The half-hour premiere of The Marriage Ref last weekend was harmless, silly fun. The regular hour-long version that premiered last night was silly fun that grew more tedious as the minutes wore on. It was like being at a party that started off lively and amusing but went on way past the time when everyone should have put on their coats and gone home.
Guest judges Tina Fey and Eva Longoria Parker joined show co-creator Jerry Seinfeld with host Tom Papa. They grinned at footage of marital spats over the use of a “formal dining room” (the wife wants it untouched; the husband has the temerity to want to sit at the table on a day other than Thanksgiving) and over whether or not a hubby should be allowed to remove his wedding ring to play basketball (guess on which sides the couple lands on that one).
Like guests at that long party I mentioned, Fey, Parker, and Seinfeld grinned until their smiles looked frozen, and passed judgments without seeming to really care one way or the other. And why should they? Seinfeld had made a very funny appearance on David Letterman earlier in the week, and said he liked to compare The Marriage Ref to game shows from the 60s and 70s, in which celebrities engaged with each other in light banter.
But those game shows were only a half-hour each. And the banter last night was so light is evaporated as soon as it emerged from the charming judges’ mouths. We knew why Fey was there – she probably wanted us remember that 30 Rock is also on on Thursday nights, despite the fact that this week it was preempted for an hour-long Office. And she certainly wanted to plug her new movie with Steve Carell, Date Night – The Marriage Ref showed a clip from it, as though this was, you know, a talk show.
So Fey had some work to do, Parker is a relaxed good sport, Seinfeld is doing this for a lark, and Papa is there to introduce a mass audience to his sharp stand-up style. But there wasn’t much reason for the rest of us to be attending to The Marriage Ref, was there?
Part of it is comedy-exhaustion: After Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock, will you want to watch another NBC hour of giggle-inducement? I’ll be on the look-out for the edition in which Madonna will appear, because — well, because it’s Madonna on a game show. But will you keep watching The Marriage Ref?