A Look at HBO’s New Comedy Series “Divorce,” Starring Sarah Jessica Parker

Carrie Bradshaw’s getting divorced

Is it possible to have a mentor who is a fictional character? If so, Carrie Bradshaw was mine. Happy, fun, brave, and kind, Bradshaw had a way of storytelling in the former HBO series Sex and the City that made us laugh till we cried, tear up (in a good way), and feel inspired to be strong, independent, and full of hope that our “Big” was out there and it was just a matter of time until we found him.

So when I heard Sarah Jessica Parker was starring in a new HBO comedy series called Divorce, this divorce writer, who refers to herself as “an older, suburban, divorced Carrie Bradshaw plus two kids and minus the great body,” was curious. That said, I was not looking forward to seeing Parker (who will forever be Carrie Bradshaw to me) in a show about divorce. I want to believe Bradshaw is still living in New York City, happily married to Big and still hanging out with her best girlfriends—Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha.

Divorce, which first aired on HBO October 9, is set in a quaint New York suburb in the dead of winter. The series costars Thomas Haden Church, a brilliant casting choice by producers and a funny, lovable actor who showed his incredible talent playing Jack in the 2004 indie megahit Sideways.

The show got off to a great start when I experienced a laugh-out-loud moment in the first minute. Robert (played by Church) asks his wife, Frances (played by Parker), if she heard him knocking on the bathroom door 20 minutes ago.

“Yeah,” she says, in a completely indifferent tone.

Church then produces a coffee can and replies, “I was forced to take a shit in this coffee can in the garage.”

Parker replies, again with cold indifference, “OK,” turns back to the mirror, and continues putting on her makeup.

The show starts off painting a clear picture of a marriage deeply in trouble; a couple who has fallen out of love; and an extremely unlikable wife acting icy and distant toward her husband, treating him with zero respect or kindness. Robert comes across as this poor, sweet guy who just wants to be loved.

It is at a 50th birthday party at a friend’s house during which the birthday girl (played by Molly Shannon) tries to shoot her husband, who then has a heart attack and almost dies, that Frances decides to ask Robert for a divorce.

“You spent last Christmas fishing in Alaska . . . it was the best Christmas I have had in years,” Frances says to her husband and the father of their two children. “Sometimes I come home from work, and I’m happy. I actually feel happy. And then I see your car there, parked, and I realize you’re home and my heart sinks.”

Ouch. That was painful and uncomfortable to watch. Anyone who has ever gone through a divorce will tell you he or she either said or heard things similar to what Frances said that were beyond hurtful and that stay with the person forever.

Additionally, if you are a divorced person, chances are you aren’t liking Frances very much at this point, especially when we find out she has been cheating on her husband for the past year. The show makes it easy for the audience to judge her.

The next morning, she stops by the apartment of Julian—an unattractive, unlikable guy who makes his own granola and apparently gives great orgasms. After they have sex, she tells him that she asked Robert for a divorce, expecting Julian to be happy about it. To her dismay, Julian responds by saying he’s disappointed, wants nothing to do with her two kids, and admits that his biggest attraction to Frances was the secrecy of the affair.

Dumbfounded by his response, Frances is practically running home to save her marriage and tells Robert she wants to work it out. At this point, things changed for me, and I found myself rooting for Frances. Everyone messes up and deserves a second chance, right? Plus, there are kids involved here.

She and Robert begin to try to save their marriage, and things seem as if they might work out. But, again, any divorced person will tell you that never happens. Soon after, Robert looks at Frances’s phone and finds out about the cheating. In the last scene of episode one, the next day, Frances comes home from a friend’s house and finds that Robert has locked her out of the house.

Furious—and with a complete personality change from his soft, sweet demeanor—Robert says with conviction, and through a closed, locked door, “You disgust me now. . . . I’m going to make you miserable.” He then says something that really pisses me off: “And more to the point, I’m going to make your children hate you.”

As a divorce writer who receives dozens of e-mails per week from unhappy men and women asking me for advice on what to do because they are no longer in love with their spouse, I can say that Divorce paints a very accurate picture of how difficult staying in a marriage really is.

The show also displays how quickly things can become ugly when someone admits he or she wants a divorce and/or cheating comes into play. The shock, anger, hurt, and resentment people feel when they realize it’s over can make people say and do things even they never thought they would say or do.

I’m looking forward to this series, but I wonder, Will divorced men and women want to relive their divorces every Sunday night? Because if you are divorced, you know exactly where this story line is going. The upside is you’ve got two amazing actors and many, many moments of levity that compensate for what could be a depressing plot. And if at any time you decide you need a break from the stress of the nightmare Robert and Frances are about to live, you can always turn to Sex and the City reruns.

Thumbnail credit: HBO

Jackie Pilossoph, ESME’s Divorce Resource Guide, is the creator of Divorced Girl Smiling, a website that helps men and women facing divorce. She is also a weekly Huffington Post divorce blogger; the writer of a weekly column, “Love Essentially,” for the Chicago Tribune’s Pioneer Press; and a freelance corporate and business content writer. Pilossoph holds a master’s degree in journalism. She lives in Chicago with her two children. Oh, and she’s divorced.

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