Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pilot Review: Happily Divorced

Happily Divorced (TV Land)
Premiered June 15 at 10:30pm
On the heels of its huge hit “Hot in Cleveland” and its decently successful but awful “Retired at 35,” TV Land is continuing its foray into original programming. What’s especially definitive about the setup of these shows is that they’re designed to mimic the kind of classic television that the network airs, updating each in its own way for modern times. Hence, in this show, Fran Drescher’s husband Peter, played by an unusually sedated John Michael Higgins, announces one night in bed that he is gay. That’s hardly a premise that would have been seen on a comedy from the 1950s or 1960s, yet it’s a jumping off point that still leads right back to familiar ground. The comedic territory covered by “Happily Divorced” is entirely predictable and expected, and while the specific twist may be original, and the tagline great, the show doesn’t boast much in the way of differentiating qualities. Drescher’s character is more annoying than she was on “The Nanny,” and that’s only half problematic given that it’s supposed to be the case. I’d love to see a little more enthusiasm from Higgins, and I’m curious as to whether D.W. Moffett will stick around as Fran’s new boyfriend Elliott or if she’ll soon be treated to a revolving door of potential partners. I’m intrigued by the fact that Tichina Arnold is following up her standout lead role on “Everybody Hates Chris” with a supporting best friend part in this rather more tame sitcom. An ensemble which includes Rita Moreno and Robert Walden as Fran’s parents may excite older viewers, and should clue younger viewers into what to expect when it comes to this show. I know that I’m nowhere near the intended audience member, and therefore I’m tempted to give it another episode or twoLink to see if it can hold my attention or whether it’s really just not worth it.

How will it work as a series? The premise is something that needs to evolve as the show continues. The “how did I not know” gimmick regarding Peter’s sexuality becomes tired midway through the pilot, so that’s something the show will have to learn to graduate from, a la “Cougar Town” and its distancing from its title. It could, if executed properly, potentially be a new “Will & Grace” for an older crowd, and that could work decently well.
How long will it last? Given that TV Land renewed “Retired at 35,” this show is a lock for a second season. On top of that, the show’s ratings matched those of its lead-in, “Hot in Cleveland,” pretty much cementing a speedy pickup for a second season and a bright future for this show on a network with which it is perfectly paired.

Pilot grade: C+

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