Couples longing for a world in which minor domestic disputes could be solved with the clarity, finality and authority of a sports referee can thank Jerry Seinfeld for making their wish come true. Well, vicariously, at least.
Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref is, according to its creator, a new television experience that combines elements of sports, a reality show, a panel discussion, and of course, comedy.“After 10 years of marriage, I realized the comedic potential of [marriage disputes] is quite rich,” Seinfeld said.
The Marriage Ref’s design is novel, to say the least. The show pre-records a couple’s relatively minor marriage dispute. The recording is then played for a panel of celebrities, who analyze and argue about who’s right and who’s wrong. And just like a sports broadcast, the panelists use a telestrator and slow-motion replay to “prove” their points.
It’s also worth mentioning that the domestic problems covered by The Marriage Ref are not the ugly or violent incidents that might otherwise be called “marital disputes” by authorities or courts. These are pretty harmless problems in the grand scheme of things – like the one where spouses argue over whether to have their recently-departed dog stuffed.
Another of the show’s twists is that the panel is not made up of marriage counselors or therapists. Rather, it’s made up of celebrities who, no doubt, are there to add charisma and humor to the show. When asked why he’s not featuring experts on the show, Seinfeld unapologetically replied: “Because experts are helpful. And that’s not our thing. This is a comedy show.”
So that begs the question: as a comedy show, can The Marriage Ref provide some insight and help to arguing couples? The answer is a lukewarm: it’s possible.
While the show is clearly designed to be entertainment, there’s no reason why folks watching at home can’t relate to the themes (if not the specifics) of the arguments they see on TV, and perhaps find some levity in their own problems – thus making them easier to solve. In this way, The Marriage Ref could find its place among other television sitcoms that have are first and foremost about the laughs, yet still attempt, now and then, to convey a helpful, therapeutic message.
To this last point, Seinfeld boldly states that “Anyone who’s married, or was married, will be able to relate [to the show]. And it is very pro-marriage. The show ends in a way where you can see how we’re really rooting for them and want them to hang in there. And you can see that the fight was really just a passing moment in their life.”
The Marriage Ref airs Sunday at
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