Friday, October 14, 2016

Pilot Review: Divorce

Divorce (HBO)
Premiered October 9 at 10pm

Television is an interesting phenomenon since popular and well-respected actors are likely to star in several significant series over the course of their careers. Often, the parts they play are the same again and again, but sometimes there’s a real effort to depart from what’s known and familiar and try something completely now. That’s the best estimation of what’s happening with one of HBO’s brand-new comedies, which brings back “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker for a totally different lead role. The peppiness and the intellectual curiosity exhibited by her previous character is gone and replaced by a disgruntled, pessimistic outlook bred by raising unappreciative children and growing distant from her husband. The big blowout scene at the home of two far unhappier people, Molly Shannon’s Diane and Tracy Letts’ Nick, which ended with one of them literally shooting the other, was an important catalyst to show Parker’s Frances that being married to Thomas Haden Church’s Robert is not at all what she wants. It’s not that the idea of marriage has become so awful in her mind, since she seems more than willing and eager to get into a committed relationship with Jemaine Clement’s Julian. But there is something so unappealing about Robert that has caused her to calmly lash out, and, unfortunately, by episode’s end, transmitted itself to him and inspired him to be truly vindictive in turning the tables and telling her that he’s going to ruin her life. Very little of this seems appealing, however tongue-in-cheek it’s meant to be. Both Parker and Church are so dry that it’s hard to find a point of access to this show. I’d like to give it another chance to see where it goes after Robert’s brutal revelation, but I’m not too optimistic after this grim and uninviting pilot.

How will it work as a series? Robert has declared war, and we know which side Frances is on. She obviously has a friend or two she can rely on, but it’s going to be an uphill battle going forward which could be moderately entertaining but is likely to be entertaining unpleasant, and, I’d expect, not too enjoyable to watch.
How long will it last? Reviews are decent but not as good as HBO’s new comedy series premiere, “Insecure.” The ratings were a bit weaker, but sampling the show early proved to be a positive thing. I’m pretty sure that HBO is going to stick by this series since it speaks to a particular audience, however miserable it may be.

Pilot grade: C+

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