Why ‘The Marriage Ref’ could use a ref of its own

Note: This column appears in the 3/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/19 issue of the Peoria Times

So my wife and I have been watching “The Marriage Ref.”

For those who have managed to miss this mercilessly promoted television program, it features married couples having arguments which are then discussed and arbitrated on by the host and a panel of celebrities, most of whom have an obvious and shameless connection to NBC, “The Marriage Ref’s” home network. I have many issues with the show, not the least of which is not finding it to be particularly funny, which is, I think, the point of the whole thing. But that’s not my only problem.

Besides the inherent disingenuousness of people arguing in front of cameras, the arguments themselves are made-for-TV in their outlandishness. In the interest of declaring “a winner,” this makes it near impossible to not immediately and obviously side with either the husband or wife. For example, the first few episodes featured a husband who wanted his dead, stuffed dog on display in the house, and another husband who wanted to install a stipper pole in their bedroom. I mean, really. This context may assist the panel in making silly jokes, but it certainly doesn’t help the show at large.

The unfortunate part is that I find the concept of “The Marriage Ref” to be a good one. Arbitrating disputes between a husband and wife is a clever and potentially hilarious idea. And while I’m not sure how to resolve the underlying problem of authenticity as it pertains to reality television, I think at least having the arguments be more realistic is a good start.

Which brings me to my own marriage. My wife and I clash on many issues. I would never submit these conflicts to “The Marriage Ref” as I doubt they are “crazy” enough for their tastes –- plus I would never in a million years want to be featured on a reality show –- but they are real, and I wouldn’t mind being declared right (or, I guess, wrong) once and for all.

One thing we consistently disagree on is mold on food. If I take out of the refrigerator, for example, a piece of cheese, and notice it has even a smidge of mold on it, I will throw it out along with whatever remains of the original block of cheese. My wife is repulsed by this, as she considers it a waste of food, and she will urge me to simply cut off the mold and eat the rest, which is something I refuse to do as I am repulsed by that. Now, this argument may not have the sex appeal of a stripper pole or the shock value of a dead dog, but still I ask: who is right? I mean, obviously it’s me. Still though, I can see it being discussed.

My feet are also an issue. I do not have, what one would call, the most attractive feet. Years of marginal athletic endeavors and chasing dreams will do that to you. My big toenails on both feet are a curious shade of yellow and black, and those are pretty much the only toenails I have. As a result, my wife strongly recommends I do not wear flip-flops when people other than her are present. This is an obstacle and comfort issue for me, especially during the hot summers months in Arizona. She is embarrassed, but I believe my feet go unnoticed. Who is right?

Ironically, our most popular current argument is about “The Marriage Ref” itself. I think it’s awful, but she likes it. I think she likes it just because she wants to like it, as she and I both are big Seinfeld fans. In her heart –- and because we share the same sense of humor –- I know she doesn’t really think it’s funny. But because she has declared herself on the side of liking it, she will now not waiver from that stance even at gunpoint. That said, I think “The Marriage Ref” would do itself a huge favor by featuring a married couple arguing over whether or not “The Marriage Ref” is good.

But not us. I don’t want to be on TV. Well, only if they show my feet.


SpastikMooss said…
I decree that you win on mold, but lose on flip flops.
Bill said…
I too have been struggling with my love for Seinfeld but disappointment with this show. It's like I'm stuck in an abusive relationship with it though, as I keep watching with the hopes that it will get better. (Or maybe I keep watching because I know it won't be around very long.) Great concept, but the disputes are unrealistic and contrived, and goodness, that laugh track, can they turn it down like 70-80%?

Also, Mooss, agreed on the mold & flip flops verdict.
Joe S. said…
Definitely throw the food away! I gotta imagine that just because you can't see the mold (yet) on the rest of the cheese (or whatever), doesn't mean it's not there.

Then again, I love bleu cheese, which by definition is moldy.

As for the show, it's horrible. You're exactly right - there are clear "winners" in the arguments that are easily decided within the first five seconds. The panel is rarely funny, and the 'verdict' doesn't really settle anything as far as I can tell.

I was hoping to at least get a moderate amount of entertainment out of it but knew I wouldn't after around the the millionth time I saw the preview commercial before the first episode.

And like your wife, mine insists it's getting better (I refuse to watch), but I KNOW she's just saying that because she WANTS to like it. There is no possible way someone can see this show as good or funny.