Weddings have long been a staple of femaletargeted cable networks, with series following every detail of the Big Day, from finding the gown (TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress), planning the reception (WE tv’s My Fair Wedding and Platinum Weddings) and competing for a dream honeymoon (TLC’s Four Weddings). But this wedding season, a number of series are turning the cameras to the drama that happens after a couple ties the knot.
The reasoning is partly that the for-better-for-worse evolution of a couple through a marriage is perfect fodder for reality TV programming that feeds on conflict. “It is rife with comedy and drama and everything that makes for interesting television,” says Shari Levine, senior VP of current production at Bravo Media.
That was the appeal of Bravo’s Newlyweds: The First Year, which premiered May 6 and follows four couples from their wedding day through an entire year of marriage; the couples were even given cameras to shoot their own footage when film crews were not around.
“It’s a deeper dive. It’s not about the glam of the wedding, it’s about what comes afterwards. It’s a much more textured storytelling,” Levine says. “It should appeal to the Bravo viewer, it should appeal to many viewers beyond that, though.”
Through four episodes, Newlyweds is averaging 1.1 million total viewers and has grown ratings in all key demos its last two episodes. That opportunity to appeal to a wider audience was cited as a reason for expanding the genre beyond the nuptials at other networks as well.
WE tv’s Marriage Boot Camp: Bridezillas follows five couples from four different seasons of the flagship Bridezillas tackling their marital problems; it’s the first spinoff of the franchise, now in its 10th and final season. Though WE tv kicked around other spinoff ideas in the past, the network didn’t find any concepts it thought could equal or build on Bridezillas’ viewership until the marriage-themed Boot Camp.
“Women are interested in watching other women get married. But not everybody is married, and relationships are something everybody has an interest in,” says Kim Martin, president and general manager of WE tv.
Marriage Boot Camp premiered May 31 and averaged 910,000 total viewers over its two telecasts, 310,000 more than watched its lead-in, Bridezillas. If the series continues to do well through its 10-episode season, WE tv sees an opportunity to build the show into a new franchise, adapting the format to other categories such as celebrities.
“We can now evolve the wedding space to cover the marriage category,” Martin says.
TLC, which has an entire night devoted to wedding programming year-round (Friday’s “BrideDay” primetime lineup), will take a detour this winter with 90 Days to Wed, which will follow prospective brides or grooms who come to the U.S. on a 90-day fiancé visa to live with their long-distance partner and decide whether to marry.
While the entry point on its other wedding shows— like the Say Yes franchise and Randy to the Rescue—is the bride’s fantasy, “We are more curious what goes on right before,” says Howard Lee, executive VP of production and development at TLC. “That’s an area that we don’t explore enough that we want to do more on.”
Because of its cross-appeal, 90 Days to Wed will likely not be scheduled on Fridays with the rest of TLC’s bridal programming, perhaps instead being paired with a show such as Sister Wives on Sundays. Like Martin, Lee agrees that relationships are a relatable topic for everyone, and he says TLC is looking at developing more shows about dating and life after marriage.
“I do think that some of this [additional] exploration of relationships will get not only females but men watching too,” Lee says.
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