Happily Divorced, "Pilot": out of the closet and into the guest bedroom

Quick Take: Happily Divorced, "Pilot"
"But we just had sex during Leno. How gay could you be?!" - Fran 

Review: Happily Divorced, "Pilot"
(S0101) Fran Drescher made a triumphant (too strong a word, perhaps?) return to television last night with the premiere of TV Land's new sitcom, Happily Divorced. The show, which was created by Drescher and her ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, is loosely based on the couple's real-life experiences. The former couple, who have remained friends, have worked together in the past, co-creating Drescher's former show The Nanny.

Happily Divorced chronicles the trials and tribulations of Fran (Fran Drescher), a middle-aged florist, who is thrust back into the dating pool after her husband of 18 years, Peter, informs her that he is (and always has been) a gay man. Things are further complicated by the fact that Peter and Fran still live together. Peter is played by John Michael Higgins, who you'll probably recognize from a slew of Christopher Guest movies as well as dozens of appearances on television. (I've always wondered whether or not Higgins himself is actually gay, but I looked it up and apparently he is not). The cast is rounded out by Tichina Arnold (Pam from Martin) as Judi, Fran's BFF, and D.W. Moffett (Joe McCoy from Friday Night Lights) as Elliott, Fran's new love interest.

It's appropriate that Happily Divorced was picked up by TV Land. The multi-camera set-up, the awful laugh track, and the traditional sitcom beats of "set-up, punchline, set-up, punchline, repeat" give the show a vibe that can be best described as "dated." If you showed me this pilot and told me it was filmed in 1991 and had been sitting on a shelf at some network for 20 years, I wouldn't think twice. (The fact that Fran Drescher actually looks damn good for a woman in her mid-fifties only adds to this effect). Happily Divorced is much more akin to the shows it shares its TV Land programming line-up with -- like All in The Family or Three's Company -- than to modern, single-camera, faux docu-style sitcoms like The Office, Parks and Rec, or Modern Family.

Fortunately, dated doesn't always mean bad. And Happily Divorced isn't exactly BAD, per se. (It certainly isn't GOOD either, though). The cast is likable enough. It doesn't hurt that Tichina Arnold and D.W. Moffett were part of two of my all-time favorites: Martin and FNL. John Michael Higgins isn't given a whole lot to do in the pilot, but he plays an extremely believable gay guy. I even found Fran Drescher to be less insufferable than I remembered her being. Thankfully so, for Happily Divorced she has toned down her natural "Fran Drescher-ness" that we all came to know and love (or hate) from her days on The Nanny.

I'm not exactly sure who the audience for a show like this is supposed to be, but I'm pretty sure "dudes in their mid-twenties" isn't exactly Happily Divorced's target demo. The fact that I, a member of said demo, was able to sit through an entire episode of the show bodes well for it's prospects of finding a following somewhere amongst the cable viewing public.

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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1 Comment
On: Thursday, June 16, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

I remember thinking that The Nanny was crazy dated back in the day, so count me as someone who wouldn't naturally gravitate to a show like Happily Divorced either. 

The cool thing about what's going on in cable these days is that there's original programming being produced for niche audiences. With Hot in Cleveland and Happily Divorced, it's clear that TV Land is going after an older demo, and bully for them if they can pull some ratings and keep the lights on. 

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