Television review

‘Donnie Loves Jenny’ — and you’re invited

Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy bring viewers into their new life together on the A&E reality show “Donnie Loves Jenny.”
Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy bring viewers into their new life together on the A&E reality show “Donnie Loves Jenny.”

Yes, there is an eccentric TV-ready wedding planner named Shuki whose accent is impossibly thick and comic. “He’s brilliant,” says Jenny McCarthy on “Donnie Loves Jenny” as her August wedding day approaches, “if I can only understand what the hell he is saying.”

Yes, Ma makes a number of very special appearances, Ma being Alma, the feisty mother of the nine Wahlberg children and the good-luck charm for her eighth son, “Dawnie,” a.k.a. Donnie. A week before his wedding day, Donnie takes Ma on a hokey visit to a Dorchester beach for some reminiscing and teary bonding. “You have found the perfect match,” she tells him.

It’s awwww-some.


So is the number of times the people in the hourlong episode — including Jenny’s father, Donnie’s fellow New Kids on the Blockers, and Jenny’s son, Evan — say they love each other. It’s hard not to think the presence of the cameras isn’t making that happen at such a high rate.

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And so, yes, “Donnie Loves Jenny” is a reality show that delivers scenes that were clearly prefabricated, comments that were likely calculated for effect, and intimate moments that feel awkward because we are in the room. The Wahlbergs and McCarthy have reality-performance in their blood, and they know how to effortlessly turn their lives into something camera-friendly. I can’t imagine they need much coaching. The A&E show, which premieres with the wedding episode on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., right after the return of “Wahlburgers,” is as artificial as the rest of the celebreality genre.

And yet, I found the hour surprisingly endearing. Maybe it was when Evan, McCarthy’s 12-year-old autistic son, unexpectedly rose to make a speech at the reception. Maybe it was when the ebullient Donnie made sure Evan was with him and the New Kids while they were getting ready for the wedding in a hotel room. Maybe it was when, in a tête-à-tête, McCarthy’s mother told her, “You have taught me how to face my fear.”

Maybe it was when McCarthy said, “I really do,” during the vows.

Something genuine emanated from the hour, which didn’t bother including any of the requisite reality-argument clichés. There were no blowouts, no bitter feelings about who was or wasn’t invited. Everyone seemed to get along, and if some important characters — Donnie’s two sons, for example — weren’t much included in the show, so be it. Something real nonetheless seemed to break through the reality.


I probably won’t watch “Donnie Loves Jenny” again, as it will most likely give way to the more tedious conflicts and make-up sessions between Donnie and Jenny as they share their second time around. I am a fan of Wahlberg’s honest and naturalistic acting work on shows from “Boomtown” and “Band of Brothers” to “Blue Bloods,” and I prefer to see him in that context. I suspect only loyal Wahlberg watchers — notably the more than 3 million weekly viewers of “Wahlburgers” — will want to tune in. Them and Ma.

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Matthew Gilbert can be reached at