SJP: From Sex to Divorce

Sarah Jessica Parker's new HBO show is all about the crumbling of a marriage

Sarah Jessica Parker fans may soon have reason to watch TV again — or not.

Parker, who is best known for portraying the shoe-loving, soul-searching Carrie Bradshaw in the HBO series “Sex and the City,” is returning to HBO after more than 10 years — without Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. The half-hour comedy “Divorce” will premiere this fall.

It seems to be giving a whole new meaning to “sex and the city.”

It’s definitely not about cosmos, Jimmy Choos, and cute Chanel clothes.

Parker, 51, who also produces the show, stars as Frances, a middle-aged woman who feels disconnected and unfulfilled in her marriage. Uncertain of what to do, her good friend Dallas (played by Talia Balsam) and jittery friend Diane (Molly Shannon) try to convince her that she should divorce her husband Robert, played by Thomas Hayden Church.

Frances discovers Robert’s romantic interests are no longer exclusively hers — if they are still hers at all. Robert thinks Frances is drunk when she asks for a divorce. Apparently, he doesn’t see how his emotional relationship with another woman can be considered an affair when it was never sexual. Frances, though, understands all too well.

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It seems to be giving a whole new meaning to the concept of “sex and the city.”

Parker cultivated a legion of serious “Sex and the City” fans during the show’s run from 1998 — 2004. Those very fans might just be the target audience again now. Instead of searching for their own version of Mr. Big as they were then, they have likely found him, been with him for awhile — and, if they aren’t living happily ever after, may be wondering what to do with him now.

Parker told Vogue, “It’s an oddly logical next step.”

In 2015, Melissa Rivers talked to Parker about the upcoming show, which has enjoyed a year-long buildup of interest through teasers, rumors, and various interviews.

When asked why she had been excited to star in “Divorce,” Parker told Rivers, “It was an area of particular interest for me because I’m married, and I love being married, and I’m happily married.”

Parker, who has been with Matthew Broderick for almost 20 years and has three children with him, continued, saying, “But I just think at a certain point people feel alone and lost. So what is the portrait of a divorce? What is the portrait of a marriage? I love the idea of telling that story.”

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Parker added, “I think marriage is wonderfully complicated and wonderfully interesting, and everybody conducts their marriage differently. We know almost nothing about people’s marriage, because even those who we’re most intimate with in friendships, we don’t always share the good or the bad.”

Unlike “Sex and the City,” which had die-hard fans and equally die-hard disapproval from those opposed to its emptiness and displays of casual sex, “Divorce” hopes to be a thought-provoking explanation of a gradually unraveling, but possibly recoverable, marriage. Less romance-novel fantasy, more grown-up reality.

In the trailer, Frances says to Robert, “This could be the greatest thing that has happened to us. Now we can go back to just liking each other again.”

Also unlike Parker’s former character Carrie Bradshaw, Frances seems to have an inner strength. While Carrie desperately chased the elusive, gallavanting Big for years, Frances is saying no to her husband’s emotional dalliances with another woman.

Related: Love and Marriage: They’re Worth the Fight

The show is written and directed by Irish actor-writer-director Sharon Horgan, who  teamed up with American actor-comedian-writer Rob Delaney in 2015 to create the Amazon relationship comedy “Catastrophe” and is known for her biting wit.

She told Variety that when she and Delaney, who co-writes every episode of “Catastrophe” with her, start to write they “just sit side by side and start talking. I tell him horrible stories from my life, and he tells me horrible stories from his life.” Their ideas come from “listening to people on the bus, and stealing my friends’ stories,” Horgan explained.

While “Catastrophe” comes from personal experience, “Divorce” does not.

Still, Horgan’s delight seems to be in uniquely documenting the comical ups and painfully awkward downs of romantic relationships. In the U.K. she has also created and acted in the series “Bad Management,” “Pulling,” and “Dead Boss.” While none of her titles are especially hopeful or humorous-sounding, fans still look forward to “Divorce,” expecting insight and laughter from Sarah Jessica Parker — or, rather, Frances.

Here’s hoping Frances (and Horgan) has more common sense and insight than Carrie Bradshaw ever did.

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