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What I Watched Last Night

NBC deserves to die. Today.

Just when you thought NBC couldn't screw up its Winter Olympics coverage any more than it already had, the network decided to go for broke Sunday night and sprint across the crash-and-burn finish line by interrupting the contemporary music portion of the closing Olympic ceremonies for a Jerry Seinfeld abomination called The Marriage Ref and then air the portion it bumped an hour later, following the local news.

If we weren't convinced before, we're convinced now that NBC is the only network on the planet that wouldn't just tape-delay the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, it would find a way to cut away from the really crucial part where The Savior is telling Christians how to save themselves and avoid the rising dead so it could squeeze in four more minutes of commercials.

It's not that the closing ceremony program was so stunning that interrupting it for something considerably more interesting would have been completely unforgivable. If anything, Sunday night's show was as if someone let British Columbia move to Las Vegas and stage a Pink Floyd acid trip involving showgirls and humongous inflatable Mounties and beavers being followed around by giant flying moose. Still, it wasn't too awfully bad.

On the other hand, The Marriage Ref really isn't as bad as you think. It's worse. Horribly, horribly worse. So horribly worse that just writing about it as quickly as I can so I'm able to move on to something more pleasant - flossing with a string of razor wire, for instance - is a chore.

The idea of the show, created and executive produced by Seinfeld, is for a panel of visiting celebrity guests (for the debut it was Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Seinfeld) to referee a disagreement between a regular-folk couple arguing over something or other. Tonight's disagreements were whether one husband should be allowed to enshrine his beloved and taxidermied dead dog in their home, and whether another should get his wish to install a stripper pole for his wife in the marital bedroom. After the celebrities weigh in with their opinions and alleged NBC reporter Natalie Morales provides some pertinent trivia, host/comedian Tom Papa is left to tell the husband or wife to go lump it with his binding decision.

Contributing to the "This is just so wrong" feel of the show is the crappy, unfunny animated intro; opening theme music lifted straight from Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show; sportscaster/announcer Marv Albert rehashing the "best line" from each couple's segment in corny, over-exaggerated boxing-announcer style, and the fact that Papa is awfully painful to watch and listen to. The worst offender, though, is a studio audience that's light-years giddier than the people responsible for America's Funniest Videos could ever wet-dream of collecting in one place. Never in my life would I have thought it possible that a live studio audience could be mistaken for a canned 1970s sitcom laugh track.

The only people who make out in the deal - other than Jerry Seinfeld and whoever else at NBC is obviously owed favors of incredible magnitude - are the couples, who get a free cruise from a prominently mentioned cruise line as a parting gift.

The only thing that might have saved the evening would be a breaking news story somewhere around 9:40 p.m. announcing that The Marriage Ref had made TV history by being the first program to be canceled while it was being shown.

Those who bothered to tune in an hour later to see what NBC bumped were treated to uninspired musical performances by uninspired Canadian acts like Nickelback, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, and Simple Plan. There was plenty in there to complain about if you really wanted to, but after being subjected to The Marriage Ref and the other decisions NBC dreamed up during its 17 days of Olympics programming, you'd have felt pretty silly.


Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching.


Submissions and comments welcome.


1. From Don Jacobson:

I may add that the creepiness and hypocrisy factor is magnified by the presence of Alec Baldwin, whose own marriage to Kim Basinger was such a gross-out train wreck that it's obviously hurting their 14-year-old daughter, who called the cops last month after arguing with him because she thought he was going to kill himself. This is a guy who a couple years ago called his daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig" in a voice mail that was leaked to the media. I adore his work, but Alec Baldwin, a "marriage ref?" Please.

2. From Steve Rhodes:

I may add that the creepiness and hypocrisy factor is also magnified by the presence of Jerry Seinfeld. From Celebitchy: "Interesting that Seinfeld thinks he knows so much about marriage and relationships that he should create and produce a show advising people about them. Considering he met his wife Jessica while she was on her honeymoon with her first husband. Quite the tawdry beginning. I wonder if he'll advise couples to seduce newly married folks?"


Posted on March 1, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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