Seinfeld's new show plays peacemaker in squabbles
By Gail Pennington
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
For nine seasons, Jerry Seinfeld played the ultimate bachelor on "Seinfeld." Now, he's all about marriage.
Wed 10 years, he and wife Jessica have three kids. Despite the eyebrow-raising way their relationship began (she was a newlywed, just back from her honeymoon, when they met at the gym), they're considered one of entertainment's most solid couples.
But they do argue — of course. And one of those "differences of opinion" inspired the new TV series "The Marriage Ref."
In the show, married couples are taped in their homes as they fight about a persistent issue. The fight is debated and analyzed by a celebrity panel in front of a studio audience. Then comedian Tom Papa — he's the titular marriage ref — decides who's right and who's wrong.
"It is a unique conglomeration of different things, some familiar, some not, but never brought together in this recipe before," Seinfeld said. "That's what we're really mostly excited about, that you're going to watch us and go, well, this feels unlike anything I've ever seen."
His wife was in the back of the room as Seinfeld explained how their own argument inspired the show.
"I can't even remember what it was (about), but it was one of those arguments where you just know this is going to go on all night," he said.
A friend who was there tried to leave, but Seinfeld decided she should act as arbiter.
"We're each just going to tell you our side of this issue," Seinfeld said he told her. "You decide who's right, who's wrong, binding. We will accept it, whatever you say. And we'll be done with this in five minutes."
They did, and they were.
"I believe I lost, but that's not the point," Seinfeld said. "The point is it was better because it was over."
The idea for the show was rattling around, "and I really was trying to dismiss it," until his wife persuaded him to do the show, Seinfeld said. He and Papa are joined by Ellen Rakieten, a longtime producer on "Oprah."
Seinfeld won't be a regular panelist, but he'll appear in Sunday night's preview. Others participating in the show include Kelly Ripa, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Matt Lauer, Cedric the Entertainer, Eva Longoria, Sarah Silverman, Charles Barkley, Matthew Broderick, Martin Short, Ricky Gervais and Larry David.
The winner on "The Marriage Ref" will get a prize, but that's not why couples would sign on, Papa said. The goal is "to end fights all around the country once and for all."
Seinfeld cautioned not to confuse that with marriage counseling
"We're not presuming to help these people," he said. "We're not going to fix your marriage."
Added Papa: "There's Dr. Phil and places you can go for that. This is all light and funny. This isn't fights about whether we should stay married or get divorced. It's all just silly."
Like the Seinfelds, Papa has been married for 10 years, and he finds that "if you laugh at all these crazy situations, you survive. And that's what this show's about: surviving."