Pity the poor bridezilla. Inevitably, she has a mom-zilla passive-aggressively manipulating her, a wedding-planner-zilla pushing her into important dessert decisions, and a sommelier-zilla forcing Pinot Noir samples down her throat. And now this poor creature has producer-writer and hound-zilla David E. Kelley spying on her for predictable laughs, rancid melodrama, and, of course, leg shots, many, many leg shots.
Kelley's "The Wedding Bells," which premieres tonight at 9 on Ch annel 25, is set in the world of extravagant nuptials that cost as much as some people's lifelong savings. The extremely light dramedy revolves around a wedding company run by the three Bell sisters, who baby-sit all kinds of zillas through the angst of choosing the right lettuce. The Bells provide the sprawling mansion, a chef, a photographer, and a house band; the zillas show up with things old, new, borrowed, and blue, not to mention green.
Kelley has created a few strong series ("The Practice") and even more weak series ("Girls Club"). "The Wedding Bells" quickly falls into the latter camp, and not because it's an icky celebration of conspicuous consumption on the order of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16." It's a painfully lightweight collection of stock comic wedding situations -- a runaway bride, party crashers -- that Kelley could have written on his PDA at the gym. The characters exhibit no more than one or two traits: Jane (Teri Polo ) is the take-charge, unhappily married sister who flirts with the passionate chef. Sammy (Sarah Jones ) is the slutty single one. And Annie (KaDee Strickland ) is the cold one who still has feeling s for ex-boyfriend David (Michael Landes ), the photographer.
Everyone is bland, and their company wears thin before the first episode ends. They aren't cloying, or vain, or pretending to be stupid -- some of the more typically terminal qualities we often find in TV characters. And they are pretty, of course, this being Kelley-ville and all. But these people are bland, without the peculiarities that have given Kelley's better comedies, notably "Ally McBeal " and "Boston Legal ," style and drive. It's as if Kelley and co-executive producer Jason Katims (of "Friday Night Lights") forgot to engage their imaginations before moving forward with the project.
Kelley has enjoyed pushing viewers' buttons over the years, using his shows to play with race, religion, sex, gender, and body size like a kid making little explosions with a chemistry set. Particularly in his legal shows, Kelley has satirized sexual politics and racial oversensitivities, usually by taking them to extremes of absurdity. On "The Wedding Bells," Kelley tries to provoke here and there, but mindlessly, and usually just to add sex appeal -- a wedding dress that catches fire and must be torn off, for example, or a pair of cleavage-obsessed twins who are afraid of black people. Like everything else about "The Wedding Bells," even the exploitation is lazy.
Fox is premiering the series tonight after "American Idol," and so it will inevitably get off to a ratings-rich start. But "The Wedding Bells" is a Friday night series; it begins its regular time slot this Friday at 9. Expect to see a big drop-off, as viewers will probably refuse to accept this half hearted invitation.