Monday, March 1, 2010

TV Review: The Marriage Ref needs some tweaks

Danielle and her greasy husband argue their cases,
while The Fonz looks on in the background.

I have no idea how much Jerry Seinfeld has to do with The Marriage Ref, but the show would really benefit if it had a stronger editor. The show is constantly being billed as by him, and his idea, kind of, but it desperately needs to edit itself in several areas.

The premise is explained in an incredibly cheesy animated monologue, which is narrated by Seinfeld. He and his wife were having an argument, and he thought, "Hey, if only there was someone who could settle this for us after we each presented our case! And hey, what's the deal with airplane peanuts? And why did I date a 17-year-old when I was in my 30s?"

The animation is symbolic of a common problem with the show. Between that, exaggerated camera shots of people and celebrities laughing, and clearly canned studio audience applause, there is a ton of fluff that could be cut out completely. Host Tom Papa didn't really show me much in the initial episode either, mostly serving as a sort of Tom Bergeron who doesn't detract, as opposed to adding to the episode.

These aspects detract from the best two parts of the show - the couples themselves and the celebrities analyzing them. The first episode featured Danielle, who was not pleased that her husband wanted to keep a stuffed version of his dead dog, The Fonz, in their home. The second couple argued over the installation of a stripper pole in the house. Yes, it seemed a bit like an episode of Maury at times, but in a far classier, less trashier way.

The first episode featured a panel of Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin and Kelly Ripa. While Seinfeld was kind of meh, Baldwin and Ripa were both great, especially Ripa. She has so much sass and spunk, and it comes through tremendously in a show like this. Hopefully, she is on future episodes. Baldwin played his usual, 30 Rock-ish character, which was effective as a counterpoint to Ripa. Natalie Morales was also decent in the "fact checker" role, which will apparently rotate among NBC News / Infotainment staff.

I saw enough good in The Marriage Ref to give it a chance for a couple more episodes. However, without some better editing, I could definitely see it getting stale after a little while.

Grade: B-


  1. So I felt compelled to comment on this after I saw your B-. Now, as a social scientist I know it's not quite right to be comparing the grades of two hardly comparable things, but how could you possibly give this show the same grade as anything but the worst episode of Aqua Teen??? I caught the second half of this show, and it was abysmal. First of all, the premise is kind of idiotic. At least in "Rubberman" the concept of a duck made of condoms slapping around Meatwad was patently ridiculous. In the Marriage Ref, however, we have somehow decided that Jerry Seinfeld (married a 17-year old in his 30s and named one of his kids after Superman), Alec Baldwin (currently defining messy divorce and custody battle), and Kelly Ripa (okay, can't rip that one) should be acting as arbiters in a couple's disagreement.

    But I didn't hate the show because of some moral superiority over millionaire celebrities. First of all, Tom Papa was AWFUL. Was it in his contract that he had to laugh excessively loud at every celebrity joke? Because most of those jokes were kind of "I get it" funny, not "laugh out loud" funny. He added no value to the show, as you mentioned, and he was dressed like he was auditioning for a remake of The Loveboat. Second, the point of the show shouldn't have been to resolve stupid spats, but instead to decide who was the more awful/crazy person. For example, the first wife should have been a shoo-in for awful person when she said the day her husband's dog died was the best day in her life. The second couple were just kind of annoying; I think they would have tied for equally obnoxious. Finally, I just thought most of the celebrities jokes just weren't that funny (as I previously mentioned). Sometimes they were a bit clever, but they would be just as clever if they were discussing something that was a lot less annoying (basically anything in the world).

    My question for you is this: How would you rather spend your time? I would rather watch a) Star Trek reruns, b) any of Kristin's awful shows (One Tree Hill etc...), and c) anything else on my Tivo than this show. That doesn't tell the half of it, though. This show is going to occupy NBC's Thursday slot. Would you rather watch The Marriage Ref or any of a set of 30 Rock, The Office (even the recent mediocre episodes), Community, Parks and Rec, and the canceled My Name is Earl? I think the answer here is clear.

  2. Good review. spot on.

  3. Mike, thanks!

    Bob, you ignorant slut! ... wait no. Referring the grades, I do favor an approach like Ebert's, in which you compare shows to similar shows. If you're watching ATHF, you probably want to know how it compares to Archer and Adult Swim shows, not The Marriage Ref, which is more likely to be compared to something like Undercover Boss.

    Regarding the show's quality, meh, I didn't care so much about Seinfeld and Baldwin's horrible relationship backgrounds because they were humorous to me. (More Baldwin than Seinfeld.) Yeah, none of them are really qualified to judge these disputes - and hell Madonna is judging an upcoming episode somehow - but it is a cheesy fun kind of show anyway. We do agree that Papa is bad though; he reminds me of Joe Piscipo, minus the impersonations.

    I differ with you on your show preferences though! Hey, some episodes of the old Star Trek are plodding and bad; they're not all gold. And I'd much rather give The Marriage Ref a couple more chances than watching, say, One Tree Hill or Gilmore Girls. I didn't like My Name Is Earl, so no big loss there, and the other Thursday night shows are almost done with original episodes anyway, unfortunately.


Try not to be too much of an ass, unless completely necessary. You are subject to tyrannical moderation.


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