Opinions and Rants #21: The Marriage Ref: Historically Bad

Do you remember "Loves Me, Loves Me Not"? Chances are you don't.

How about "The Montefuscos", "Mr. T and Tina", "No Time for Sergeant", "Wendy and Me", "Turnabout", "Sweepstakes", "Hot L Baltimore" and "Never Say Never"? Again, chances are, you do not. These were all actual television shows from the 60's and 70's that weren't particularly good, and were cancelled after a mercifully short run.

So, what makes something become "forgettable" versus an "epic failure"? The answer is: the bigger the gap between the input and output, the bigger the fail.  The input is the money, hype and big name celebs you put into a show. The output is the quality and financial success of a program.  Using this definition, I submit to you that "The Marriage Ref" is the worst television show in the history of television... and, no, I haven't forgotten about "Hello, Larry".

In the case of "The Marriage Ref" you have an unprecedented amount of hype. Not only does it mark Jerry Seinfeld's triumphant return to prime-time, but the commercials on NBC were incessant.... the show itself literally interrupted the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics! The exceptionally good ratings this year for the Olympics were completely squandered on this piece-o-shit.

The talent wasted on "The Marriage Ref' is epic: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Seinfeld, Larry David, Ricky Gervaise, etc. It's not unlike  Ishtar - a movie that was such an amazing waste of Beatty and Hoffman that it magnified its awfulness.

As to the show itself, the word "bad" simply doesn't cover it. Even the terms "awful" and "pathetic" fall short of describing the shite that is "The Marriage Ref".   I think this show is so unique in its awfulness that I'm going to have to invent a new word to capture it.  I was leaning toward "terrihorrible", but felt that this still didn't measure up, so I've decided on "ThereisnoGod".  Yes, this show is so horrible, it made me question the very existence of a higher power.


The very idea of the show is idiotic: (1) present a 2 minute clip of a married couple having issues over a trivial matter, like "my husband spends too much time grooming" and then (2) have the celeb panel crack wise about it.  WTF? How is this even a show? While I detest reality show crap like "Jersey Shore" and "The Bachelor", I can at least can grasp why they were made.  How "The Marriage Ref" even exists is beyond my understanding. 

I'm also pissed because I was looking forward to watching The Informant on DVD. Now it will be ruined because "The Marriage Ref" host, Tom Papa, is a character in the film, and that's all I will be able to think about. He's also in the upcoming Rob Zombie movie, El Superbeasto, which will also now be ruined.
I have many battle scars from TV failures of the past 40 years; I'm no noob when it comes to bad television. I was there when McLean Stevenson left M*A*S*H and starred in SIX, count 'em SIX, failed sitcoms. I was there when Chevy Chase tried to host a late night talk show.  I was there when Steven Bochco decided to make a musical cop show.  I was there for "Manimal", "The Ropers" and "Small Wonder".... and this beats them all.  "Marriage Ref", I hereby pronounce you "The Worst Television Show of All Time"! 

("whew" wiping sweat from brow. "I need a drink".)


  1. Hahaha!! Gilligan, my job permits me to work from home a couple days a week. Last week on one of my WFH days, I turned on Oprah & the show was devoted to Seinfeld pimpin' his new show "The Marriage Ref".

    I honestly didn't understand (and STILL don't) why Oprah was so giddy about this nonsense. They had on several of the couples, along with their issues--"my husband opens a jar of peanut butter before the old jar is empty; he drinks from the new juice while the old bottle still has juice on the bottom!"

    While everyone was laughing it up, & Oprah was "Hahaha, okay now these aren't REAL problems, just fun ones!!" I sat here in disbelief. I'd rather see NBC give Rosie O'Donnell another shot at one of her lame variety show specials.

  2. You Bloggers drive me crazy with all your PC, sugar coated "opinions," that you post, hoping to land a REAL job.

    Come on, MAN UP and tell us what you REALLY think . . . .

    I, fortunately, missed "Marriage Ref." I am finally at a stage in life where I can smell bad things coming a mile away.

    I have lived through, "hey, it can't be THAT bad," too many times (Oh, yes it can).

    I watched "Manimal", "The Ropers" and "Small Wonder" with mixed feelings. I actually liked "Mr. T and Tina" and "No Time for Sergeant[s]", but thankfully don't remember "Wendy and Me", "Turnabout" or "Sweepstakes."
    (Was that "SUPERMARKET Sweepstakes"? That one I do remember)

    And I LOVED "Hot L Baltimore" (1980s BTW) and wish they would release THAT on DVD. One of the most creative shows in TV history (small list I know).

    For some reason TV today seems to be run by executives who have no experience in the entertainment industry. Some number cruncher looked at "Marriage Ref," and the just saw the names associated with it. How else could this have been green lighted?

    It reminds me of that 1 shot "series" with the supermodel (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos I think) that was so hyped a few years back, aired once, and was yanked.

    Didn't anyone see this in the dayles?

  3. Well,you certainly reminded me that TV can really turn out some suckfests. While I vividly remember Pink Lady and Jeff (and I wish I couldn't), I'd forgotten about Mr. T and Tina.

    The 70's/80's brought such weird groupings of guest stars - Pink Lady and Greg Evigan? And what the heck would Hugh Hefner do on that show other than present his six playmates?

    And yes, those black kids in the Better Days ad look so incredibly "tough". Jeez.

  4. That Afterschool Special looks AWESOME! I love his hair. I do have to say, though, despite being the most non-punk person ever and about twenty years too young to have been one, even I know that's about "punk" as Avril Lavigne.

  5. I only watched the first 5 minutes of The Marriage Ref. I really was hoping it would break the reality TV mold, but sadly it was just another piece of pap like the rest of them. The biggest joke are the celebrity debaters...did you know Madonna is a future guest? Madonna! WTF. The queen of failed relationships is going to give marriage advice to common citizens!

    This concept was done before...it was called The Newlywed Game...and it was at least entertaining!

  6. Dack ThrombosisMarch 08, 2010

    That advert with Bernie Kopell, the one about having a punk kid, should be put on his tombstone. In fact, I support passing legislation requiring it.

  7. I remember all of those shows you mention except NEVER SAY NEVER. In fact, I quite enjoyed LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT with Susan Dey and Kenneth "Kip" Gilman who went on to Broadway and soap success. On the other hand, I am so out of the loop these days, I'm not familiar with this MARRIAGE REF of which you all speak. And from the sound of it...I'm cool with that.

  8. For many years, I was convinced that I had imagined "Pink Lady & Jeff", even though I remembered the show & that it was on NBC. I was only 4 or 5 when it was on, and as I got older, I thought there was no way in hell that show really existed. No TV network would have given the green light on something like that. It was just a figment of a child's active imagination....or so I thought! Then, about 10 years ago, I saw a show about bad TV shows and there it was! It really did exist!

  9. Sammy & SilviaApril 23, 2010

    Agree on all points that the show is horrible, as very well articulated and described herein. Of course also an embarrassment to anyone who understands comedy and is an avid Seinfeld fan from his infamous sitcom days.

    It begs the question how such brilliance ("best show on TV") can beget such awfulness ("ThereisnoGod" << quite funny by the way). The answer came from my beautiful and astute girlfriend who pointed out that this was the work of a woman ("men don't need to win in a fight, they actually don't care"). Hmmm, think about it! She also mentioned not being a traitor to her own kind but hey- everyone has their limits. The theory being then that the wife unit inspired the whole thing- not necessarily overtly- but through the normal give & take of a relationship that we're all well aware of.

    Anyhoo that's our theory for now-- Or maybe he's just lost it and is no longer master of his domain, who knows.

  10. I just thought of a way The Marriage Ref could be saved: celebrity contestants!

    There's no shortage of celebs whose marriages are in trouble. Sandra Bullock. Tiger Woods. Larry King. Let them get advice from The Marriage Ref!