New Seinfeld turns marriage into "comedy gold mine"

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(AFP) -

"Marriage", said star US stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld who is launching a new show on the subject, "is the ultimate comedy gold mine."

With comedy on a roll as crisis-hit viewers turn to humour to cheer themselves up, Seinfeld flew into Cannes for the Tuesday launch of his first show in more than a decade at the MIPCOM TV trade show.

After his highly popular eponymous TV show from 1989 to 1998, Seinfeld is turning to comedy-reality with "Marriage Ref", tipped as one of the hottest new shows on the market, where both comedy and cheap-to-make reality TV are on the up and up.

The show is a comedy panel game that airs real clips of married couples arguing at home, which are then discussed by a panel of celebrities before a referee decides on which partner is right and which is wrong.

"To me, marriage is this great comedy planet that so many people around the world live on," Seinfeld told a media conference.

"This is not a therapy show, it's a comedy show. After nine years of marriage, I have discovered that the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich," he joked.

Unlike many reality formats, the aim is to support the concept of marriage, not to exploit the ups and downs of domestic life, Seinfeld stressed.

Backing the show, which will air in prime time on NBC in March next year, is heavyweight TV reality production house Endemol, which is distributing it globally around the world.

"The feedback is phenomenal. There is an enormous amount of interest in the show internationally," Endemol chief commercial officer Tom Toumazis said in Cannes, adding that he expected to announce sales deals imminently.

Seinfeld says in a video shown in Cannes that it was an argument with his own wife that gave him the idea for the new show.

"I was having a difference of opinion with my wife one day, and a friend was there. And we started to get into an argument, and the friend said, 'you know maybe I should just leave and let you two thrash this out'. And I said, 'No! You know what. You decide. I'm going to make my case, she'll make her case, we'll each take a couple of minutes and and you just call it.'"

The show is being produced jointly by Seinfeld and his production partner Ellen Rakieten, co-founder and producer of long-running The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The pair said the comedy-panel format is suitable for being made locally across the world, even in countries where marriages might be arranged and would also include gay couples.

"I know of arranged marriages where the couples argue a lot," Rakieten noted, saying she and Seinfeld couldn't think of a single country where the show wouldn't work.

Squabbling couples will be filmed in their homes while panels of studio celebrities give them advice and decide who was right and who was wrong, with the spouse deemed to be in the right receiving a prize.

Prizes will be small, but the production company reckons that a wife who wants to get rid of her other half's newly-acquired, large, brightly coloured statue of a red Indian in the hallway, might consider that prize worth more than money.