TV Review: “The Marriage Ref”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

Jerry Seinfeld’s latest TV venture, The Marriage Ref, debuted last night, and Dw. Dunphy is here to make the call.

I had a dream once. In it, I was in a place where everyone started speaking the wrong words, yet to them, it all made sense. I became angry and frustrated, wondering why they seemed like they understood their gibberish, when clearly they shouldn’t. I am reminded of this dream after watching NBC’s big new series, The Marriage Ref, produced by Jerry Seinfeld. Everybody seems to be having a grand old time, including the audience, and every now and then, you catch a glimpse of Seinfeld twisting into convulsions of laughter. I’m just getting angry because The Marriage Ref is the possibly the least funny thing I’ve seen on television in the last five years, and that includes Fox’s sitcom Til Death.

Admittedly, the deck was stacked against the show’s debut, which aired after the first leg of the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, not the least of which was that during the ceremony they trotted out giant inflatable beavers. Nothing Seinfeld or host Tom Papa could do would be that surreal. Second, I’m a single guy and there’s a good chance I just can’t relate to the squabbles of couplehood, which is the crux of the show. Couples present their argument before a panel of three celebrities, then Papa makes the final call on which member of the couple wins the argument.

So yes, I might not be able to relate to the two cases before the star-powered council this time out: First, whether the dead, stuffed pet dog stays out in the open or has to go; Second, whether a stripper pole should be installed in the bedroom. These are dilemmas that have plagued married folks for eons, after all. But even if the scenarios are foreign to me, they still couldn’t possibly elicit the laughter coming from the audience or the raucous physical reactions from the panel. Plus, every day Kelly Ripa becomes more and more like the dancing skeletons from the Silly Symphony cartoons, and if she truly busts a gut, it’s going to horrify. Someone feed her.

Of course, I know it’s not that funny and the soundtrack has been “augmented” — Papa’s understanding of humor rarely rises above herky jerky body movements and much camera mugging. It’s hard to get upset by the production attempting to foist this on anyone in hopes that the somber spectacle of Olympic glory would prime the pump, and the Pavlovian response of creating laughter upon hearing laughter would be enough to mask the inherent lack of comedy. They just didn’t count on one thing: Giant Friggin’ Inflatable Beavers. God bless our Northern hemisphere mates and their devotion to wood-eating rodents. They shall truly show us the way.

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