The Marriage Ref: Whoever Wins, We Lose

There were a few moments during last night’s premiere of The Marriage Ref where I said to myself, “Okay. Alright. I can do this.” But by the time it was over all I could see was this dystopian 1984 nightmare in which the government hooked us all up to computers and pumped pre-approved entertainment directly into our brains. It consisted mostly of episodes of the The Marriage Ref and that song “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas.

The show takes couples who for some reason actually spend time arguing over the most over-the-top, ridiculous crap, then brings in a panel of celebrities to swap jokes and smug comments in an attempt to “debate” the pros and cons of each side of the argument. Host Tom Papa (the most advanced robot the Japanese have ever created) listens to both sides before deciding on a “winner.”

It isn’t the premise of the show that bothers me. In a world where reality television is just an unfortunate fact of life, I’ve come to expect shows that become more and more ridiculous every year. And hey, it’s Jerry Seinfeld, so how bad can it possibly be? Pretty bad, actually. Still, what bothers me most about The Marriage Ref is how prepackaged and fake the entire thing is. Almost everything that comes out of the participants’ mouths sounds like it spent a week in a writers room being put together, and the show is so heavily edited you can hear the cuts in the audience’s laughter from camera angle to camera angle.

Tom Papa’s (somewhere out there is a pornstar who’s just begging for a name like that) cutesy introductions to each couple just add to the overall smugness of the show. Some of that might be lessened if the jokes made at their expense weren’t so obvious and contrived, but as it is that’s not the case. The great thing is that NBC is so certain of what a hit they’ve got on their hands that they didn’t even bother sending out screeners before the premiere. Can you believe it’s that good? I’m not sure, but I think that’s how you spell “irony.”

I’m kind of amazed at some of the panelists they’ve been able to get for upcoming shows, including Tina Fey, Larry David and Ricky Gervais. Maybe they know something we don’t and the show is just going to unload a whole mess of comedy goodness on us in the next few weeks. I don’t think so, but you never know, I guess.


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