It's a strange feeling sitting down to watch a show with the knowledge that it has already been canceled. Almost subconsciously, I look for the little tell-tale signs that may explain its truncated existence. In the case of Wedding Band, which aired on TBS in late 2012, the signs aren't really all that subtle. The reason is obvious: the show's format simply doesn't work to its advantage.
Although the first (and only) season only has 10 episodes, each installment is an hour long, presenting a mix of comedy and drama that puts Wedding Crashers, Sex and the City (for dudes) and Glee in a blender and hits frappé. The results are occasionally effective but a vast majority of the time sitcom scenarios are stretched past their natural half-hour limits so that unnecessary tangents can be grafted on, watering down the laughs in the process. With that said, there is actually a lot to like here (especially the cast) and my attempt at Monday morning quarterbacking isn't meant to deter you from giving the series a fair shake.
The show revolves around a wedding band called Mother of the Bride. The band members include eternal bachelor Tommy (Brian Austin Green) on lead vocals, family man Eddie (Peter Cambor) on guitar, schlubby Jack Black wannabe Barry (Derek Miller) on drums and new guy Stevie (Harold Perrineau) who is tired of being a session musician for other bands and simply wants to belong somewhere. When they aren't busy playing a variety of events, the guys contend with the feisty and demanding event planner Roxie Rutherford (Melora Hardin) and her sweet-natured assistant Rachel (Jenny Wade). Eddie's wife Ingrid (Kathryn Fiore), a police detective, also frequently pops in to lay down the law, especially when Eddie and the guys are trying to pull a fast one.
Earlier I mentioned the show being a blend of a number of obvious influences so let's just take a look at how effectively they are integrated into Wedding Band's formula. First and foremost, this is a show with a decidedly masculine bent. Although there are plenty of elements present to draw in female viewers (like a predictable will they or won't they friendship between Tommy and Rachel), there is a distinct boys will be boys vibe that pervades the entire enterprise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it sets up certain expectations that the show tries to pay off with mixed results.
There is a smattering of raunch like in the pilot episode which sees Tommy deflating an ex-girlfriend's breast implant with a poorly aimed champagne cork or the one where Stevie can't get over the vigorous hand-job administered by his girlfriend. It's understandable that the show wouldn't want to play it safe but I kept getting the feeling that it was trying a little too hard to be edgy and cool. The same feeling of excess pops up when practically every episode contrives a way to get Tommy into bed with someone. Occasionally this serves the story but most of the time these scenes exist merely to remind us that Tommy is a ladies man (a fact we've already digested and accepted).
The show isn't just about guy talk and parading Tommy's conquests. It also finds time to grow a heart and have feelings and stuff. Besides the Tommy-Rachel relationship (complicated by her living, breathing fiancée), the show gets considerable mileage out of the conflicted ball of snarky energy that is Roxie Rutherford. Melora Hardin plays her with sass and cutting confidence but reveals her vulnerability in key moments that remind us this isn't a laugh-a-minute sitcom. Rachel also gains three dimensionality thanks to Jenny Wade's performance. On paper, Rachel is fairly flat but Wade imbues her with such sweetness that we start to look past just how underwritten her character is. After Reaper, The Good Guys and this, I can't wait for Wade to get a real break.
Everything I said for Wade is also true of the guys in the band. Barry is given the least to do but Derek Miller gives him a shaggy charm that works. Peter Cambor is similarly effective as Eddie although his mumbly delivery in a few scenes undercut a few gags. Harold Perrineau is a bit of a wild card here. He is the newest member of the band but also the most experienced overall (being a session musician). Perrineau captures Stevie's restrained professionalism and the way he starts to loosen up as he becomes part of the gang. This brings us to Brian Austin Green who plays the lead singer with good reason. He possesses a ton of leading-man charisma which the show milks as much as it can. Make no mistake, these are all stock characters. That doesn't change the fact that the cast members have wonderful chemistry and make the best of what they are given.
I got derailed there but getting back to the formula. The final piece is the musical component. Every episode features at least three songs being performed by the band. In many ways, these sequences are the best part of the show. The selection of songs contains old and new hits with every cover taking on an interesting twist (including a countrified I Will Survive and a version of Party Rock Anthem that goes heavy on the Sitar). Add to this the fact that the actors are actually singing and playing instruments (remember Brian Austin Green's rap career?) and you can see how the writing has to be really sharp to match up with the sheer exuberance of the musical scenes. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. There are a few late episodes that properly utilize the extended run time but far too often the padding becomes obvious as inertia sets in.
So there you have it. Wedding Band = Raunch + Sweetness + Music. It's not a bad formula and frankly it might have worked in a half-hour format. Some aggressive editing and tightening of focus could have made the laughs land just as hard as the entertaining musical sequences. As it stands, the show is a worthwhile diversion thanks to its capable cast and a judiciously selected group of guest stars (Ken Marino, Molly Sims, Megan Fox and others). Besides, where else are you going to find Brian Austin Green belting out Hollaback Girl?