Monday, March 1, 2010

A Few Quick Thoughts on The Marriage Ref

If you watched NBC at any point in the last month for at least 6 seconds then you know about their new show, "The Marriage Ref."

I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

For the few of you that hate the Olympics or don't own a television, the show is about a married couple split on a certain issue that is loosely affecting their relationship. A panel of 3 celebrities make quips about the situation before the "ref" steps in and makes his ruling. If that sounds needlessly complicated, it is. As well as stupid. Basically, the show allows celebrities to make fun of people.

I went into the show with low expectations (actually, I probably wouldn't have even saw the show if NBC hadn't inexplicably interrupt the closing ceremonies to run this half hour show). And while those expectations were certainly met, I'm not ready to completely give up on the show. I'm sure that moment will come sometime in the first five minutes of the second show, but for now, I can sense a slight rise of excitement somewhere in my cold, black heart (yes, it's mostly because of the fact that the promos showed Ricky Gervais will make an appearance, but still). Much like it's next to impossible to look away from a horrific accident, no matter how much your brain tells you its wrong to want to peek, The Wedding Ref has is has a strange attraction.

The format of the show is a little confusing as well. Apparently the celebrities crack wise for a couple minutes, and then offer an opinion on the marital strife, which is then taken into consideration by the "ref" (a guy who kinda keeps things moving on the show), who passes final judgement.

Yeah, the concept of the show maybe has one or two wrinkles to get ironed out.

Obviously, the decision the "ref" makes at the end of each scenario is inconsequential; the show is designed for celebrities to laugh at all us little people and make the viewer laugh along with them and feel high and mighty for 3-4 minutes. Whether that will catch on with America remains to be seen.

The first show boasted celebrity judges Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa and Jerry Seinfeld (who I believe is also an executive producer, so it makes sense for him to show up).

I will never hide my love for all things Alec Baldwin, so obviously I'm going to be biased when it comes to his performance on the show. So take the next few sentences with a grain of salt if you wish. But I believe Baldwin had the best lines, the best timing and was the loosest judge on the panel. In fact, of the three, I thought Seinfeld came off the worst. Never known for his acting, he still seemed stiff and uncomfortable in front of a studio audience. I was surprised actually that he came off so poorly, though I can see the strategy behind it. If he wants more A-list celebrities to commit to the show, he certainly can't overshadow them or make them look bad. Whether or not this was his plan, I have no idea.

Oh and let's not forget the appearance of Natalie Morales, sitting in as, uh...someone who sits in front of a computer and calls out stats. That NBC feels the need to belittle her news career in an attempt to legitimize this stupid show I'll never understand, but hey - who am I?

The "disputes" with the couples? Both felt extremely scripted and borderline absurd. The first dealt with a guy who stuffed his dead dog and wanted to display it in the home. His wife felt that was creepy. Never mind the fact she off handedly suggested the day the dog died was the "happiest day of her life." That was set up as a punchline and everyone laughed.

Ha ha my husband's dog died!

Everyone agreed a taxidermied dog in the house was crazy and so the wife "won." We were never told if she went on to become a serial killer.

In the second "dispute," the husband wanted to install a stripper pole in the house. The wife wanted nothing to do with it. Both Kelly and Baldwin agreed with the wife, Seinfeld, probably realizing total agreement makes lousy television, shoehorned a contrarian opinion in and sided with the husband. I guess his argument wasn't convincing enough for the ref, because he sided with the wife. So no stripper pole.

And that leads me into what is probably the biggest problem I see with The Wedding Ref. It wants to have its cake and eat it too by creating both hilarious situations for the celebrities to riff on, and hilarious quips for the celebrities to riff. And that won't work, because, seriously - who's going to side with a guy who wants his stuffed, dead dog in the living room, and a guy seriously arguing for a stripper pole to be installed in his bedroom? Sure, some guys probably have a secret, burning desire to have a stripper pole in their home, but also understand the wife might have an issue with it, and won't be surprised when it gets a negative reaction.

Making the problems the couples have a little greyer will create more disagreement with the judges, which will give them more of a chance to play off each other. And then give the ref's decision a little more drama and weight. Whether celebrity judges will want that (as it can certainly make the judges more vulnerable in certain instances) remains to be seen.

So, while I'll most likely watch at least the Ricky Gervais one, if they don't clean it up, I don't see it lasting. Even if it survives a few episodes, I have a feeling A-list celebrities will stop doing favors for Seinfeld, leading to the likes of Gilbert Godfried and David Spade doing celebrity duty. And while I would love it, I'm not sure that's what America wants to watch.

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