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Archive for Thursday, March 4, 2010

‘Marriage Ref’ funny, but too long

March 4, 2010

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The most-hyped product of the Winter games, “The Marriage Ref” (9 p.m., NBC) debuts in its regular spot after a post-Olympics sneak peak last Sunday.

I had rather low expectations for “Ref,” a show where celebrities offer quips and observations about the private peculiarities of perfect strangers. It’s funnier than I anticipated.

On Sunday’s helping, producer/creator Jerry Seinfeld joined actor Alec Baldwin, morning host Kelly Ripa and “Ref” host Tom Papa to evaluate grievances between a husband who wanted to live with a stuffed dead dog and a wife who did not. The trio of experts also evaluated a marital tiff over the introduction of a stripper pole into the master bedroom.

The odd squabbles made for some quick one-liners and amusing patter between the talent. But “Ref” eventually boils down to a combination of “Husbands Do the Darndest Things” and “The Newlywed Game.”

The oddest aspect of “Ref” is its position in prime-time and its one-hour length. The show has all the hallmarks of a successful half-hour syndicated series, something to air between “Wheel of Fortune” and “Access Hollywood.” It might also work as a recurring bit on a late night talk show.

• Speaking of returning to the well one time too many, “Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomer$” (8 p.m., CNBC) recycles footage and observations from many earlier reports on the most generalized generation in history.

The best parts of “Boomer$” focuses on the bleak prospects and dashed expectations of the not-so-recently laid-off 50- and 60-somethings whose lifelong optimism has hit the brick wall of very hard times. This economically focused topic could easily fill a two-hour special on a business channel.

• Insurance technicalities force Pam to delay her trip to the delivery ward on a one-hour special episode of “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC). Sitcoms from “I Love Lucy” to “Murphy Brown” turned the stork’s arrival into slapstick gold. In contrast, the documentary style “Office” mines uncomfortable laughs from the awkward blend of physical intimacy and public celebration attending childbirth. Jim’s eye-rolling muscles get quite a workout.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The results are revealed on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A Rascal Flatts concert becomes a killer’s playground on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime) continues.

• A master terrorist threatens Michael and the city of Miami on the season finale of “Burn Notice” (9 p.m., USA).

• “Real Housewives of Orange County” (9 p.m., Bravo) ends season 5. “Real Housewives of New York City” (10 p.m., Bravo) begins season 3.

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