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If somebody offered me £12,000 for a wedding, I would be delighted. If the condition of this was that my fiancé had to arrange the whole event alone and that our special day would be filmed as part of a TV series, namely Don’t Tell The Bride, I might be less inclined to accept the offer. If £25 grand was on the cards but this was in return for sharing my wedding with an unknown couple and having to compromise on several aspects, right down to the dress, I would tell whoever suggested it they were mad.

It seems not everyone would take my stance, however, as this is the premise in Battle of the Brides, a new reality series currently airing on Sky Living. Two brides-to-be who have never met are offered £25,000 towards a shared wedding day, provided they can agree on whose dress they will both wear, whose transport they will both use, and whose theme and entertainment will shape the reception. Cue tears, tantrums and tension.

Call me old-fashioned, but surely the most important thing about a wedding is that it’s the day you commit to spending the rest of your life with the person you love? Yes, it would be fantastic if you could also afford to put on a gourmet banquet, arrive in style and wear the dress of your dreams, but these aspects often seem to overshadow the marriage itself in series such as Battle of the Brides. Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to have such wonderful things, I just wouldn’t want to broadcast my day to a percentage of the TV-watching public in order to get them.

In the event of ever getting married (not even remotely on the cards, by the way!), I’d really prefer that my husband-to-be and I planned the day together and took as much time as we needed, even if it did mean saving every penny for a few years. Perhaps I’m naïve about the financial realities of a wedding, but I also feel that in a time of economic difficulty for Britain, some of these programmes are causing engaged couples more stress than is necessary due to their desperation to tie the knot. If you love each other that much then why not wait – then you won’t have to share what you hoped would be a full on biker-themed wedding with someone who prefers a classy Caribbean twist.

As for Don’t Tell The Bride…well, I freely admit that I do tune in to watch it now and then. For some reason it doesn’t infuriate me as much as Battle of the Brides did, possibly because there’s not an underlying determination to eradicate someone else’s desired wedding theme. Nevertheless, it would take a lot of pre-briefing and nerves of steel before I ever let my hypothetical fiancé take the reins alone for planning our wedding…

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Matt Lowe, on location in Brum

April has been an incredibly busy month for me. In addition to my day-to-day work at a library, a production company and a theatre (yes, I currently have three jobs and rarely know if I’m coming or going!) I’ve also been involved with a storyline for Season 5 of PERSONA, the world’s first ongoing soap opera for smartphones.

PERSONA is free to download on both iTunes and the Android market, with a three-minute ‘appisode’ coming direct to your smartphone every day. As well as being an innovative concept that provides a great nugget of free daily entertainment, PERSONA offers aspiring writers and directors a chance to try their hand at creating some of the storylines in each season. My friend Matt applied to do this and a few short weeks later, Adam and Sarah’s Story was born.

Matt and I met at University several years ago and both studied the same Film and TV Masters course after completing our undergraduate degrees in History. When he asked me if I wanted to be involved in PERSONA, I immediately said yes. My main role has been to promote Adam and Sarah’s Story through social media and I was also a Production Assistant on the first day of the shoot last weekend. It’s been a brilliant experience, not only to work with Matt and other friends from the MA again, but also to work with a lovely cast and to delve briefly into the world of drama. Post-production is now underway and I can’t wait to see the ten completed scenes.

The purpose of today’s post is, I’ll admit, to ask you nicely to check out the Adam and Sarah’s Story blog I set up to chart our progress with the project. There’s information about the cast and crew, plenty of photos and even some hints of what’s in store for Adam and Sarah when their story hits smartphone screens later this year. If you’re looking for something new to fill a few minutes of your day, at no cost, PERSONA could be the answer.

Four Rooms

Meet the Dealers Behind the Doors

Four Rooms first aired on Channel 4 last summer and has returned for a second series this week. The format is vaguely reminiscent of Dragon’s Den, except objects rather than inventions are brought under the scrutiny of a quartet of dealers.  From Elvis’s golf buggy to a hangman’s noose, no item is too obscure to be showcased in the hope of making big money for its owner.  The inevitable catch? Each dealer makes an offer on the item in question, but this is only valid for as long as the owner of the artefact is in that dealer’s room.  If they exit without accepting the money, they cannot return and there is no way of knowing whether a more profitable offer will be made.

It’s an interesting study in tactical game play, on the part of the owners as much as the dealers.  Some people enter a dealer’s room with no obvious strategy and appear clueless of worth, whilst others gain an edge because they’ve done some research. Of course, there are also those who appear not to respect the dealers’ specialist knowledge and then lose out because greed gets the better of them.

Take the man in Series One who was offered over £1000 for a piece of tattooed human skin preserved in a jar. He hadn’t paid a penny for it, yet refused to accept this offer from dealer Emma Hawkins, despite the fact that her specialism is all things macabre. Each to their own, but a grand certainly sounds more appealing to me than a somewhat grim mantelpiece ornament…

Emma is not appearing in Series Two but has been replaced by another female dealer, Celia Sawyer. She joins Jeff, Gordon and Andrew from Series One and has already purchased a piece of artwork by Marlon Brando for £5000. Wednesday’s episode also featured a chair that J.K. Rowling sat on whilst writing her first Harry Potter novels, Francis Bacon’s paintbrushes, the original music score for Psycho, and an antique dildo. The chair failed to sell despite offers in excess of £50,000 whilst the stainless steel dildo was bought by Jeff for £1100.11 and a kiss, no tongues. All in day’s work!

Call the Midwife

It’s Sunday, so in addition to gearing up for the week ahead, I’m also looking forward to the next instalment of Call the Midwife on BBC1 this evening. Set in London’s East End in the 1950s, it follows the lives of young midwife Jenny Lee and her colleagues in nursing convent Nonnatus House.

There are some high-profile names in Call the Midwife, with Pam Ferris and Jenny Agutter playing two of the Sisters and Vanessa Redgrave narrating the series as Jenny Lee in later life. Miranda Hart appears as Nurse Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne, otherwise known as Chummy, and I have to say I actually prefer her in this role to her more slapstick character Miranda. She plays Chummy with the perfect blend of warmth, humour and vulnerability and her budding relationship with a local police officer is charming to watch.

Call the Midwife successfully balances amusing and heart-warming moments with incidents of sheer tragedy, without ever seeming far-fetched or melodramatic. This is possibly due to the fact that it’s based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the real Jenny Lee, who died last year aged 75. The joy of becoming parents is tempered by the very real issues of poverty, sickness and death and the series touches upon issues that are still pertinent in today’s society, such as the importance of good nursing care and the horrors of forced prostitution.

In spite of these hard-hitting doses of reality, it’s an enjoyable hour of television viewing and has, for me, sparked a genuine interest in reading Jennifer Worth’s original memoirs of the same title. After tonight there’s only one episode left, but a second series has been commissioned so I’ll look forward to plenty more smiles and tears in 2013.

The Lure of Wisteria Lane

Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle: the Desperate Housewives

I saw the first episode of Desperate Housewives completely by accident.  It was a Wednesday evening in January 2005 and there was nothing else decent on TV, so my Mum and I decided to watch the new ‘darkly comedic’ suburban drama on Channel 4.  My 16 year-old self was instantly hooked and shameful as it may be to admit, I’ve not missed a single episode.  The final season started last Sunday on E4 and although I’ve come to expect the ridiculous over these last seven years (has it really been that long?), I must admit that a twist in the episode’s last minute has restored some of my faith that season eight will be action-packed with intrigue, if not with realistic drama.

The Fairview ladies really have seen it all: suicide, a tornado, cancer, divorce, a plane crash, more divorce…there have been some gripping cliff-hangers despite the unlikelihood of these multiple calamities.  It surprises me how genuinely upset I feel that Lynette and Tom, who were the only original couple to still be happily married, are now separating, which is testament to the on-screen chemistry of the cast.  In fact, if the previews are anything to go by, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for any of the relationships I’ve watched develop for so long.  The body of Gaby’s abusive step-father is buried in the woods and weighing heavily over everyone, particularly Susan, who is not even attending Wisteria Lane’s weekly poker game.  Could a desperate need for absolution actually spell the end of the Housewives’ friendship?

I’m not generally one to make predictions, but I have a feeling a few familiar faces might return in this final season.  Could Orson or Zach be responsible for the anonymous note left in Bree’s mailbox?  And did Felicia Tilman definitely die in that car crash we saw coming at the end of season seven?  Hard to say, but as Mary Alice guides us through the ruthless suburban streets one last time, I’m sure secrets will surface that even my years of loyalty to Desperate Housewives haven’t prepared me for.  There aren’t many shows that manage to keep characters human and storylines enticing in spite of what is, to be brutally honest, sheer farce.  So, as long as the doom and gloom are tempered with a few humorous moments along the way and there are at least a couple of happy resolutions, I’ll stay on board for the last stage of the ride.