As the old and much-recorded song reminds us, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love/It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
And what the world is getting, is weddings. Close enough. It’s weddings galore and it’s a spring ritual on TV. Since television was a little box transmitting in grainy black and white, shows have featured weddings in spring, at the end of a TV season. And this year, as the whole world knows, there’s even a royal wedding to get giddy about, for those who are susceptible to giddiness about such things.
This is all good. A lot of television is simply a new way of doing ancient things in storytelling. The May Sweeps ratings period is no different. With the weddings, what’s conjured is the preliterate, primordial pattern of order and optimism being restored through spring’s regeneration and renewal. The sap is rising, so lets get hitched and have a passel of kids. Our emotional responses are programmed. We like renewal and rapture in spring, just as our ancestors did. Throw in a wedding that features a commoner (a “woman off the telly” as I heard a pundit say on Sky News in Britain recently) marrying a prince and by heavens a collective cultural fantasy is becoming reality.
What the world needs now is wedding fever. It’s a splendid distraction from what seems to be the rationality of recent history coming apart at the seams. And, yes, it can be considered a demeaning distraction at its core, the entire phenomenon of media-circus weddings, between real or fictional figures, amounting to an assertion that a woman’s most important achievements are attracting male attention and arranging a resulting marriage. But there is still the optimism part of it, the primordial hope of renewal, that people will get along, be supportive and love each other.
The marriage of Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) on The Big Bang Theory (Thursday, CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) is of more interest to me than the royal wedding. Talk about two oddballs. Amy Farrah-Fowler is the long-suffering girlfriend, a socially awkward science nerd, and Sheldon Cooper is an irascible man-boy, an arrogant scientist with little interest in emotion. You can make arguments about the evolution of the Amy character into a figure who sometimes appears ditzy, but there is still something poignant and gently humorous about the evolution of the relationship and its journey toward marriage. Frankly, after many starts and stops, it’s about time Sheldon made an honest woman of Amy. She is, after all, a Sheldon of sorts, only a more mature female version.
The wedding episode, which features cameos from Mark Hamill, Kathy Bates, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell and Wil Wheaton, is more than a programming gimmick. It fulfills a human need for optimism and renewal at this time of the year.
I will spare you much thought on the gormless movie Harry & Meghan; A Royal Romance, (Lifetime channel Sunday, 8 p.m., W Network Saturday, May 19), which stars Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley. Both appear to have been chosen for their resemblance to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, not their acting chops. Not that there’s much for them to work on. Vaguely unhappy people meet, there’s a spark and Harry ends up shouting, “She makes me happy so to hell with tradition!” That’s the gist.
The actual wedding, to be televised and much covered on May 19, with a myriad of associated TV specials, will probably be a lot more satisfying for those who swoon over such events.
There is some tackiness and silly contrivance surrounding the weddings and romance spread around the TV schedule during this May period (even Nature on PBS has specials about mating rituals), but dramatists going back to before Shakespeare have understood the appeal of ending a story with a wedding celebration in the spring. As do we, in the audience.
As for that Hal David/Burt Bacharach song, What the World Needs Now Is Love, the recorded versions are numerous.
But the most vital one was created by a DJ: What the World Needs Now is Love/Abraham, Martin and John, a version that included kids talking about bigotry and hatred, snippets of speeches by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. and bits of news coverage of their assassinations. It, too, was a hit and we could do with listening to it now.