Def­i­nitely not the new ‘Sex and the City’

‘Di­vorce’ is a dark look at life in Amer­i­can subur­bia, as mar­riages fail for var­i­ous rea­sons

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in the garage. She doesn’t so much as look at him, re­spond­ing with a few “uh-huhs” as if she’s mak­ing a point of only half-lis­ten­ing.

Then, as he walks away, she throws up her mid­dle fin­ger. The ap­a­thy she shows in his pres­ence just barely hides her rage.

Later, when the cou­ple are at their friend’s 50th birth­day party, the guest of hon­our, Diane (Molly Shan­non), gets into a nasty fight with her hus­band, Nick (Tracy Letts), and ends up pulling a gun on him. She doesn’t ac­tu­ally shoot him, but the com­mo­tion is enough to give him a heart at­tack, and he ends up hos­pi­talised in a coma.

The scenes are strangely rem­i­nis­cent of a stand­out Sex and the City episode, Splat!, which also takes place at a party that ends with a grave turn. In that episode, Car­rie runs into her old friend Lexi (Kris­ten John­ston) at a swanky soiree in the sky-high apart­ment of her ed­i­tor.

Lexi is 40 and sin­gle, and she still likes to live it up – drink­ing too much and snort­ing co­caine alone in the pow­der room. She laments how the peo­ple around her have grown up and set­tled down, and she’s sad to hear that Car­rie has paired off with Alek­sandr (Mikhail Barysh­nikov).

Ex­as­per­ated, Lexi makes a show of wrench­ing open the win­dow so that she can smoke (against the host­ess’s wishes), then she de­liv­ers a blis­ter­ing tirade about how lame New York has be­come.

“What hap­pened to fun?” she de­mands. “God, I’m so bored I could die.”

Just then, she trips on her high heel and falls out the win­dow to her death.

At the end of the episode, the bit­ter, an­gry pes­simist is dead. By con­trast, ev­ery­one on Di­vorce is bit­ter and an­gry. Lexi’s death em­bold- ens Car­rie to drop ev­ery­thing and move to France. She’s hope­ful for a fairy tale ro­mance that seems to­tally within reach. In Di­vorce, Nick’s heart at­tack in­spires Frances to dump Robert. You could say it’s also a kind of hope – that she’ll be hap­pier alone or that she’ll find some­one new.

But op­ti­mism is in short sup­ply on the show, be­cause happy mar­riages don’t ex­ist in this uni­verse. In ad­di­tion to Diane, Frances’s other close friend, Dal­las (Talia Bal­sam), is a di­vorcee, who warns Frances not to ex­pect much from a dat­ing scene filled with cast-offs and wid­ow­ers still in love with their late wives.

Di­vorce is al­most suf­fo­cat­ingly bleak at times. It even takes place in the grey, cold dead of win­ter. But the show is still funny on oc­ca­sion. It was writ­ten by Sharon Hor­gan, af­ter all, the hi­lar­i­ous Brit who co-writes and co-stars in Catas­tro- phe. One of the fun­nier jokes in the first episode is the sight of a hand­cuffed Diane be­ing es­corted out of her party while as­sur­ing ev­ery­one in the house they should stay put and open an­other bot­tle of Cham­pagne.

She’d hate to break things up early, she in­sists. Over­all, the com­edy in Di­vorce is harder-edged than Sex and the City, and that may have some­thing to do with cast­ing.

Hor­gan has a light touch, so even when she’s say­ing ter­ri­ble things on Catas­tro­phe, her bright de­liv­ery soft­ens the mes­sage.

Parker, who is un­doubt­edly af­fect­ing in the new se­ries, doesn’t have the same sense of in­nate lev­ity.

The show isn’t al­ways easy to watch. It’s a wor­thy half-hour – but only if you prop­erly man­age ex­pec­ta­tions. – Wash­ing­ton Post

Di­vorce is on M-Net Edge on Tues­days at 1.20am.

Di­vorce.

Thomas Haden Church and Sarah Jes­sica Parker in

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