The first hourlong episode of the Jerry Seinfeld-created show The Marriage Ref ran last night with special guests Tina Fey and Eva Longoria, and boy, was that an endless 60 minutes. NBC aired a 30-minute long preview version of the show last Sunday, and Entertainment Weekly 's Ken Tucker thought that was a better fit for this format-the show runs videos of couples' spats, and then three celebrities comment on the fight before voting for the husband or the wife as the "right" one. I must disagree with Tucker. Regardless of length, the premise of the show is unappealing.
In the Nora Ephron book Heartburn (which, of course, is about a marriage falling apart) the heroine talks about how she loved the everydayness of being married-deciding what to eat for dinner and picking out socks and figuring out who's taking junior to day care. While this is certainly the stuff that good marriages are made of, its details are a snooze. Even the couple living through it sometimes finds it tedious and passionless to the point of being soul-killing, which can explain why some people have affairs (as it does in the book Heartburn ). To build a show around the quotidian arguments of "normal" couples, when I'm sure the couples themselves find an ongoing argument about flossing in bed boring, is a phenomenally bad idea.
As EW 's Tucker wrote, guest commentators Longoria and Fey, "passed judgments without seeming to really care one way or the other. And why should they?" The stakes are pretty low when you're deciding who's right in a fight over table settings. But the saddest part of The Marriage Ref is that it managed to suck the humor out of Tina Fey. One of the best parts of her comedic persona is what Fey calls her dash of "high-school bitchy." The Marriage Ref is not meant to be edgy, it's meant to be sweet, so Fey was effectively defanged. Watching her force laughs at Eva Longoria's lame jokes made that long hour almost unbearable.
Photograph of Tina Fey by Robyn Beck/AFP.
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.