Newlyweds: The First Year: TV Review
Executive producer and award-winning documentarian Lauren Lazin gives a stylish sheen to Bravo's sometimes-extreme emotions of early married life.
Bravo's docuseries Newlyweds: The First Year follows four diverse couples for a full 365 days, from their weddings through first anniversaries -- and infuses a little style into the proceedings (Emmy winner and Oscar-nominated documentarian Lauren Lazin is an executive producer). For full immersion, it also gives the couples their own cameras to document important moments when the professional crew is not around.
Newlyweds is neither overly hopeful nor bitterly cynical, though the couples are all made for drama: New Yorkers Kimberly Cherebin and Alaska Gedeon consider themselves a power couple: "Will Smith and Jada Pinkett are our idea power couple ... or the Obamas!" The two dated for six years before getting engaged, and though Kimberly is a bridezilla -- she demands her bridesmaids all lose 10 pounds or they will be cut from the wedding party -- the two do seem to understand each other well and have a sincere bond.
In Los Angeles, reserved Jeff Pedersen and his exuberant partner Blair Late (of the boy band B3), who have been together for a year, have a 16-year age gap to contend with and already were bickering over finances in the first episode. There also was some bickering in Long Island between Kathryn Bougadis and John Lagoudes (who dated six months before their wedding); Kathryn immediately complained about being driven crazy by John's penchant for making lists as well as his tightness with money.
Finally, in South Carolina, the emotional firecracker and exceptionally high-strung Bollywood star Tina Sugandh and the laid-back Tarz Ludwigsen (aka Dave -- "Tarz" is a name Tina gave him) ignite at every turn. "I like that she's a little crazy," Tarz says, but one gets a feeling that her antics may soon wear him down. Tarz also lacks the approval of Tina's father, a big source of stress in their relationship.
Newlyweds actually gives a sense of natural moments (like Jeff and Blair's difficult financial conversations) mixed in with staged ones, such as couples "waking up" together -- the women with full make-up on -- discussing key moments. What is most interesting, though, is how these couples will fare after the "magic" of the wedding is over. The show starts with a reminder of the divorce rate. Which, if any, of the couples will make it through the long haul? Promos tease plenty of tears, regardless, but even in the premiere episode, the couples are interesting enough to make viewers actually care how things might turn out.
Although they are from different backgrounds and different parts of the country (though all seem financially well-off), all of the couples deal with common themes present in nearly all marriages (issues with money, communication, sex). This commonality makes the show one that should resonate a little more than any of the cartoonish Real Housewife franchises, which is a surprising shift for Bravo, though Newlyweds still fits in with the cable network's love of a good squabble. It remains to be seen how real it all feels moving forward, but so far the series is something fresh and new. Hopefully this honeymoon lasts.