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.

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