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.

Variety said:
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.

Time said:
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.

24 Responses

  1. The only reason this show can to my attention was Lauren Graham (now on Parenthood) was to be in an ep, as a panelist, but the taping of her ep was postponed. I’ll wait and see if it’s the first show for 2010 to be axed by NBC.

  2. Gee, everyone here is knocking Seinfeld. We can talk – Australia has some of the best comics in the world – Andrew O’Keefe, The 7pm Project Panel talking about embarrassing names – wheel out Wayne Kerr joke, Darryl Somers…should i keep going or should we just all stay very quiet.

  3. You know what, I actually found it entertaining and funny. While it isn’t something i’d tune in for a must see, it was definitely better than this normal sort of stuff. I would watch it, primarily for the celebrity guests who actually seem like they’ve got good ones.

    Alec Baldwin was by far the best on the panel of the first episode.

    I’ll definitely want to see the episode with the panel of larry david, madonna and ricky gervais.

  4. Can’t wait to see Ch7’s panel lines ups.

    “Next week: Maria Venutti, Glenn McGrath, Ray Meagher…and no Jerry Seinfeld! Hosted by David Koch this is one show you won’t want to miss.”

  5. As much as I liked the old Seinfeld sitcom, I’m hoping this is the first of many cracks to appear in the reality tv facade. Of course I have (had) my own guilty little reality tv secret in that I like Masterchef, but at least the people on that show bring some skill and talent to proceedings, even if the network overdramatises things. The notion of giving talentless and dysfunctional saps airtime for the sake of looking for cheap laughs and vicarious thrills can’t last – please don’t last!

  6. This show is the same as the one that somehow went for 8 seasons, & yet the characters were the most lamest & unfunniest ever. It was more dull, flat & very excruiating awful!!.

    Jerry Seinfield is one of the worst excuses of peolpe who claim that they’re funny comedians when they more likely to extremely irritating!.

  7. i just watched it all i can say is that americans like to tear down their tall poppies like we do, it was a bit fun we got a lot a laughs out of it, can’t and i mean can’t oh we can’t and can not wait for the next one (when you see the show you’ll get the can’t reference)a lot of critics have had humor bypasses anyway looking forward to the one with larry david in it.

  8. Whoa lets not go nuts Seinfeld was a huge part of the success of “Seinfeld” and his stand-up at his peak was funny stuff. I’ll agree his co-stars outshone him but he was still very funny in the show and wasn’t Mike from The Young Ones by a long way.

    Saying Seinfeld was all Larry David is akin to saying The Beatles were just John Lennon.

  9. While seinfeld is funny, however he has never been as big a comic genius as he’s gotten credit for. His stand up is ok, he was well known as someone who perfected his act, and then just toured and toured for years with it, rarely changing it.

    Everyone knew even during Seinfeld that Larry David was the genius. That’s why there was a big worry the show would suck once he left it. Some people say it did, as the show did become a little more absurd in those final two seasons, although I think it was an alright direction to head as it was more the show evolving than trying to do the same thing. It was still very funny, however they were in a position where they could hire the best writers in the world who by that stage would know the characters and the show extremely well.

    It does seem Jerrys now hungry for the spotlight again. I never saw Bee Movie but the 5 minutes i watched on foxtel one day didn’t impress my. Why were bee’s driving cars? They literally were driving a car. Then got out and flew away… Just seemed lazy. The way that horrible Shark Tale was lazy as it just put fish and stuff in a human world. They even had them drinking wine and coffee out of glasses and mugs… underwater… like how lazy is that? Much better films with animals like Nemo, Lion King didn’t need to resort to such cheapness. Anyways i’m getting off topic.

    This show sounds like a pretty bad idea. It seems more just Jerry Producing, trying to get things going than a Seinfeld show. So selling it as a Seinfeld show seems a bit.. Is he on it though??

    One thing though, that stuffed dog clip was funny!

  10. I’ve seen it, and it was dire. Like someone tried to get Real Housewives of Atlanta to have an IVF baby with Hollywood Squares. The only highlight was Alec Baldwin, who has cemented in my mind the fact that he is truly a comic talent in his own right, and not just a great actor on a sharply written show (30 Rock). Seinfeld kept pushing out uninspired observations. Papa is a great host, but he might have been better served on the panel.

  11. Ouch! I’m not one for reality or game show with the exception of Mythbusters and Top Gear but this sounded interesting.

    Maybe Seven with hold of on both the local and US versions until later in the year.

  12. Um… how exactly was Seinfeld ever “funny”? He may be a talented writer/producer, but he’s dreadful and monotonous as an actor/presenter. He’s in the same league as Ray Romano in that both are completely outshined by all of the other performers in their respective sitcoms. They’re both better off working behind the camera.

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