'The Marriage Ref' recap: The fighting goes on too long

The half-hour premiere of The Marriage Ref last weekend was harmless, silly fun. The regular hour-long version that premiered last night was silly fun that grew more tedious as the minutes wore on. It was like being at a party that started off lively and amusing but went on way past the time when everyone should have put on their coats and gone home.

Guest judges Tina Fey and Eva Longoria Parker joined show co-creator Jerry Seinfeld with host Tom Papa. They grinned at footage of marital spats over the use of a “formal dining room” (the wife wants it untouched; the husband has the temerity to want to sit at the table on a day other than Thanksgiving) and over whether or not a hubby should be allowed to remove his wedding ring to play basketball (guess on which sides the couple lands on that one).

Like guests at that long party I mentioned, Fey, Parker, and Seinfeld grinned until their smiles looked frozen, and passed judgments without seeming to really care one way or the other. And why should they? Seinfeld had made a very funny appearance on David Letterman earlier in the week, and said he liked to compare The Marriage Ref to game shows from the 60s and 70s, in which celebrities engaged with each other in light banter.

But those game shows were only a half-hour each. And the banter last night was so light is evaporated as soon as it emerged from the charming judges’ mouths. We knew why Fey was there – she probably wanted us remember that 30 Rock is also on on Thursday nights, despite the fact that this week it was preempted for an hour-long Office. And she certainly wanted to plug her new movie with Steve Carell, Date NightThe Marriage Ref showed a clip from it, as though this was, you know, a talk show.

So Fey had some work to do, Parker is a relaxed good sport, Seinfeld is doing this for a lark, and Papa is there to introduce a mass audience to his sharp stand-up style. But there wasn’t much reason for the rest of us to be attending to The Marriage Ref, was there?

Part of it is comedy-exhaustion: After Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock, will you want to watch another NBC hour of giggle-inducement? I’ll be on the look-out for the edition in which Madonna will appear, because — well, because it’s Madonna on a game show. But will you keep watching The Marriage Ref?

Comments (123 total) Add your comment
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  • bunker

    I watched 5 minutes and turned it off.

    • This show blows

      I watched through the first couple when the host made his desicion, then concluded this show was horrible!!! Is there anyone more annoying than Tom Papa?? I wanted to punch that idiot square in the nose to wipe that smile off his smug face!

    • shilo

      great show…the hosts and judges came up with wity one lineers

    • shilo

      ah…come on archie

    • shilo

      common ground will keep people watching this show for years…everyone can relate to this program. i. e. the mars/venus syndrom

  • Toni

    Your review is spot-on..half hour-it’s cute, but an hour of it is just too long! I found myself catching up on mail, reading the paper, letting the dog out..by the end of it.

  • toni

    30 minutes version was cute, 60 minutes..just too long. I found myself catching up on mail, reading the paper, letting the dog out..not a good sign

  • Liz

    I made it through about five minutes and then put on my TV sleep timer so I could fall asleep to Marriage Ref. I found the show to be so fluffy and annoying I turned the TV off myself.

  • Mark

    Absolutely awwwful. I felt like Jerry Seinfeld had forced people to go on this show, calling in favors, etc. The first hour long episode was just AWFUL

  • Henry

    It’s weird, I actually enjoyed the hour show more than the half-hour… then again, I was watching it on the DVR so I fast-forwarded through much of the argument footage of the couples. To me, that’s the worst part. But I guess this episode resonated more with me than the last because the panelists were funnier.

  • keith

    I don’t get the point of this. Seinfeld gave us one of the great tv sitcoms of all time. And this is how he returns to tv? I haven’t watched it but I’m not interested. There is enough reality crap on tv as it is.

    • cndn610

      that’s exactly what I was thinking as I tried to watch it.

    • Maggie

      I think he hopes to just get it off the ground and then bow out for most of the episodes. Only good thing is watching the celebs all dressed up nice and being themselves rather than their character – even though I suspect most of the responses are scripted.

  • Kerry Lang

    My husband and I laughed out loud quite a few times……thought it was light and cute….better than watching people lose weight or people try to eat live bugs on an Island!

    • KimR

      I would ask if Ken is married. We thought it was funny. I can’t believe the ref didn’t see more of the wife’s side who has a “girl” for a husband. When it gets to the point you can’t do anything with the kids because you have to get waxed, something’s got to give! I enjoyed the panel as well. Can’t wait for next week.

      • Paula

        Thank you that was me!! and I’m glad you were on my side Paula Ramundo

      • pitt

        Totally agree, KimR. It was absolutely ridiculous that they could side with the “metrosexual” husband–the wife is totally in the right on that one!

      • renee

        That was the only part I didn’t like, your kids aren’t going to remember whether or not you were well groomed, they’ll remember if you were at their games or played with them or not

    • renee

      well said

  • pitt

    My husband and I thought the half hour show was funny, but both agreed the hour long show was too long. Two couples’ issues = amusing, but four couples was just overload. And Tina Fey, bless her, looked so uncomfortable most of the time.

  • Linda

    Agree. An hour of this is just way too much.

  • LNC

    Yea–the show got old too quickly. And is it just me or did Tina Fey seem like she got bored as the show went on? I don’t know–she just didn’t seem herself but I don’t blame her.

    • Sal

      Tina Fey > Marriage Ref

  • Rod

    I think the show is funny. I would make changes like this:
    1/2 hour only – make people want more
    Remove Marv Albert
    Remove the NBC today chick with the facts, Tom could provide these alone
    Have Alex Baldwin as a permanet host He is so funny much better last week.
    Rotate 1 chair with a women co host
    Rotate Jerry every 4 shows with a current in the news person.
    The big key here is to have interesting fights I mean come on flossing in the bed? No ref needed on that one.

    • KimR

      Totally agree about Marv & NBC chick. Kind of stupid.

    • What!?

      Marv Albert had me crying laughing, when he was calling that b-ball game. The first air ball “That was a riDICoulous move” I’m laughing right now remembering it, LOL. Good times…

  • amj

    I didn’t see the hour long. I watched the half hour and enjoyed it. I will however be looking out for the Madonna episode as well.

    • pop

      yeah! not only is it madonna, but its madonna sitting between ricky gervais and larry david!

  • paperweight

    show needs a tighter edit – 30 minutes would be perfect. it’s got throw back appeal and the concept works just lose some of the shlock ie fact checker, marv, etc. – and novel to see a listers, worth checking to see who jerry’s clout can deliver. does anyone if it’s taped weekly or is a season already ordered & in the can?

    • Ken

      Seinfeld said on Letterman that they filmed an episode last week.

  • Christine Chaos

    Both the half-hour and full-hour versions got tired really fast. It may have been a good idea on paper but in reality, it does not work. I agree with everything you wrote Ken.

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