against rather than leaven the proceedings, and, oh God, it’s so loud. Did I mention how loud it was? Exhaustingly frenetic, charmless, and pointless. I suggest you turn down this proposal flat.