The Marriage Ref TV Review – It’s Awful… Well, Not So Fast

Critics and the general public alike were quick to fire with both barrels at NBC‘s new show, The Marriage Ref , and most of the time with a good bit of inter-referencing. Several critics have mentioned the Twitter chatter taking place during the show, and by and large it wasn’t very positive.

A major helping of unhappiness seems to come from the feeling that the massive marketing push for the show has been outrageously misleading, and in a lot of ways it clearly has. Jerry Seinfeld, first off, is not The Marriage Ref, and the tweets over that particular nugget alone were legion. Worse, Jerry isn’t even on the show all the time.

What is perceived as a major switcheroo there got people vocal, but getting about equal time was the misunderstanding over what exactly goes on with this show. We know that married couples are having some manner of disagreement, and the marriage ref is going to give a verdict, but how that plays out isn’t what we thought at all. The marriage ref is helped out by three “experts,” but it turns out that we are defining “expert” as, “whatever celebrities we can get to come on the show.”

That obviously threw a lot of people for a loop, as the jeers and jibes rolled in on Alec Baldwin‘s ability to provide marital advice (or Madonna‘s for an upcoming episode). But, as fast as viewers could formulate their thoughts about Baldwin’s list of credentials as relationship guru, they figured out that the show needed no experts anyway. You thought the show was going to be about the squabbles and roadblocks of relationships that, even if they aren’t universal, at least have some universalness about them.

Our first episode introduced us to – A) the guy who wants a stripper pole in the bedroom vs. his wife who does not, and B) the guy who wants to have his dead dog stuffed and placed in a shrine he has built in the house for just this purpose vs. his wife who is not in favor of such a scheme.

There is a certain flavor of, “well, everybody goes through that,” the audience expected to face, which did not exactly come to fruition. Suddenly, it turned out that the show is not quite about helping people in their marriage in anything like the way expected, but on the plus side, you obviously don’t need relationship experts.

What viewers actually got was a show where somewhat odd people and their screwball points of contention get riffed on by celebrities for a while, leading up to the marriage ref coming to the conclusion that – Dude, your pissed off wife + stripper pole does not equal anything interesting anyway.

As critics mulled through the Twitter stream that followed this list of complaints, here came something you could really latch onto… It isn’t funny.

That’s a new sort of sticking point altogether, but it makes me wonder.

What we now for certain, and we should have known this going in, is that misleading and/or sufficiently vague promos are going to piss people off. Another thing we know is that pissed off people aren’t going to find your show funny. That’s just a fact of life, and a lot of negative reactions to the show need to be looked at with that in mind. A lot of critics and average viewers tuned into the show, and were immediately put in the frame of mind that “New Jerry Seinfeld Show – The Marriage Ref,” was basically just a wind up. The fact is that nothing that following that is funny… or particularly interesting, or whatever else you might be hoping for.

But, leaving “the trick” aside, is the show anything worth watching? Keep in mind as well, that while “funny” is probably the general aim, it isn’t a comedy. It has a few moments, but it isn’t necessarily hilarious, and isn’t quite meant to be.

At the end of the day, the real question has to be whether or not there is value in what the show actually is, and while what we might have been led to believe is going to factor into our reaction, it shouldn’t be the final judge.

The show is basically just a weird spin on a late night talk show. You have a host who is a comedian, and certain celebrities show up. Instead of talking about themselves, or what they have coming to a theater near you, we add an excuse for them to talk about something. Married couples who are not only out there enough to have some rather odd problem, but kooky enough to be willing to share that problem with America, lay out their respective sides of the story. Our host and guests bat around the issue for a few minutes, hopefully providing a few laughs, and ultimately some final word is thrown out.

In a nutshell, it’s an excuse to make fun of stupid people, but with kid gloves, celebrities, and prizes for the “not quite bright enough to avoid being on this show,” contestants. But, as I’ve said , making fun of stupid people turns out to be the vast majority of what’s on television, and this is a pretty harmless, if more straight-forward version.

It’s certainly not hilarious, or hasn’t been yet anyway, but there were some good moments in the first episode. I think the show could stand some tweaking, and I wonder to what extent it will be willing to adjust a few things, but overall it’s actually pretty entertaining, and has some interesting positives built into itself. I mean, who doesn’t want to find out what Madonna will be able to come up with?

My recommendation is to take a look at the show for what it is, and not for what so many are pissed off that it isn’t. It’s an odd entity, and one that probably deserves a bit more of a shot before so many are willing to trash it. Almost like some screwy Moral Court for couples, but with celebrities, whatever the show is, it isn’t really anything that’s been done before, and I think you should check it out with as little expectational baggage as possible. You might be surprised.

Are You Screening?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.
  • My one disagreement is that, yes, NBC intends on selling the viewer on this being a comedy program. That's why they're shoehorning it into their Thursday comedy listing.

  • outtapped

    Mmmhmm, still not sure how I feel about this. I have bigger expectations for their Guy Fieri game show coming out.I think it's called Minute to Win It

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.

Sign Up