Entertainment

Does Divorce TV Ever Work?

They keep making new shows highlighting crumbling marriages

Just five years ago, in 2011, the fall television schedule included not one, not two, not even just three — but five new series based on divorce. Even more noteworthy than that, not a single one of them survived the season. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to recall any of them.

“Happily Divorced” starred the “Nanny” herself, Fran Drescher, and can probably be regarded as the closest one to a hit, but that’s due to the network that boasted the show, which was TV Land.

Americans seem to prefer their TV couples either happily married — or miserably married. Just so long as they are married.

The underappreciated Hank Azaria (a voice to so many on “The Simpsons”) starred in “Free Agents” on NBC, and “Sex and the City” producer Darren Star tried to be edgy all over again with “G.C.B.,” starring Kristin Chenoweth. The remainder aren’t even worth mentioning.

This fall season looks to recover those losses — to a degree. And this time around it’s a “Sex and the City” star who is the one attempting to be edgy again. Sarah Jessica Parker returns to TV, in HBO’s “Divorce,” taking a look at a marriage that’s falling apart.

Problem is, many Americans seem to prefer their TV couples either happily married — or miserably married. Just so long as they are married.

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The long-running CBS hit, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” aired during the exact same time span as “SATC,” and the ups and downs of Ray and Debra Barone rivaled any of the sexcapades Carrie Bradshaw dealt with, popularity-wise.

Even the late 1980s Fox hit “Married: With Children” — where Al and Peg Bundy weren’t exactly the poster couple for married life  — ran a good long time. Interestingly, of the three series, “Married” ran the longest — 10 years.

Parker is not alone out there this season, either.

Louis C.K., celebrated TV and stand-up personality, is the creator of “Better Things,” starring pal Pamela Adlon, an Emmy-winning actress and co-creator of the FX series which premieres Sept. 8.

She has been collaborating with C.K. for at least a decade, and plays Sam, a divorced mom of three. She also plays an actress, which is presumably where the comedy will come in to play. Much like C.K.’s “Louie,” many aspects of “Better Things” will be culled from Adlon’s own life (she’s also a mother of three). It’s earning early praise.

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Parker, however, won’t be going method here. Still happily married to Broadway superstar, and movie star in his own right Matthew Broderick (19 years and counting), you can perhaps look at “Divorce” as a sort of Carrie Bradshaw 2.0, where her time together with Mr. Big was brief, and has informed much of her viewpoints today. Here, he is played by Thomas Haden Church, formerly of NBC’s long-running sitcom “Wings.”

Parker is an executive producer of “Divorce,” which is set in Westchester County — as opposed to her other NYC playground, Manhattan. Her Frances is divorcing Church’s Robert, and it’s no quickie divorce. They are dealing with the fallout quite publicly too, via awkward public encounters in what will simply have to be one of those “small towns where everyone knows everyone’s business.”

Related: SJP: From ‘Sex’ to ‘Divorce’

But when so many successful sitcoms have seen their leads — or even secondary characters — grapple with “will they or won’t they” storylines, will an audience tune in to see a couple that did — and failed?

Many of the best sitcoms in history ended when the couple finally got it together — the big wedding episode doubling as the series finale (see: Joanie loving Chachi). More importantly, the ones that tried to go on afterward were usually accused of losing their edge, only to barely make it another season (see: Dave and Maddie in “Moonlighting”).

Then again, this is Sarah Jessica Parker we’re talking about. Certainly HBO is betting her “SATC” fans will be back in droves — this time to celebrate the divorced life, as opposed to the single life.

HBO turned its back on a similarly themed series that dealt with the exact thing last year. “Togetherness,” starring Amanda Peet, only lasted two seasons. “Divorce” will air Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. Hey, that’s almost exactly when “Togetherness” was on!

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