Jerry Seinfeld is returning to network series television after an 11-year hiatus as creator and exec producer of an NBC reality series that seeks to mine laughs out of marriage problems.
The comedian and his Columbus 81 Prods. are teaming with longtime “Oprah Winfrey Show” exec producer Ellen Rakieten to create “The Marriage Ref,” a nonfiction series that will feature opinionated celebrities, comedians and sports stars offering commentary and advice to real-life couples enduring “classic marital disputes.”
“This is not a therapy show, it’s a comedy show,” said Seinfeld, who will, guest appearances aside, be involved in his first TV series since “Seinfeld” left the air in 1998. “After nine years of marriage, I have discovered that the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich.”
According to NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman, no premiere date or timeslot has yet been selected for the series.
“Jerry called us up and told us he had an idea,” Silverman said. “He flew in to sit down with us, and he and Ellen pitched the show. We were laughing the whole time as they went through the concept. As Jerry noted, some of the greatest comedies in history have been about marriage.”
Seinfeld is an interesting case. The dismal quality of many of his post-Seinfeld pet projects — and I’m specifically talking about Bee Movie and every stupid promotional appearance he made to plug Bee Movie — would seem to suggest that he was just a good stand-up comedian who was very lucky to hook up with Larry David. But from the Seinfeld DVDs, we’ve learned that Jerry’s creative role in the show was very important; he and Larry would always do the final rewrite together. He’s a smart guy, and he was the perfect partner for Larry David: the ice-cold cynical counterpart to David’s Charlie Brown-ish sense of self-pity. He just happens to have terrible ideas for movies and TV shows, which is why his most successful project consisted of him throwing his hands up in the air, admitting he couldn’t think of a good idea, and deciding to do a show with no apparent premise.
As for Ben Silverman’s desperate attempts to recapture the days when NBC was a successful network: dude, did you learn nothing from Knight Rider?