The Marriage Ref

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The Marriage Ref TV Poster Image
Superficial marriage spats aren't always kid-friendly.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The general message is that marriage generates conflict that requires a third-party referee. There's no sense of real resolution or compromise.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The couples' problems aren't serious, but many seem like they're playing up conflict for the sake of the cameras.


Some spats deal with death (ie. a dead pet or a long-deceased relative).


Some light kissing and sexual humor (a couple argues about whether they should have a stripper pole in their bedroom, etc.) Provocative terms like "sexy" and "get freaky-deaky."


Some spouses bicker on camera and tell each other to "shut up," etc.


Barbasol sponsors a regular wrap-up segment called the "Barbasol Shot of the Day." Contestants win a cruise from Royal Caribbean International.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some fights might involve drinking or smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that some of the disagreements up for debate in this game show aren't kid-friendly, such as an ongoing argument between a husband who wants to install a stripper pole for a little fun in the bedroom and his wife, who adamantly refuses. But the show's late-night time slot should preclude most younger viewers from seeing anything they shouldn't. Just know that topics -- and content -- can change from week to week.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 5-year-old Written bySierra Filucci March 5, 2010
Teen, 13 years old Written byawesomesense1997 July 11, 2011

Know your kid, I am one too!

My parents let my little brother watch it but he is smart enough to know that that isn't the way to solve marital issues. He is ten.

What's the story?

In THE MARRIAGE REF, a feuding couple brings its most pressing (but surface-level) problem before a rotating panel of celebrity "experts," who weigh in on who's right and who's wrong in the relationship. But it's up to the referee himself -- host and comedian Tom Papa -- to make the final call. Each episode deals with two different couples and two different disagreements, although both couples go home with prizes for sharing their stories. The rotating cast of judges includes Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey -- even Madonna.

Is it any good?

The Marriage Ref is the kind of show married couples might make up while they are sitting around the table with their married friends. You know, the kind of idea that starts out with a simple premise that everybody adds to, one ridiculous idea after another, until you end up with something that's so absurd it would never, ever fly on prime time television -- and then you forget about it.

Except in this case, someone gave it the greenlight, and now it's actually on the air. Maybe that's due to the married couple who dreamed it up: Jerry Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica, who aren't exactly chopped liver when it comes to wooing NBC execs. (See: Jerry's wildly successful sitcom.) Whatever the explanation, it now exists to delve into the superficial issues of marriage and weigh in with laugh-tracked judgements. But we're calling a foul.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's portrayal of marriage and whether it's fair. Moms and dads: How do you and your spouse typically deal with conflict? Is there something you can't agree on that would benefit from the panel's wisdom? Also, are the type of arguments featured on the show realistic representations of marital problems?

  • Does the show take itself seriously -- and how can you tell? Do you think a celebrity panel can honestly solve a disagreement between two married people?

  • What role, if any, do corporate sponsors play in the proceedings? How does the show use consumerism for comedic effect?

TV details

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