Fran Drescher's gay ex-husband has a show!
Happily Divorced couldn’t ask for a better lead-in. It premieres on TV Land on June 15 directly after Hot in Cleveland, the biggest phenomenon to hit the upper part of the cable box since Half-Ton Teen.
It also has a pretty hot premise: Fran Drescher plays a florist whose 18-year marriage ends when her husband (John Michael Higgins) announces, “Yep, I’m gay”—and for various reasons, they continue living together anyway!
What’s more, the show is loosely based on Drescher’s own experience. In fact, Drescher co-writes it with Peter Marc Jacobson, who happens to be her real-life gay ex-husband.
There are just two problems with the show, based on my viewing of the pilot: (A) Betty White isn’t in it. (B) It’s not that funny.
I know it’s a true story, but in lieu of much character development or believability, the sitcom tends to go for gay-101-style cliches and signifiers. Jokey remarks are made about things like blonde hair tips, fruity sorbet, neck pillows, showtune singalongs, gym visits, chest hair removal, the YMCA, and other reference points you can hear about in a locker room that hasn’t let air in for several decades.
The main gag is that Fran’s character didn’t catch on about hubby being gay all these years, though it was so obvious to everyone else, including her deadpan parents, who don’t seem to see it as a problem. Oh, did I mention she has deadpan parents (Rita Moreno and Robert Walden)? And a sassy black best friend (Tichina Arnold), who trills stuff like, “Have fun, girl!”? And a fairly lame Mexican flower delivery character (Valente Rodriguez)? Oh, well. At least it’s not just the gay who’s clichéd.
I know sitcoms aren’t the place we generally turn for profound insight into sociopolitical topics, but they’re always funnier if there’s some texture there, rather than just surfacey situations used for easy laughs.
The main calling card here is the return of Drescher, who, with that thick nasal delivery and impenetrable accent laid on even heavier than in The Nanny, seems to now be doing an impersonation of herself. But Fran’s lust for the camera is evident, and in the livelier moments, she shines, like when she says to hubby, “You’ve never even been with a man. Trust me, it’s not that great!”
Hopefully, Happily Divorced will dig a little deeper for human truths rather than trot out more Glee references and slapstick routines. It needs to be way gayer!