Entertainer takes 'Marriage Ref' to Mipcom

CANNES — Jerry Seinfeld, whose eponymous NBC sitcom was hailed as the greatest TV show of all time, has admitted he no longer watches small screen comedy.

But the entertainer is confident that despite our addiction to the web, TV’s future is secure.

He cites David Letterman’s present on-air antics as an example of how the small screen’s power remains undiminished to get the nation talking to itself.

Seinfeld, speaking at the Mipcom sales mart where Endemol is hyping the new show he is producing, “The Marriage Ref,” said these days he restricts his time as a couch potato to “baseball play-offs and Letterman monologues.”

“He had one last night that was absolute genius,” said the legendary comedian.

“I think this is a fascinating moment in TV. We were talking earlier about TV’s ability to survive (in the Internet age), but this is now playing out on TV in your home.

“That’s pretty much home entertainment. The funny thing about Dave is that he is such a master of TV…

“I am sure he never dreamed and didn’t want to be the subject of it but his skill… I personally am impressed.”

Whether auds and, crucially, international buyers are as impressed by “The Marriage Ref,” a comedy reality hybrid due to bow on NBC next March, remains to be seen.

Seinfeld thinks the show’s light-hearted, feel-good vibe — in the program the arguing couples all end up happily reconciled — is right for tough times.

He hopes “The Marriage Ref” offers an antidote to edgy laffers like “The Office” and all those sour reality skeins where contestants turn on one another.

“I have had too much of humiliation. I don’t watch it,” observed the comedian who gave Mipcom its hottest ticket Monday when he performed his Las Vegas stage show to several hundred delighted TV types at the swank Majestic Hotel.

Seinfeld added: “The feel-good factor does feel like a flavor that could come in handy at the moment.

“Ellen (his co-producer on ‘The Marriage Ref,’ Ellen Rakieten) and I have become a bit allergic to the word reality, but in the context of reality TV where you see people kind of tortured, in our show you are going to see people irritated, but then you are going to see they are happy in the end.”

Any hint of TV as a theater of cruelty is ruled out of bounds on the new skein, which Endemol prays lands them a big global hit on the scale of “Big Brother.”

Explained Rakieten: “There will be no arguing in front of the children or domestic violence in ‘The Marriage Ref.’

“No-one will be exploited and there are no gimmicks, like $1 million prizes.”

So 11 years after “Seinfeld” ended its run, the great entertainer, who ruled out appearing in the new show, sounds positive he has another huge network hit on his hands.

“I feel more confident about this than most other things I’ve done because it is not that contingent upon some spectacular creative execution,” he claimed.

And just for the record, while he finds little to tickle his funny bone in today’s multi-channel, multi-platform world, Seinfeld reckons program quality is holding up — well, sort off.

“The audience has been fragmented into hundreds of different places and the primacy of the big networks has changed,” he said.

“I have these arguments with my friends all the time about the quality — is it different..?

“The fact is…I am not so sure, frankly, that the quality has changed. Ninety five per cent of everything is garbage. That’s just existence.”

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