TV Preview of Reality Show 'Giuliana & Bill'

Giuliana and Bill Rancic climb into the gritty world of reality-show couples.
Giuliana and Bill Rancic climb into the gritty world of reality-show couples. (Style Network)
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By Emily Yahr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey to Jon and Kate Gosselin, it's no secret that the road of reality-show married couples is littered with tears, divorce papers and tabloid magazine covers triumphantly shouting "IT'S OVER!"

So with Wednesday night's premiere on the Style Network of "Giuliana & Bill," a docu-look at the newlywed lives of the gorgeous-like-Barbie-and-Ken-dolls Giuliana and Bill Rancic, there's one obvious question: Why?

"You guys seem like such a nice, happy couple. Why would you do a reality show and ruin everything?" says Giuliana, a Bethesda native and Walt Whitman High School graduate, echoing reporters from last week's Q&A session at the Television Critics Association press tour. She and her husband -- the first-season winner of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" -- are speaking on the phone from her Los Angeles office at E! networks, where she's an entertainment news anchor and red-carpet correspondent.

The pair have an answer down pat. "I think people have a perception of this reality-show curse. But reality shows just accelerate what is destined to happen," says Giuliana, 33, speaking with the authority of someone whose job is to Twitter about the marriage implosion of the aforementioned Jon and Kate. "If you're destined to break up, it will happen, just a few years earlier."

Bill, 38, chimes in. "We're going to keep it real," he says. "We're just ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. . . . We're as fascinated as the viewers."

Speaking of viewers leads to a second obvious, perhaps more pressing, question: How big an audience is there for yet another show about beautiful people going to beautiful places?

Back in 2007, 5 million people, perhaps longing to imagine their own weddings on the island of Capri, tuned in when the Style Network (owned by Comcast, as is E!), aired a one-hour special, "Married Away: Giuliana and Bill's Italian Wedding." The network subsequently approached the pair about doing a reality show and, after some hesitation, they agreed.

Though Giuliana (who is also known as Giuliana DePandi) says someone once told her she and Bill were like a modern-day Lucy and Desi, the back-and-forth between a sweet, quirky couple may not be enough to satisfy viewers of reality TV anymore. Especially those who watch to find out which deluded contestant on say, "Rock of Love," can out-crazy the last one.

"Giuliana & Bill" is much more tame, focusing on the couple's geographical issues. With Giuliana based permanently in Los Angeles for her job and Bill in Chicago -- post-Trump, he's a businessman and lecture-circuit speaker -- complications ensue. The two constantly travel back and forth, with trips to Giuliana's home town ("That's my hood!" she exclaims when hearing "Washington, D.C.") squeezed in.

It's not the most compelling television. For the romantics watching, there are plenty of typical cute-couple moments. ("Amazing what you can get in Chinatown for $9.95," Bill quips, as Giuliana shows off a Hermes scarf she made him buy when he lost a bet.) Still, the show can get tiresome, especially given the current economic climate, with lengthy scenes of the two shopping for thousands of dollars worth of furniture to fill a stunning Chicago brownstone.

Luckily for Giuliana and Bill, "Giuliana & Bill" won't be the cause of marital strife; frankly, not much drama occurs. As for viewers, well . . . not much drama occurs. But the likable pair also shouldn't be on tabloid covers anytime soon -- which, given this genre's history, is a victory in itself.

Giuliana & Bill (one hour) premieres Wednesday night at 9 on the Style Network.

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