Jerry Seinfeld promises no-gimmick TV

Brings 'Marriage Ref' to MIPCOM; talks Letterman saga

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CANNES -- Feel-good comedy is the way to reach mass audiences, king of comedy Jerry Seinfeld said Tuesday. In town to promote his new show "The Marriage Ref," Seinfeld said he had "had enough" of humiliation television.

"I don't watch it," he told reporters at a round table alongside "Ref" co-exec producer Ellen Rakieten.

"Ellen and I have become allergic to the word 'reality' -- these are shows where you basically see people tortured," he added. "In our show you will see people irritated, but then see them happy at the end. You'll be left with a good feeling."

"The Marriage Ref" will offer a quirky look at modern relationships, featuring in-home footage of a series of couples, as a nominated marriage referee adjudicates on their persistent domestic niggles.

The nature of marriage and the character quirks that husbands and wives are doomed to confront in one another will give the show universal appeal, the comedian hopes.

"I feel more confident about this than most other things I've done," Seinfeld said. "This (show) feels big to me."

Casting for the ref on the NBC show will be announced in January, Rakieten said, while the show will go on air in March 2010 in NBC's 8 p.m. Sunday night slot. International versions are expected to follow in 2011.

"This is in no way an exploitative show, there's no million-dollar prize, no gimmick. This is a comedy show about marriage," said Rakieten, the longtime producer of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" who is now branching out into a range of new projects.

Despite restricting his own TV viewing to baseball playoffs, Letterman monologues and "Mad Men," Seinfeld said that even in an environment of fragmenting audiences and technological upheaval, network television was holding up.

Citing the controversy embroiling David Letterman, Seinfeld said the talk show star was providing riveting television.

"He had one monologue last night that was unmissable," Seinfeld told reporters.

"Dave is such a master of television, I'm sure he never dreamed of being -- and probably didn't want to be -- the subject of it, but his skill is quite interesting and, personally, I'm impressed."