Jerry Seinfeld may not have thought about it quite this way, but he long ago helped create the perfect prototypical guests for his planned bickering couples show: Frank and Estelle Costanza.
On NBC’s “Marriage Ref,” comedians, actors and athletes will rule on disputes between married couples – for comic effect, Seinfeld hopes. "This is not a therapy show, it's a comedy show," Seinfeld, who is producing the series, told The Hollywood Reporter.
If he’s looking for laughs, maybe he should consider reviving the Costanzas – or at least search for their closest real-life counterparts.
After all, Frank and Estelle fight constantly, usually over their son, George (Frank: “You’re just weak! You're weak!” Estelle: “Leave him alone!”).
They argue about whether bananas belong in Jell-O (Estelle: “George likes the bananas.” Frank: “So let him have bananas on the side!”).
They go to war over the workings of a car seat (Estelle: “That’s as far as it goes!” Frank: “There’s a mechanism. You pull it and throw your body weight!”).
They even found a way to get into a scrap over macaroni (Estelle: “Where have you been? You were supposed to fix the stove! I've been waiting for hours!” Frank: “I fell on some Fusilli.” Estelle: “Fusilli?”).
Frank obsessively collects TV Guides, his lawyer wears a cape, and he invented a holiday built around “the airing of the grievances.” Estelle got infuriated when she saw him parading around in a male support garment known as “The Bro” (or is that “The Mansiere?”) – and retaliated by dating a bra salesman.
The only thing they seem to ever have agreed upon was that it was indeed proper etiquette to steal back an untouched marble rye they brought to a dinner party (Estelle: “People take buses to get that rye!”)
Unlike other battling TV couples, like the Kramdens and Barones who are forever tied by the love that simmers beneath the venom, the Costanzas stay together out of a perhaps more powerful impulse: spite.
So as he recruits couples for his new show, the by-all-accounts happily married Seinfeld need only to look for inspiration to Frank and Estelle, who set the Festivus pole high – or low – when it comes to marital dysfunction.
On a show about nothing, the Costanzas sure were something else.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.