In its continuing effort to clean up the Jay Leno spill on aisle 10, NBC has another new show - The Marriage Ref.
Because it's produced by Jerry Seinfeld, I decided it was worth a viewing or two. After the second episode I have mixed feelings. The premise has promise: married couples fight, Host Tom Papa and three celebrity panelists review the fight, and a winner is declared. Simple enough. But to fill the entire hour they've taken what could be a nice thirty minute show and crammed it with side gags that fall flat. For example, they have Natalie Morales from the Today show sitting on the sidelines with a computer feeding us fun facts about the topic at hand, and sports commentator Marv Albert doing over the top play by play recaps. They even had David Blaine sitting in a glass box. COME ON! That joke was so bad I don't even remember why he was in the box. Keep it simple and don't waste my time.
But looking past the gags, I actually had a few laughs. I enjoy watching couples I don't know argue. It's fun, and it helps me put my own spousal arguments into perspective. The biggest laughs of the night came from the panelists, Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey. Eva Longoria was there as well, but didn't add much to the proceedings. I think this reveals a possible pitfall - the panelist make or break the show. What happens when you can't get off-the-cuff pros like Seinfeld and Fey to provide the funny? You can't just bring in Tony Danza and pray for the best. You need seasoned comedic professionals.
This leads me to believe the show has a secret two-thirds rule: two of the three panelist are guaranteed funny, and one is a potential dud. Next week's panel, for example, includes Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ricky Gervais, creator of The Office and Extras, and Madonna, who has only made me laugh with
her arms. But I'll be back next week, if only to see David and Gervais. The week after that? We'll just have to wait and see.