Together, they’ve survived a monsoon, gone mud sliding and climbed an active volcano that erupted one month later. Jim and Jiab Wasserman are adventurous, but it was their appearance on the season premiere of NBC’s “The Marriage Ref” that nearly turned their lives upside down. The game show, produced by Jerry Seinfeld, features married couples whose light-hearted disagreements are analyzed by celebrities who determine which spouse is right. Then, the live studio audience votes to decide who is “rightest of the right”. The Wassermans auditioned for the show on a whim, presenting their dispute about Jiab’s mother who comes to visit for six months at a time. They ended up winning the grand prize — $25,000 and a billboard that says “Jiab was right”. It adorned the intersection of Preston and Belt Line for about a month back in February. (Ironically, it has been replaced by an air conditioning ad that reads, “Your Wife is Hot”.) The Wassermans have been married eight years and live in the Prestonwood neighborhood with their two sons who attend JJ Pearce High School.
How did you get on “The Marriage Ref”?
Jim: We were actually taking my mother-in-law to the Thai Temple the day we auditioned at Studio Movie Grill [at Royal and Central]. You’re supposed to go in there with a problem.
Jiab: It’s light-hearted issues.
Jim: Our problem is that her mother lives in Thailand and when she comes to visit us, it’s for six months. She wants to help, but she’s just in the way. I call her “sumommy”. She cooks dinner every day at 3 p.m. People ask me why I don’t cook — I don’t ever have the chance! She goes around compulsively straightening things.
We eat Thai food almost every day. But I draw the line at spring roll ice cream.
Jiab: Jim is a sport. He has put up with a lot. I put up with him. No family’s perfect.
Jim: They put a mic on us, and we just bantered back and forth. We were natural. And, let’s face it — you’re the hot exotic girl, and I’m the little Jewish boy. They loved us. We appealed to lots of different people.
What was it like being on reality TV?
Jim: [After the audition], they sent us a 500-question personality test. Then, in November, they sent a crew out to our house to film a two-minute clip to air on the show. It’s reality TV. They over emphasize things. They said, “We like to set the stage — are there any cows near you?”
How did it feel to actually win?
Jiab: I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe we got this far.
Jim: The reaction you see on Jiab’s face on TV is real.
What does your mother-in-law think about all this?
Jim: We have to explain it well to her so I’m not hated by all of Thailand.
Jiab: She sees it as a non-issue. It’s just American culture versus Thai culture.
Jim: When you go to Thailand, the whole family lives together even after they’re grown. When [Jiab’s mother] met my parents, she said to them, “This is such a big house. Why don’t you have your children live here with you?” For a while the house next to us was available, and she’d say, “Why don’t you have your parents move in next door?”
So, how did you two meet?
Jim: The old-fashioned way — Match.com.
Jiab: It is old-fashioned now.
Jim: That was back when it was new, and everyone was like, “How do you know that person isn’t a psycho?” She was living in Irving. I was in North Dallas. We both have sons the same age, and we just kind of connected. We’re your typical Texas, Buddhist, Jewish family you see every day.
The season premiere of “The Marriage Ref” aired on June 26. To watch the episode, visit nbc.com/the-marriage-ref.