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Series debut: Jerry Seinfeld’s the Marriage Ref on NBC

In television on 03/01/2010 at 12:23 am

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the execs behind a new show called The Marriage Ref, which premieres on NBC on Sunday (Feb. 28) at 10:30 p.m. after the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies.

I’m not big on unscripted or non-fiction TV — this show has couples re-enact long-standing marital spats and has celebrities like Eva Longoria and Kelly Ripa listen and then weigh in — but this sounds kinda interesting. Fun, at least.

NBC, of course, is desperate for a little Seinfeld ratings magic. Let’s meet here after the show and see what we all think.

In the meantime, here’s this very nice New York Times tee-up, an interview with Seinfeld, who says he got the idea for the show when he and his wife began arguing in front of a guest and then begged her not to leave, but rather to help them settle the dispute.

“I lost, but it was great. It was over in five minutes.” Afterward, Seinfeld continued to the NYT, his wife turned to him and said: “That’s a TV show.”

We’ll be the judge of that Mrs. Seinfeld.

Update 11 p.m. Sunday: Well, I’ve just watched the Sunday-night premiere — a half-hour preview of the hour-long series to move to its permanent timeslot this week, Thursdays at 10 p.m. starting March 4.

It was fun. I’d watch it for an hour. For those who didn’t see it: Tom Papa, a comic who is uber familiar to Montrealers and fans of the Just for Laughs comedy fest, plays the host as a three-member celebrity panel (tonight it was Seinfeld, Kelly Ripa and Alec Baldwin) watch a video of a long-running dispute between a real husband and wife. The two disagreements this episode were a husband’s insistence that his beloved but belated dog Fonz be stuffed and placed in their living room; and that another wife should acquiesce to her husband’s request to allow a stripper pole in their bedroom and agree to dance for him on it. The celebrities watch the tape of the disputes and then weigh in. Some snarking, some acidity, some real funniness and, thankfully, it’s not mean-spirited. The celebs pick a side and then Papa, with the couples live via satellite, hear his decision. Last night, the couples’ took the decision well.At the end, both couples were awarded cruises for their willingness to play along.

The sweet trick is that, based on this preview, the disagreements are funny and outrageous and the couples are opinionated, but at least appear loving. This is not a Maury Povich slapdown-family-freak-show. And because the disagreements are so out there, a little snarkiness from the celebs is not only okay, it’s de rigueur.

Now this is  where you say what you thought. Was Mrs. Seinfeld correct in telling her husband this will be a hit?

— Denise Duguay

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