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Vow power

Author: Jane Southward and Rachel Browne
Date: 08/06/1996
Words: 600
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Television
Page: 8
TV's favourite shows are discovering that

to woo viewers and ratings, the best line is 'I do'

THERE is nothing like a wedding to haul in the viewers - and keep them there once the honeymoon is over. When Summer Bay's favourite son Shane (Dieter Brummer) took a trip down the aisle with Angel (Melissa George) last year, the soap scored its highest ratings for the year and the nuptials sparked a ratings revival for Home And Away.

"People dipped into the wedding episodes then stayed with the show," said Channel 7's head of drama, John Holmes. "One and a half years later the ratings are still very strong, so it was useful in that respect."

Perhaps the most fondly remembered nuptials in TV history were those of Vicky and Simon (Penny Cook and Grant Dodwell) on A Country Practice in 1984. The wedding episode drew a 44 per cent share of the audience and started a craze among bridal designers besieged by women demanding the same gown as Vicky's.

The marriage of doctors Terence Elliott and Alex Fraser (Shane Porteous and Di Smith) 1988 caused a similar sensation.

Channel 7's Adelaide studio was inundated with complaints when a blackout struck and viewers missed the episode.

Seven were forced to replay it the following night to help placate annoyed fans.

Then there were the nuptials of Scott and Charlene (Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue) in 1987 which brought Neighbours two million viewers nationally and caused a near-riot at a Sydney shopping centre, where they cut a symbolic wedding cake the following day.

And so it comes as no surprise that Australian TV is in for a run of weddings in the next few months. Channel Ten has caught the bug in particular.

In Neighbours, Joanna (Emma Harrison) and Rob (Graham Harvey) marry on June 21; Charlie (Matthew Fox) and Kirsten (Paula Devicq) almost make it to the altar in Party Of Five on June 23; and in Picket Fences, the final episode on June 25 will feature three weddings - Kenny and Max (Costas Mandylor and Lauren Holly), Carter and Sue (Kelly Connell and Sheila McCarthy) and Douglas and Myriam (Fyvush Finkell and Erica Yohn).

Next month in Melrose Place, Michael (Thomas Calabro) and Kimberly (Marcia Cross) remarry with Michael's ex-wife Sydney as matron of honour.

And later this year Dylan (Luke Perry) and Toni (Rebecca Gayheart) tie the knot in Beverly Hills 90210 and Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and David (Johnny Galecki) marry in Roseanne.

Even Seinfeld is not immune, with George (Jason Alexander) becoming engaged to Susan (Heidi Swedberg).

As Kristen Marlow, Channel 10's general manager for network programming, explained that while TV weddings almost always deliver higher ratings, their secondary purpose is to make fans feel warm and fuzzy about their favourite shows.

One thing's for sure, they never go off without a hitch.

Even Clark Kent (Dean Cain) was taken for a ride on his wedding day last month when the Lois Lane (Terri Hatcher) he thought he was marrying turned out to be a clone made by a mad scientist.

Viewers will have to stay tuned to see if Clark and the real Lois make it down the aisle later this year.

With wedding days being pivotal moments in real life, they work just as well in drama, says John Holmes.

"The shows which peak are about the life matters which people care about: births, deaths and marriages," he says.

Yet scriptwriters can't simply put an actor in a morning suit and an actress in a white frock to draw the audience, warns Holmes.

"I don't think we're cynical enough to say 'the ratings are flagging, let's have a wedding'," he says."You can't just dress actors in their wedding finery and expect people to tune in. The audiences have to know and love the characters first."

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