NBC’s The Marriage Ref debuts its (oft-delayed) second season this Sunday at 10/9c, and host Tom Papa promises that while the show’s first run didn’t quite vibe with critics, “The whole tone has become a lot more playful and fun.” Here’s what else you can expect from the Ref‘s second shot at a winning season.
Kookier Couples | If you thought the Ref‘s first cycle was wacky, wait until you see what Season 2 has in store. Papa offers his favorite out-there couples from this go-round: “One that made me laugh was a woman obsessed with throw pillows on her bed, to the point that the husband keeps falling on them in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom. But the most bizarre one we had was a guy with a nervous habit of chewing on his TV remote control — so much so that every two weeks he had to have the cable company send him a new one.” Offers Papa, “It’s really the small things that become huge things that are the funniest.”
Surprising Guest Stars | The first season of Ref boasted tons of celeb panelists, including Jerry Seinfeld (who executive-produces the project), Alec Baldwin and Madonna, and this year is no different. “We had Mary J. Blige, who is such an amazing singer, but to hear her talk about her relationship and real couples stuff really threw me,” Papa shares. “Like, she’s just a regular person!” Additional cameos will include Ricky Gervais, four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, Ellen Pompeo (Grey’s Anatomy), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), Regis Philbin, and Rachael Ray.
Singleton Smarts | Several of Season 2′s superstar guests aren’t actually married (e.g. Parenthood‘s Lauren Graham, SNL‘s Seth Meyers), but Papa tells us that such singles actually bring a welcome perspective to the panel. “Bill Maher couldn’t be more against marriage in his own life, but to have him on [the show] provides an outsider’s point of view,” says Papa. “I always say that if you’re learning how to drive a car, you’d want to learn from someone who’s really good; someone that can race the car; and someone who’s been in a car accident. You want all of those perspectives.”
The Rightest of the Right | The biggest difference between Seasons 1 and 2 is the mega-prize for the winning half of each quarreling couple — who this season will actually be present in the studio with the celeb panel. Previews Papa, “At the end of the show the audience votes on which of the [episode's] winning spouses is the rightest of the right, and that person wins $25,000 and a billboard in their hometown declaring that they were right.”
Season 3 Will (Hopefully) Rock | Ref obviously has no problem booking big names for its panel, but there is one funnyman Papa is dying to have on — and will, should NBC renew it for a third season. “I really want Chris Rock,” Papa reveals. “We were pushing for him this year but he was tied up, so he says that next year he’ll definitely do it. That for me would be a great one. Also, Oprah has some free time now — she’d be great!”