I watched The Marriage Ref on NBC last night party because I couldn’t find the remote after 30Rock was done and party because I really wanted to understand what bothers me about this show. I had already ruled out the concept, graphics and personalities because all of that is Jerry Seinfeld top-notch. There was something more visceral happening.
And then after watching the second segment where the husband wanted his wife to wear sexy clothes, it hit me*. This show treats relationship conflict resolution as a zero-sum game. Someone wins, someone loses.
Anyone who has had a relationship with another human being — marriage, business, bro — knows that lasting conflict resolution is not zero-sum. While it might make for good television to have a couple go at it and then have celebrities rule on who is entirely right and who is entirely wrong, life just does not work that way. And the format of “no give, no gray area” may intimately be the show’s undoing.
Here’s how I would save it:
Have a sliding scale of 0%-100%. The scale starts off at 50% for the husband, 50% for the wife (because marriage is supposed to be 50/50.. clever, eh?) As the celebrities deliberate the issue, the scale slides up and down for each, depending on the arguments pro or con. At the end of the discussion, the couple is then told what PERCENTAGE of right and wrong each is. The one holding the positive position past 50% for the longest period of time can be declared the “winner” if needed. Probably need that, but the decision of the ref isn’t an all or nothing.
Or we can just ride out the show until the lack of ratings tank it. I don’t care. Just don’t cancel 30Rock and find my remote.
*Rodriquezes segment. The wife shows up at the end in a dress which indicated her meeting him halfway. That was the “Ah-ha” moment.