“The Marriage Ref,” NBC’s new comedy panel series about the unpredictable and hilarious institution commonly known as marriage, will air a special sneak preview on Sunday, February 28 (10:30-11 p.m. ET) following NBC’s coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
Additionally, comedian/actor Tom Papa has been personally selected by executive producer Jerry Seinfeld to host and serve as the “marriage ref.”
The show will then premiere in its regular slot on Sundays (8-9 p.m. ET) beginning March 14.
The announcements were made today by Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment.
“Utilizing the Winter Olympics as a platform for introducing this show provides an extraordinary opportunity,” said Gaspin. “We’ve wanted to be in business with Tom Papa for some time and we think this is the perfect vehicle to bring him on board.”
Added Seinfeld: “Tom brings so much to the table that he is just the perfect fit to be the “marriage ref.” In fact, having toured with him for over eight years, he was really the only person I considered when I was formulating the show. My feeling is that when you take a subject matter as rich and universal as marital disputes, and throw Tom Papa into the mix, the end result is bound to be refreshing and hilarious. Viewers are going to love him.”
A seasoned comedian, Papa has starred in two standup specials on Comedy Central, with his next one to be directed by Steven Soderbergh. A familiar face to late-night television audiences, he has amassed more than 10 appearances on the NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and was a frequent guest on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”
As an actor, Papa starred opposite Matt Damon in the Soderbergh film “The Informant,” and opposite Paul Giamatti in the animated feature, “The Haunted World of El Super Beasto,” as the voice of the title character. He had a voiceover role on the DreamWorks animated feature “Bee Movie” and also served as a writer on the project. Among his other big-screen credits are the films “Analyze That” opposite Robert DeNiro, and “Comedian.”
On television Papa also had a recurring role on “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Papa opened his one-man show “Only Human” to rave reviews at the prestigious ‘Just for Laughs Festival’ in Montreal, and he continues to tour with Seinfeld.
In “The Marriage Ref,” married life takes center stage as disputes between real-life couples are revealed, examined — and ultimately judged on who is right and who is wrong. For the first time, these couples will get something they’ve always wanted and never had, an undisputed winner ending their ongoing rift once and for all. These marital tiffs will run the gamut of disagreements — quirky, funny, revealing, relatable, classic — all in the signature Seinfeld tone.
“My goal is to bring the simplicity of sports and apply it to the overly complicated situations that we all face in marriage. A call is made, a decision is rendered, everyone moves on,” said Seinfeld. “This is not a therapy show; it is a comedy show and after 10 years of marriage, I have discovered the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich.”
Papa will be at the center of the action and ultimately will make “the call.” He alone will have the final say in determining the victor of each spat. He will decide right in the spot, who is right and who is wrong – just like a referee. Advising and influencing Papa’s decision will be a rotating panel of “experts” comprised of opinionated top celebrities, comedians and sports stars who will weigh in and offer their own wit, wisdom and unique opinions.
“The Marriage Ref” is produced by Seinfeld’s Columbus 81 Productions and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment. Seinfeld, Ellen Rakieten (“The Oprah Winfrey Show”), Shed Media’s Nick Emmerson (“Supernanny”) and Jennifer O’Connell (“Supernanny”), Al Berman (“The Biggest Loser Live Finale,” “The Celebrity Apprentice Live Finale”), Howard West (“Seinfeld”) and George Shapiro (“Seinfeld”) serve as executive producers. Beth McCarthy-Miller (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock”) is the director. International distribution is by Endemol.