Marc reviews: "The Marriage Ref" 

Seinfeld was genius. Seinfeld, not so much.

So the announcement that Jerry Seinfeld is back with a new reality series should be greeted with skepticism, if not outright trepidation. Seinfeld the comic is relatively bland, a dispenser of shallow, fairly obvious observations.

Having said that, Seinfeld has a bright idea with The Marriage Ref.

The concept is simple: Couples share a point of contention in the marriage, and a host (comedian Tom Papa) and revolving panel of celebrity judges decide who's right.

It's easy to imagine couples watching this show and talking over the situations - maybe even feeling relieved that no matter what their own problems might be, at least they don't need a marriage ref.

But wow, the preview that aired Sunday had some serious problems. First off, they need to dial this show down by at least half. The audience members are amped up beyond belief. They roar like they're watching America's Funniest Home Videos (which always sounds like canned laughter), and they laugh as if the humor were Seinfeld-esque.

It's not. They're hearing lines like "You crossed the line into Wes Craven-ville," and "That, to me, doesn't say, 'Let's get it on.' That's saying, 'Let's go fishing,'" and cackling as if they'd just seen "The Contest" for the first time.

I, on the other hand, didn't laugh once.

The celebrity panelists are no better than the audience. They laugh and applaud each other with sycophantic glee, as if every utterance were some brilliant bon mot.

The other problem with the preview: The arguments weren't even close. In one, the husband grossed out his wife by having his beloved dog stuffed. In the other, the husband wanted to install a stripper pole in their bedroom.

You don't need to be a celebrity "expert" to know who's right.

And speaking of the "experts," that group is set to include celebrities such as Larry David, Alec Baldwin and Madonna - all of whom could have used marriage refs in their own lives.

Despite all that criticism, though, I'll still give The Marriage Ref the benefit of the doubt. After all, even Seinfeld took several episodes to find its rhythm.

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Marc D. Allan

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