The Marriage Ref

NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Jerry Seinfeld, whose very name must send NBC executives’ minds soaring through moneyed clouds of nostalgia, returns to the network as executive producer of (and occasional participant on) this reality-comedy mash. Tom Papa serves as the ump in dopey real-life marital disputes-should a husband install a stripper pole in the bedroom?-while a panel of impressively A-list celebrities (Madonna!) chime in with jokes. Those stars are part of the problem, along with an animated sequence in which Seinfeld explains the genesis of the whole idea. The scale is wrong. This is an overelaborate piffle, a crate-size bon-bon. The best thinge is Papa, a good standup comic. His delivery has a crisp, diabolical snap. With a few costume fittings, he could be a new Batman villain.

Fatal Attractions

Animal Planet, March 14, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Why would anyone think wild cats or lizards that run the length of a sofa make good companions? This miniseries is a cheesy but often creepy look at such creatures and their occasionally tragic (synonym: eaten) owners. The finale, about angry chimps, is especially unsettling. “Keep the wild in your heart,” says an expert, “not your home.” Yep.

Sons of Tucson

FOX, March 14, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


Currently living out of his car, a scruffy slacker dude (Tyler Labine) agrees to pose as a parent to three young brothers. Far cagier than the dude, they want to stay out of foster care while their real father’s in the slammer. This FOX version of a family sitcom isn’t as irreverent or formula-free as it thinks-ABC’s The Middle is actually edgier-but it scores points for never resorting to mere cuteness and for throwing in a bizarre sight gag about frozen squirrels. Labine (Reaper) is a reliably entertaining comic presence, a perpetual teenager in the body of an ice trucker.

The Pacific

HBO, March 14, 9 p.m. ET/PT


Total immersion in hell-that’s the effect of this pulverizing miniseries about Marines in the bloody guck of World War II’s Pacific theater. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the team behind HBO’s Band of Brothers, The Pacific has the barest of narratives: These Marines arrive on Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Okinawa, obey orders and survive moment by moment. Or die. It’s the jungle version of Saving Private Ryan’s opening battle, over and over across 10 hours. Why, then, is this so excitingly powerful instead of just numbing? Because the stakes are huge: The historical momentum pulls you in and drags you along.