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‘Marriage Rescue’ Is Couples Counseling With Volume And Vulgarity

Jon Taffer, bar-rescuing extraordinaire, is expanding his portfolio to help husbands and wives rebuild their relationships. It’s like therapy, but with yelling and insults.

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Like a 60-something with a Tommy Bahama frequent buyer card, I will cut to the chase: You can probably be yelled at into loving your partner more and better. OK, fine—you maybe can. Possibly? Kind of? At any rate, you can definitely watch people being yelled at in the name of love, respect, and honesty, which is basically the same thing. Unless you are one of the couples, in which case I can offer only my condolences and best wishes.

Such—the being yelled at, that is—is the premise of Marriage Rescue, the latest Jon Taffer vehicle from Paramount Network (a rebranded Spike TV). You might know Taffer as the star of Paramount Network’s other rescue show, Bar Rescue.

If you’ve seen Bar Rescue, you will be familiar with Marriage Rescue’s structure. A bar (marriage) is failing. Its menu (communication strategy) is outdated; its layout (conflict-resolution pattern) is unwieldy; its staff is lazy (well … ). So management (the more aggrieved partner) calls up Taffer—the self-billed “Gordon Ramsay of the bar and nightclub business” (a divorcé)—who marches in, huffs and puffs at the employees (spouses) about their sorry service and checkered pasts (this one pretty much holds), and oversees a remodel (vow renewal). The bar then reopens to great success. The couples … well.

Taffer’s bar rescues occur, naturally, at the bars themselves. But in Marriage Rescue, our husbands and wives bring their trouble to paradise—specifically, a seaside resort in Puerto Rico, where we meet them as they bicker throughout their cab ride from the airport. (Their driver, like many other unfortunate parties including but not limited to the couples’ young children who will almost certainly watch this footage someday, are generally unseen.) Their problems are various: infidelities, businesses gone awry, boredom, being a stick in the mud, accusing the other of being a stick in the mud, being two sticks in the mud sludging woodily past each other in the night, etc. “I messed around with my ex,” quoth one husband; “You want to hold my hand? Why do you want to hold my hand?” quoth another.

Taffer begins his salvation by stealthily observing (he is in a nearby deck chair) the couples as they arrive at the resort. It amounts to spying on poolside strangers at a vacation locale and viciously judging their lives based on fleeting observations—or as I call it, a vacation. “They have a complete disconnection!” he declares of one pair. “There’s so much to sort out.” (Later on, the wife in question suggests adopting a stray dog she sees. “The kids would love it,” she says; “Mm,” he replies. Taffer is not wrong!)

Reconnection occurs via a series of bonding activities—skydiving, parasailing, salsa dancing, clay-doll modeling. (A husband enthusiastically attaches a pair of “boobies” to his: “That’s the best part,” he says, warmly.) These moments are interspersed with Taffer stomping around like the bouncer at the Bada Bing! club to berate the lovers for being insufficiently warm, caring, interested, honest, and/or trusting. True to form, he tends toward vulgarity and volume: “That’s such a crock of shit,” he tells a wife; “FIX IT!” he shrieks at a husband.

Does Taffer believe in love? Well. He is a divorcé himself, see, one who subsequently remarried and stayed married, for 22 years and counting, not that he’s counting. He is a bad husband and a good one, an ex-husband and a regular husband, yin and yang. And anyway, he knows an inefficiency when he sees one.

There is, in fact, a specialist floating around somewhere: The credits mention one Dr. R. Sean Hogan, who is billed as a “couples consultant”; his LinkedIn profile says that he specializes in reality TV, having consulted on everything from The Voice to Survivor to Top Chef. The good doctor, however, does not appear onscreen. So far as we know, Taffer alone is left to guide our ailing lovers through their misery. Taffer’s advice isn’t bad so much as simplistic—treat one another as equals; your cheating ass needs to win back trust; shit or get off the pot (really).

Mostly, everyone seems pleasantly surprised to hear these maxims, though one husband gets so worked up by Taffer’s diagnosis that, basically, the husband sucks (he does!), that he stands up and, enhanced by wristy Italian gestures, shouts at Taffer, “Fuck you! I’m from Brooklyn, man!” Besides that Brooklynite and wife, who depart the resort in a huff, our husbands and wives generally cap their episodes with a vow renewal by the sea, and then a lifetime of happily ever after. Surely.

In any case, Taffer has proven himself a rescuer par excellence. Some other possibilities of things to be rescued via Taffer’s yelling: cats in trees, overdue library books in the keeping of college students, seagull chicks coated in oil. Paramount—call me.