I know, I know. NBC's earlier press session today is what everyone is talking about, with their official acknowledgement that they're moving Jay Leno out of primetime and back to 11:35 p.m., but that nothing is a done deal concerning Conan O'Brien. Yikes. Which is precisely why I wanted to remind you that there is good news coming today for comedian Tom Papa, who is hosting Jerry Seinfeld's new reality TV project, The Marriage Ref. It's the last session of the day at the TCA winter press tour (so nighttime here on the East Coast), but the network already posted a press release, saying that viewers will get a first-look preview of the show immediately following the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
I told Papa the last time I saw him that if NBC were smart, they'd get him to do some playful marriage refereeing with members of the U.S. Olympic team — such as the figure skating pairs, perhaps! But that's predicated upon NBC being smart. Obviously.
The show's half-hour preview will air 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28. The regular hour debut will be 8 p.m. Sunday, March 14.
From the press release today:
"Utilizing the Winter Olympics as a platform for introducing this show provides an extraordinary opportunity," said Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment. "We've wanted to be in business with Tom Papa for some time and we think this is the perfect vehicle to bring him on board."
Added Jerry Seinfeld: "Tom brings so much to the table that he is just the perfect fit to be the "marriage ref." In fact, having toured with him for over eight years, he was really the only person I considered when I was formulating the show. My feeling is that when you take a subject matter as rich and universal as marital disputes, and throw Tom Papa into the mix, the end result is bound to be refreshing and hilarious. Viewers are going to love him."
A seasoned comedian, Papa has starred in two standup specials on Comedy Central, with his next one to be directed by Steven Soderbergh. A familiar face to late-night television audiences, he has amassed more than 10 appearances on the NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and was a frequent guest on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "Late Show with David Letterman."
"My goal is to bring the simplicity of sports and apply it to the overly complicated situations that we all face in marriage. A call is made, a decision is rendered, everyone moves on," said Seinfeld. "This is not a therapy show; it is a comedy show and after 10 years of marriage, I have discovered the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich."
Papa will be at the center of the action and ultimately will make "the call." He alone will have the final say in determining the victor of each spat. He will decide right in the spot, who is right and who is wrong – just like a referee. Advising and influencing Papa's decision will be a rotating panel of "experts" comprised of opinionated top celebrities, comedians and sports stars who will weigh in and offer their own wit, wisdom and unique opinions.
That's what is known now. I'll update tonight after the official TCA session.
Earlier: Tom Papa to host NBC's The Marriage Ref.