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'Marriage Ref' is Light Fare ... but Fun

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NBC's new primetime reality show is smothered in sauce, low on any real meat -- but has the high fat we sometimes crave.

the marriage ref

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Okay, the critics hate it. But there's something refreshing about NBC's new reality show, "The Marriage Ref": It's a new format. With genius Jerry Seinfeld behind the show -- complete with his trademark ability to make six minutes of comedy out of a minute-long bit of life's banality --  this sitcom-meets-"America's Funniest Home Videos" could find an audience.

In the show's sneak-peek pilot, Seinfeld and a celebrity panel comprised of Alec Baldwin and Kelly Ripa analyzed two of the most bizarre couples' arguments ever to make it to national television: whether a man should keep his deceased dog after a "resurrection" at the taxidermist, and whether a long-married couple should install a stripper pole in their living room.

Audiences learned via host Tom Papa's opening monologue that this show is in no way intended to provide actual couples therapy; he advised viewers to stop looking for their soulmates and instead to find people they could sleep next to without throwing up. (With so much laughter, in fact, there's no way the show could ever deal with the sensitive trials that throw real couples on the rocks.)

The "American Idol"-style banter from the judges was given a whiff of credibility by the lovely Natalie Morales of NBC News, who spouted related statistics (such as, "One thousand Americans have had their pet stuffed" and "Stripper-pole exercise can burn many calories"). A weird appearance by the now-elderly sportscaster Marv Albert -- who gave a play-by-play of the couples' knockout punches -- was only interesting if you were old enough to remember Marv's own infamous sex scandal.

As a mom whose thoughts carry the daily burden of Haiti, kids' grades, Afghanistan and recession woes, I found "The Marriage Ref" to be a light respite. It's a chance to giggle at silly family problems that shouldn't ever be taken seriously, anyway. Still, Twitterhounds, bloggers and some real TV critics were clearly not blown away by the opening episode. But I'm a mother who loves to nurture and give my children a second chance to succeed, so I'll tune in again.

Plus, the revolving celebrity panel promises future appearances from Madonna, Larry David and Tiny Fey, among others. There could be some comedic jewels in upcoming episodes. I mean, who doesn't want to hear what the Material Girl has to say about marriage?

next: Suicide and the Children of Celebrities
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Cascia @ Healthy Moms March 1, 2010, 12:09 PM

That sounds like a fun show. I can always use some comedy to help relieve the stress in my life. I think I’ll try to watch it or DVR an episode. Have a terrific Monday!

Anonymous March 1, 2010, 5:26 PM

I’m still waiting for Alec Baldwin to leave the USA.

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