The Marriage Ref: Reviews
"Who knew Seinfeld could be this unfunny?" critics ask after watching the premiere of The Marriage Ref on NBC.
They didn’t just hate it. They reaaaaally hated it.
US critics have been scathing in their opinions on Jerry Seinfeld’s new show The Marriage Ref, hosted by comedian Tom Papa.
NBC premiered the show on the back of the Olympics Closing Ceremony (in fact it even cut away from the event early to roll this one out) and scored a healthy 14.5m viewers as a result.
Seven has both the US rights and local format rights to this, which it said was a big crowd-pleaser at the MIPCOM sales-fest last year. It is already developing a local version, with names yet to be revealed. By the looks of the US series, which was supposed to help rescue Leno’s old timeslot, it may be wiser just to cross their fingers and run with a local version.
The weakest element – a poor throwback to “The Newlywed Game” – came when the couples bickered about the dispute for the camera, before giving way to host Tom Papa and a trio of “experts,” who would weigh in and take a side. Producer Jerry Seinfeld joined Baldwin and Kelly Ripa in this first airing, but it was the “30 Rock” star who stole every exchange, at one point quipping that a stuffed dog should at least be posed in a “useful or attractive position.” Granted, not all the garnishes in this marital version of “Judge Judy” worked equally well. Having sportscaster Marv Albert pop in to replay highlights seemed modestly inspired, but incorporating NBC News’ Natalie Morales to relate facts about the couples not only felt like gratuitous synergy but provided yet another reminder of the evaporated gap between news and infotainment, as if we needed another one.
The Huffington Post said:
How could a man as funny as Seinfeld produce such a remarkably unfunny show? With a little help from his friends, apparently. He recently told the New York Times that he hashed out some ideas for the show with buddy Marc Consuelos, Ripa’s husband and sometime actor. Must be ages since Jerry wandered New York with Larry David. Ideas, the comic told the Times, are “terrible obligations,” and he’d rather spend time with his kids. No crime there. But no joke either. Jerry Seinfeld already gave us the greatest sitcom in TV history. He owes us absolutely nothing, and delivers it in spades with The Marriage Ref.
It was, at least, an interesting object lesson in how TV works. It proved that, if you are Jerry Seinfeld, NBC will put any program you want on the air, and will give you no network notes. For the sake of my fond memories of the sitcom Seinfeld, I am going to make myself believe that Seinfeld knew this, and was deliberately punking the network. The big winner in all this: Jay Leno. The Marriage Ref may or may not give him a good lead-in on Thursday nights, but already The Jay Leno Show is looking better in comparison.
Baltimore Sun said:
As for the couples, one involved a man who wanted his pet dog of 14 years that had just died stuffed and placed in a grotto in the home. The woman hated the dog in life and was glad to see it die, she said. With the other couple, the husband wanted to install a stripper pole in the bedroom so his wife, a former dancer, could dance for him. She was not so inclined. Both couples were hamming it up for the cameras shamelessly when they talked about their differences. And they seemed more like not very imaginative people trying to be funny the way they thought celebrities were funny on TV than anyone you could be interested in. It was kind of pathetic. As for the celebrities, it was one of those shows that you could gauge how funny it wasn’t by how much the celebrities were over-laughjing. Who knew Seinfeld could be this un-funny and out of it as a producer?
NY Mag said:
It’s an interesting experiment in demographic combining — Ref gives us red-state, Wife Swap–ish reality-TV antics plus commentary from Hollywood’s liberal elite — but the fusion of the hacky, lamely edited video segments and hilarious booking of the smuggest-possible celebrities (Madonna, Larry David, and Ricky Gervais will sit on the same panel for an upcoming episode) seems guaranteed to turn off everybody. Including us! Last night the panel was way too amused with their own jokes (though Alec Baldwin was funny, as always), and we’re not sure how the disputes could possibly have seemed more contrived.
TV Squad said:
But the pilot made me want to see much more of the couples having their funny conflicts than the celebrities yukking it up over those conflicts. And that’s a problem. Yes, a half-hour show of people arguing over a stuffed dog or a stripper pole in the bedroom (the other argument that was mediated in the premiere… I’m guessing the hour-long episodes will contain four couples’ disputes) might get tired. But I quickly got sick of seeing the poorly-edited observations of Alec, Kelly, and Jerry; it just felt like they were all stretching to make lame jokes about these silly arguments. And the cutaways to see the panelists’ reactions to the couples and each others’ jokes was just painful to watch. The show somehow made three very funny people look unfunny and judgmental, and that’s a crime of comedy.