The Marriage Ref (U.S. TV series)

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The Marriage Ref
The Marriage Ref.jpg
Genre Reality, Panel game
Presented by Tom Papa
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 20 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Jerry Seinfeld
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Columbus 81 Productions
Universal Media Studios
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network NBC
Picture format 720p (HDTV)
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original release February 28, 2010 (2010-02-28) – August 14, 2011 (2011-08-14)

The Marriage Ref is a TV reality show and panel game hosted by comedian Tom Papa and produced by Jerry Seinfeld, in which a rotating group of celebrities decides the winners of real-life marital disputes. The show premiered on NBC on Sunday, February 28, 2010[1] on the final night of the Olympics before moving to Thursdays.[2] The show's second season debuted on June 26, 2011.[3]

On May 13, 2012, NBC cancelled the series after two seasons.[4]


The premise of the show involves real-life couples who have been having an ongoing argument. In season one, a video clip was shown to a three-member celebrity panel depicting both sides of a dispute. The celebrities made humorous observations, deliberated the merits and voted on who should win the debate. Though the Marriage Ref (Papa) took their votes into consideration, he was free to make his own decision about who was right.

In addition to the celebrity panel, season one featured a fact checker who could provide additional information to aid in the decision making. Today correspondents Natalie Morales and Maria Menounos and MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski filled this role.

Changes have been announced for season two.[5][6] In these episodes, couples will appear live in studio, and at the end of each show, the studio audience will vote on which of the night's three winners is "The Rightest." The winner will receive $25,000 and a billboard in their hometown declaring that they are right.

Reviewers have described the show as a renewal of the panel game format popular in classic American television.[7][8]


The Marriage Ref was originally scheduled to premiere Sunday, March 14 at 8 pm, as the lead-in to The Celebrity Apprentice.[9] NBC greenlighted the show "within minutes" of Seinfeld pitching the concept.[10] However, as a result of The Jay Leno Show being cancelled, the premiere was moved up to Thursday, March 4 at 10 pm, as one of its replacement shows.[2]

The executive producers of The Marriage Ref are Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Rakieten, Nick Emerson, Jennifer O'Connell, and Al Berman.[11] Seinfeld selected comedian Tom Papa, his longtime warm-up act, to serve as the show's host and referee.[11] The program is produced by Seinfeld's company, Columbus 81 Productions.[11] Endemol provides services of international distribution of The Marriage Ref.[11] Central Talent Booking manages the composition of each show's celebrity panel.[12]


Season 1 (2010)[edit]

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 "Preview" Beth McCarthy-Miller Jeff Cesario, Chuck Martin, and Tom Papa February 28, 2010 (2010-02-28)
Celebrity Panel: Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, Jerry Seinfeld
2 "Episode Two" Beth McCarthy-Miller Jeff Cesario, Chuck Martin, and Tom Papa March 4, 2010 (2010-03-04)
Celebrity Panel: Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Eva Longoria
3 "Episode Three" TBA TBA March 11, 2010 (2010-03-11)
Celebrity Panel: Larry David, Madonna, Ricky Gervais
4 "Episode Four" TBA TBA March 18, 2010 (2010-03-18)
Celebrity Panel: Cedric the Entertainer, Martha Stewart, Jason Alexander
5 "Episode Five" TBA TBA March 25, 2010 (2010-03-25)
Celebrity Panel: Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, Jerry Seinfeld
6 "Episode Six" TBA TBA April 1, 2010 (2010-04-01)
Celebrity Panel: Kirstie Alley, Jimmy Fallon, Sheryl Crow
7 "Episode Seven" TBA TBA April 8, 2010 (2010-04-08)
Celebrity Panel: Nathan Lane, Kathy Griffin, Tracy Morgan
8 "Episode Eight" TBA TBA April 22, 2010 (2010-04-22)
Celebrity Panel: Donald Trump, Gloria Estefan, Adam Carolla
9 "Episode Nine" TBA TBA April 29, 2010 (2010-04-29)
Celebrity Panel: Martin Short, Sarah Silverman, Matthew Broderick
10 "Episode Ten" TBA TBA May 6, 2010 (2010-05-06)
Celebrity Panel: Jerry Seinfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Greg Giraldo
11 "Episode Eleven" TBA TBA May 13, 2010 (2010-05-13)
Celebrity Panel: Howie Mandel, Bette Midler, Craig Robinson
12 "Episode Twelve" TBA TBA May 20, 2010 (2010-05-20)
Celebrity Panel: Demi Moore, Jim Breuer, Kelly Ripa

Season 2 (2011)[edit]

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date
13 "Episode 13" TBA TBA June 26, 2011 (2011-06-26)
Celebrity Panel:Jerry Seinfeld, Julianne Moore, Ricky Gervais
14 "Episode 14" TBA TBA July 3, 2011 (2011-07-03)
15 "Episode 15" TBA TBA July 10, 2011 (2011-07-10)
16 "Episode 16" TBA TBA July 17, 2011 (2011-07-17)
17 "Episode 17" TBA TBA July 24, 2011 (2011-07-24)
18 "Episode 18" TBA TBA July 31, 2011 (2011-07-31)
19 "Episode 19" TBA TBA August 7, 2011 (2011-08-07)
20 "Episode 20" TBA TBA August 14, 2011 (2011-08-14)

Critical reception[edit]


The Marriage Ref received an overwhelmingly negative reception from television critics.[13][14][15][16] It currently receives a 41 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 11 reviews.[14] According to the news agency, Reuters, the television program received "scathing reviews".[15] An analysis of reviews in The Guardian noted that The Marriage Ref, "has been so thoroughly panned by critics its future looks in doubt even before it begins."[16] A review of the program on National Public Radio called the television show "painfully bad"; the reviewer commented, "I was optimistic that I'd be writing something of the 'Don't assume this show is terrible' variety. But it's ... terrible."[17] The newspaper The Star Ledger described it as "heinous", and called it an "ugly, unfunny, patronizing mess".[15][18] The New York Times called the show "funny, despite a cheesy game show premise".[19] A review by Entertainment Weekly called the program "silly fun", and commented, "The Marriage Ref exists to permit the celebrity judges to comment amusingly on the cases to be adjudicated."[20] An analysis in Variety magazine characterized the program as "a breezy, inexpensive approach to comedy that brought to mind the panel shows of yesteryear".[21] The Wall Street Journal characterized the show as a "panel" form of game show, commenting, "The concept is essentially a re-jiggering of a genre staple of television's halcyon days: the 'panel' game show".[22]

A commentary on the show in Time magazine commented that The Marriage Ref was "the most God-awful mishmash of a comedy-variety show".[15][23] Time gave it an F, as did The A.V. Club who noted how confused the premise of the show is claiming that the pilot "safely toe[s] the line between all of [its] options and never commit[s] to one of them."[24] A reviewer for commented, "The Marriage Ref may be the worst television I've seen in awhile [sic]."[25] The review concluded that the program was an "atrocity" and, "a pathetic half-hour that's edited to hell, results in meaningless resolutions, features the worst animated intro of all-time, and is just plain uncomfortable to watch".[25]

"Who knew Seinfeld could be this unfunny?", commented a review in The Baltimore Sun; the review stated that the program was not worthy of its Thursday slot or daytime syndication.[16] The Huffington Post asked a similar question, "How could a man as funny as Seinfeld produce such a remarkably unfunny show?"[26] The website Gawker mused as to whether "Jerry Seinfeld's new show almost cancels out Seinfeld",[16][27] and IGN wrote, "The Marriage Ref just felt utterly dead on arrival."[28] New York Magazine characterized The Marriage Ref as "kinda terrible".[29] An analysis of the show in The Hartford Courant wrote, "What do you do if you've managed to pull your network up from fourth place after two weeks of highly-rated Olympic Winter games? If you're NBC, you squander it immediately on an unfunny little thing called 'The Marriage Ref.'"[30] The review concluded that "absolutely nothing funny happened", and called the show "about as wrongheaded an offering to prime time as, well, anything on NBC these days"[30]


In the ratings, the program's debut performed worse than the CBS Network television reality show Undercover Boss even with the Olympics closing lead-in.[31] The pre-empting and tape delay of the remainder of the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony after late local news in order to broadcast the premiere of The Marriage Ref was immediately criticized by viewers over social networking websites such as Twitter.[32][33] The week after its debut, The Marriage Ref dropped to number three in the ratings;[34] losing to the CBS program The Mentalist and the ABC Network program Private Practice.[35][36] The program had been in first place in its first week, but fell 21 percent in the ratings in its second week.[34][35][37] The program saw steady ratings decline with each episode since its debut.[38] The first showing of The Marriage Ref had 14 million viewers,[39] and by the fourth full episode the number of viewers had declined to 6.5 million.[40] As of the fourth episode, the program had "posted its lowest rating to date", with a rating of 2.5/7.[41] In the program's sixth broadcast, the April 8, 2010 edition of The Marriage Ref hit a season low with a rating of 2.1,[42][43] just three days after it had been renewed for a second season.

The show's second season premiere had ratings 20% lower than the first season premiere, at a 1.6.[44]

International versions[edit]

Country Title Host Network Date aired
Arab League Arab World [45] قاضي الغـرام
Qadi El Gharam
Moustafa Shaban Abu Dhabi TV September 20, 2010 – December 13, 2010
 Argentina [46] El referí del matrimonio Gabriel Corrado Telefe December 13, 2010-March 2011
 Russia [47] Семейный приговор
Semyeinyi prigovor
Gennady Khazanov TV3 February 2011
 Serbia [48] Bračni sudija Sanja Marinković Pink September 21, 2011
 United Kingdom [49] The Marriage Ref Dermot O'Leary ITV June 18, 2011


  1. ^ "Seinfeld's "Marriage Ref" worth a few giggles". Reuters. 2010-03-03. 
  2. ^ a b "NBC's post-'Leno' schedule revealed". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  3. ^ "Man Blames Marriage Ref for His Divorce; Seinfeld Responds: "I Love It!" - Today's News: Our Take". 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  4. ^ "'Fear Factor,' 'Minute to Win It,' Who Do You Think You Are?' and 'The Sing Off' All Canceled by NBC". TV by the Numbers. 2012-05-13. 
  5. ^ "'Marriage Ref' Host Tom Papa Previews Big Changes, Celebrity Guests for Season 2". TV Squad. 
  6. ^ "'The Marriage Ref' Tom Papa riffs". Scripps Howard News Service. 
  7. ^ Lowry, Brian (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref". Variety magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  8. ^ Simmons, Chris (March 1, 2010). "Jerry Seinfeld's "The Marriage Ref" Debuts on NBC". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  9. ^ Schneider, Michael (2009-05-19). "NBC cuts fall season in two". Variety. 
  10. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2010-02-28). "A Show About Something: Marriage". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ a b c d "About The Marriage Ref". NBC. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  12. ^ Starr, Michael (March 12, 2010). "Seinfeld attempts to save 'Marriage Ref' with TV spots". New York Post. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  13. ^ Delahaye, Gabe (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref For The FAIL". Stereogum. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b The Marriage Ref at Metacritic
  15. ^ a b c d Serjeant, Jill (March 1, 2010). "Seinfeld's "Marriage" gets big ratings, bad reviews". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  16. ^ a b c d Pilkington, Ed (March 1, 2010). "Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref labelled 'painful and pointless' by critics: Debut of comedian's NBC sitcom received withering reviews from US media and was mocked by viewers on Twitter". The Guardian. London: Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  17. ^ Holmes, Linda (March 1, 2010). "Morning Shots: 'The Marriage Ref,' Weekend Box Office, And Mo'Nique". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  18. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref: Jerry Seinfeld's unfunny, painful new series". The Star Ledger. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  19. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (March 1, 2010). "A Family Affair, From Acne to Arthritis". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  20. ^ Tucker, Ken (March 1, 2010). "'The Marriage Ref' review: 'I'm ready to make the call': Funny or not?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  21. ^ Lowry, Brian (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref". Variety magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  22. ^ Simmons, Chris (March 1, 2010). "Jerry Seinfeld's "The Marriage Ref" Debuts on NBC". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  23. ^ Poniewozik, James (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref: Grounds for Divorce". Time magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  24. ^ Todd VanDerWerff (2010-03-01). "The Marriage Ref — Other Shows — TV Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  25. ^ a b Surette, Tim (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref: An Unholy Union". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  26. ^ Evans, Greg (March 1, 2010). "Seinfeld's Marriage Ref: Nada Nada Nada". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  27. ^ Chen, Adrian (March 1, 2010). "Jerry Seinfeld's New Show Almost Cancels Out Seinfeld". Defamer. Gawker. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  28. ^ Goldman, Eric (March 1, 2010). "The Marriage Ref: Premiere Review — Oh, Jerry.." IGN. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  29. ^ Brown, Lane (March 1, 2010). "No Soup for The Marriage Ref". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  30. ^ a b Catlin, Roger (March 1, 2010). "Review: 'The Marriage Ref'". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  31. ^ Toff, Benjamin (March 1, 2010). "Post-Olympic Letdown". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  32. ^ "Blogging the Closing Ceremony". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. February 28, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  33. ^ Canadian Press (February 28, 2010). "US viewers tweet up a storm after NBC cuts Olympic closing ceremonies show". Winnipeg Free Press. 
  34. ^ a b "Madonna Gives Advice on "Marriage Ref"". CBS News. March 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  35. ^ a b Fitzgerald, Toni (March 12, 2010). "Cooling down for NBC's 'Marriage Ref'". Media Life Magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  36. ^ "'Marriage Ref' falls to third place". The Hollywood Reporter. March 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  37. ^ Weisman, Jon (March 12, 2010). "'American Idol' tops Thursday ratings - NBC's 'The Marriage Ref' down 21% in key demo". Variety magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  38. ^ "All demos 'American Idol' tops Thursday; four sent packing". Radio Business Report. March 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-15. episode three of new reality series The Marriage Ref (2.7/8) posted its lowest rating to date, dropping -21% from its time period premiere last Thursday (3.4/10) and showing steady losses with every episode on the air 
  39. ^ Gorman, Bill (March 1, 2010). "TV Ratings: Winter Olympics Win One More For NBC; Undercover Boss Working Hard". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  40. ^ "NBC has average Thursday 'The Marriage Ref' #3". Radio Business Report / Television Business Report. March 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  41. ^ "Fox Thursday hits repeats of Bones #3 and Fringe #4". Radio Business Report / Television Business Report. March 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  42. ^ Gorman, Bill (April 9, 2010). "TV Ratings: CBS Wins As Bones, Fringe, Survivor, CSI, Mentalist All Up; Marriage Ref Series Low". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  43. ^ "'Survivor' leads Thursday; Fox posts gains". The Hollywood Reporter: Live Feed. April 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  44. ^ "Ratings: Is the Curse of Seinfeld Back? It's a Bad Call for The Marriage Re - Today's News: Our Take". 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  45. ^ Arab version Official website
  46. ^ Argentinian version Official website
  47. ^ Антон Белицкий (antonb_ru) wrote, 2011-02-18 00:48:00 (2011-02-18). "antonb_ru: Семейный приговор". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  48. ^ "Blic Online | Sanja Marinković kao bračni moderator". Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  49. ^ "Press releases | Programme press releases | The Marriage Ref - ITV Press Centre". 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 

External links[edit]