Unhappily ever after
> Sharon Horgan, the creator of HBO’s new edgy comedy series Divorce, shares what makes couples end their union
THE FIRST episode of Divorce opens with Frances (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, and then husband Robert (Thomas Haden Church) walks in.
There is obviously some tension between them, as Robert tells her in a roundabout way that she is hogging the bathroom.
The tension continues as they make their way to their friend’s birthday party.
It is also evident that several of their friends are going through relationship problems.
The party abruptly ends when a drunk humiliated wife, Diane (Molly Shannon), fires a gun at her husband, Nick (Tracy Letts), who gets a heart attack. The cops arrive and Diane is taken away.
Back home, Frances questions: “How do you go from eight years of a happy marriage to wanting to blow someone’s head off?
“What if the same thing happens to us?” she says, before telling Robert: “I don’t love you any more, I want a divorce.”Robert reacts by vomiting, twice.
This powerful opening to Divorce ( top) marks Parker’s return to HBO after her landmark series, Sex and the City.
The series was created and written by English-born Irish actress Sharon Horgan, 46, who is known for British comedy series Pulling and Catastrophe, that she starred in and cowrote.
During a tele-conference interview with Horgan, we pointed out the role reversal aspect of the series.
“I think it is much more interesting to tell a story that hasn’t been seen before,” Horgan ( above) said.
“Seeing female characters on TV, who are flawed and make bad decisions [and] not necessarily being the responsible adult in the relationship, is more unusual and makes for a more interesting character.
“Also when you have someone like Sarah Jessica Parker ( right) playing that character, it makes things easier, because she is a likeable person and people want to watch her. So you can get away with a lot more.”
Although Hollywood couples have suffered a spate of divorces this year, Horgan hopes the series will appeal to viewers for a different reason.
She added: “Divorce is not the glossy Hollywood version of divorce. It is messy, heartbreaking at times. It is a real portrait of two people struggling to come out of it in one piece.”
The idea for the series came about when Horgan was contacted by HBO to work out a series featuring Parker.
“We (the creative team) were all involved from the very beginning. We discussed the ideas we had, [and] the stuff she was interested in talking about in the show. That is when I came up with the premise.”
Horgan herself is not married but has been in a long-term relationship.
After talking to Parker, and also after watching films like War of the Roses and Husbands and Wives, Horgan thought this bleak subject could be made into a comedy. In the case of Frances, it takes Diane’s meltdown to make her realise that something is wrong with her own marriage. “Sometimes, you look at someone else’s life and think you want that, or you don’t want that,” said Horgan. “With Frances, she has been walking through life blindfolded, knowing she is missing something but not knowing what to do about it. “She just thinks she needs to do something about this before her life is over. It is fun watching the character’s marriage go a different direction after that incident.” Horgan sometimes looks around and admires couple who seem to have the “perfect marriage”. “It is sometimes hard not to,” she said. “It is a scary world on your own. I can only write from my own point of view. “There are people who are happy just with their company but it is tough for me.”
premieres on HBO (Astro channels 411 /431) at the same time as the US at 10am with a primetime encore at 10pm.