The reality show followed Paige Burcham Carlton, owner of Joanne's Gowns in Union City, Tennessee, and her staff as they "turn every customer into a princess."
As day-in-the-life reality shows from The Osbournes to Kirstie Alley’s Big Life have demonstrated, vibrant characters can, for a time, prop up shows with an inherent lack of drama. But without star power, inherently fascinating subject matter, or a cast guaranteed to deliver synchronized tantrums, programs that rely less on artificial gimmicks and more on chance encounters don’t seem to fare all that well.
Case in point: Lifestyle’s latest all-too-real gambit Glamour Belles.
Set in Union, Tenn. at Joanne’s Gowns “the destination dress shop of the South,” as its brassy owner Paige Burcham Carlton describes it, the show chronicles the quest for the perfect evening wear for the area’s beauty pageant elite.
Joanne’s clientele includes regular customer Paige Roy, a Miss America and Miss USA also ran, who is positively desperate to find a suitable wedding reception gown. Given the guest list, mind you, this can be no ordinary frock. “A lot of those people being my former pageant people, I have to stand out,” Roy explains. “I have to look like a stunning star on the red carpet.”
So, Paige works her craft, asking her client for her vision of the as-yet-unseen-dress.
“I see a slit, maybe, a demure one,” Roy ventures, adding, “I see something that’s gonna keep the girls in while we’re dancing all night.” Yes, not exposing your breasts to your wedding guests does seem an important specification.
But fear not! Paige seems to have a few ideas in mind, and sends her staff to fetch three contenders. Roy dutifully tries them on before confirming her love for a $558 ivory number tricked out with pearls and crystals.
“She proved today to me, what a great friend she is, by giving me the perfect reception dress,” Roy says fighting back the tears.
And, well, that’s the end of the first bit: No haggling over the price, no What Not to Wear fashion advice, no Real Housewives-style cat fights over hurt feelings, and that’s a shame.
Though the glamour here is definitely more John Waters than Anna Wintour, and the characters all seem like they have potential--from Paige’s cranky mother, to the swishy store manager Paige refers to as “her gay husband,” to the domineering mothers of 8-year-old pageant hopefuls-- nothing they actually do while the cameras are rolling is of any real interest.
Try though they may, executive producers Matt Ostrom, Brian Flanagan and Laura Palumbo Johnson (New Jersey Couture) simply can’t wring enough personality out of the cast to make the show transcend the fact that shopping for dresses—even the over-the-top, tacky kind that pageant contestants favor—just isn’t really so interesting in and of itself.
If anything, the producers might consider using this scenario as the basis for a sit-com. That way, professional writers might give the characters plot lines and dialog that would be worthy of Glamour Belles’ rich subject matter. Who knows, maybe John Waters himself would offer to direct it.