DAVID definitely loves Kelly, he says. She’s “the girlfriend of choice”. Lucky girl. So he’s going to ask her to marry him, on stage at Ghost: The Musical. He picked that particular production because it was the only one that would allow it. He considered Hamlet – “Is that romantic?” – but probably decided that all that murder and incest would dampen the mood.
The Wedding Proposal followed a few guileless men and one woman as they staged public proposals. Some were more romantic than others. A love-struck Joe employed the services of a choir to propose to Daelee, a Canadian he met on holiday. A busker played their song on a London street while members of the choir posing as passers-by joined in. Joe proposed, Daelee said yes, and we all tried to bury our doubts when we learned that they’ve only met four times.
Steve asked Claire’s posh dad for her hand in marriage before putting the question to her. He felt pressure from both families, he said, and also pressure to “put her out of her misery”. Claire’s posh dad thought “she’ll make you a bloody good wife”.
Only Claire didn’t really seem like she’d make for a bloody good wife. The couple are keen skiers, and Steve took Claire up a snowy mountain in a helicopter to pop the question, packing a ring and a shovel. He’d rehearsed his sweet nothings very carefully, with key words and everything. These included “tough” and “downs”. Because their relationship has “had its ups and downs”. Claire wasn’t really listening. She barely noticed when he actually proposed and responded with an underwhelmed “OK then” before asking if she could have a different ring.
Romance doesn’t seem to play a role in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, which is back for another series. Brides-to-be talk animatedly about dresses and tans, not the realities of marriage. And who can blame them, when marriage brings with it a lifetime of cleaning a caravan?
The producers seem to have hit on a winning formula: the British public want to laugh at the excess and bad taste of this particular minority, which is in itself in pretty bad taste.
The programme focuses on the women in the travelling community, with most of the men’s faces pixelated out for reasons not explained to the viewer. But rather than take a sympathetic look at the plight of women in a culture where domestic violence is rife and young girls are often pulled out of school prematurely to help with household chores, the point of this programme is to laugh at their silly frocks.
They are overwhelmingly silly, of course. In episode one we met 21-year-old Dolores, who wore a neon flamenco dress styled to look like a palm tree for a party the night before her wedding. She couldn’t walk, sit or get it into her limousine. The following day her wedding dress was covered in crystal cats, as were her 13 wedding cakes, which were made of polystyrene. It was all monumentally tacky, but she liked it. What else matters?
There’s something very sneery in the tone of the voiceover. It is so neutral, so greasily earnest that, as it lays out the facts in an apparently non-judgemental tone, every stereotype about the travelling community is implied. All the while, the soundtrack brings to mind a circus sideshow. There is nothing new to see here, no new angle or insight. It’s just more ugly frocks which are only marginally uglier than the wedding dresses the rest of the country choose to get married in.
Jo Brand On Kissing turned out to be the most romantic programme I watched in Valentine’s week. Jo delved into the wonderful world of winching with her own unique Brand of humour, and we learned that when male bonobo monkeys are feeling worried they cup each others’ testicles. Awww.
Brand’s not keen on kissing of the air or the French variety, or indeed anything in between. Cue lots of funny japes as she tried to get to the bottom of why the rest of us are so taken with it. She went to an air-kissing class aimed at business people. She was worried about getting too close to them because she had a cold. “And herpes”.
We discovered that Bill Clinton used to tell his entourage that the more affectionate his greeting, the more he wanted them to get rid of that person. Brand had her own views on the kind of greeting Bill Clinton might prefer and decided to share it with viewers – much to the horror of the body language expert.
Soon a suave-looking man in a bow tie was poking her in the chops with cotton buds, to demonstrate how sensitive our lips are. It was rather sensual, actually. Better than a slurpy kiss, and definitely more romantic than being proposed to at Ghost: The Musical.
• The Wedding Proposal
Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm
• Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm
• Jo Brand On Kissing
BBC4, 9pm, Tuesday