Marriage tips from the stars: Seinfeld's greatest joke yet?

Comedian returns with show that sees 'real couples' air their problems for laughs

Jerry Seinfeld was not joking when he approached NBC, the network where his eponymous comedy sitcom reigned supreme for nine years until 1998, and proposed a reality show with Hollywood stars giving ordinary folks tips on resolving marital conflicts. Celebrities advising us on staying married? That's funny.

But, no, seriously. This is the concept of the programme tentatively titled The Marriage Ref, which NBC has just signed up for six one-hour episodes this autumn. It's hard to resist Mr Seinfeld, however odd his idea might be. After all, he has not had a regular television gig for 11 years.

Over at 30 Rockefeller Centre, they want us to know that a show about marriage is his obvious next step. His old comedy show – famously "about nothing" – was really about making fun of the bachelor lives he led with his pals Kramer, George and Elaine.

It should be seen, in other words, as a sequel. "It's not a therapy show, it's a comedy show," Seinfeld, 54, said of the project, which will be created in partnership with Ellen Rakieten, a veteran producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

"After nine years of marriage, I have discovered that the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich. Some of the greatest comedies in the history of television have been around marriage," insisted Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. "The concept is so universal and accessible, and obviously it works so well when it comes from somebody with a point of view – and nobody has a stronger point of view on this subject than Seinfeld."

What Jerry's insight on marriage might be, none of us yet know, beyond that he thinks weddings are hugely overrated. That was the theme of a recent stand-up routine he gave on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "It's a bad party. It's long, expensive, boring, uncomfortable. If you were going to plan a good party would you invite all the oldest people you know?" he asked.

It is true, meanwhile, that the background to his own marriage nine years ago to his own wife, Jessica, was a tad unusual. She got hitched in June 1998 to someone else, then met Seinfeld at a Manhattan gym shortly after returning from her honeymoon, and got a divorce from hubby number one in October 1998 in time to marry her funny man Jerry the following year. They now have three children.

And it is no secret that marriage can be a deep quarry for comedy. Basil-versus-Sybil, Lucy-versus-Ricky and so on. On Seinfeld itself, the parents of George Costanza, Frank and Estelle, played by Jerry Stiller (father of Ben) and Estelle Harris, provided their own running pantomime of spousal spats.

But if these battles royal work well in drama or situation comedies, peeking into the disputes of real-life couples may not be quite so hilarious.

But NBC seems content to let Seinfeld give it a try, even if we know very little about the precise format. It would seem, however, that each hour will feature one or more "ordinary American couple" and a panel of entertainment and sports stars advising them. A referee will then end each episode deciding which person, husband or wife, is in the wrong.

The biggest unknown is what part Seinfeld will play. His rare gigs in recent years have left fans hoping he will have an on-screen role in The Marriage Ref. But he is giving nothing away.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'