Thursday, July 24, 2008

Say 'Yes' to the Show

Until very recently, my favorite television show set in a retail store was an old "Twilight Zone" episode in which a man somehow gets trapped in a department store after closing time. The lights go off—and the mannequins slowly come to life. Next morning, there was a new mannequin in the store. At the time, the show scared the daylights out of me, and I would hurry past mannequins lest they glance my way. Truth be told, they still give me the chills every now and then.

Apart from that "Twilight Zone" episode, TV shows set in retail stores have left me cold. I gave Unwrapping Macy’s (the 2006 reality show about working at Macy’s) a shot, but it came across as phony and overly staged. So it was with some trepidation that I decided to watch, on the advice of a friend, "Say Yes to the Dress," which is set inside the country’s most famous bridal salon: Kleinfeld, in Manhattan. I was hooked after one episode.

Unlike most other reality shows, this one actually lives up to its hype: It casts a spotlight onto the inner workings of the store. Part fashion show, part bridal drama and part family therapy, the show feels real as it details the many hurdles the sales associates face to make sure that each customer leaves 100% satisfied with regard to the dress she will wear on her big day. Given the demands of some of these customers, it is no easy job by any means.

More than the customers, however, it’s the sales associates and the store’s co-owners, Mara Urshel and Ronnie Rothstein, who fascinate me. I’m impressed with the respectful way they treat each customer—regardless of whether she has budgeted $5,000 or $50,000 for the dress—and one another (with some exceptions). That they all seem to love their job is a given.

During a summer when there is precious little to watch, I’m happy to report that "Say Yes to the Dress" is now back for its second season. You can catch it on the cable channel TLC, at 8 p.m. (7 Central) on Tuesdays.

—Marianne Wilson

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