{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

Sarah Jessica Parker returns to the stables of HBO with Divorce, which, on first sight, feels like a twisted sequel to her much celebrated Sex And The City. Parker, through six seasons of Sex And The City, did everything she could to find true love (while accumulating an enviable shoe collection) in New York City. Now she returns as Frances Dufresne, a married woman struggling to put her life back on track as goes through, well, divorce.

The show begins with the couple, Frances and Robert (Thomas Haden Church), when they’re still married. It’s immediately made obvious that they’ve been together for a while, but are not really madly in love. They head out to a friend’s birthday party where an abundance of alcohol results in things going sideways, with a dramatic shooting and heart attack. The shock of it all makes Frances realize she doesn’t want to be with Robert anymore, and take her life back while she “still cares about it”. Frances breaks to Robert that she wants a divorce, throwing him, predictably, into shock and anger for he had been of the opinion that they were happy together. While Robert tries to process what had just happened to him, Frances realizes that making a clean start after a middle aged marriage is harder than she thought it would be and runs back to make amends, but it’s too late. There are no spoilers here – the show’s title makes it clear that there is no happy ending.

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When the show was announced, I’d been of the opinion that it was some kind of unfortunate sequel to Sex And The City, after all, it’s hard to see Sarah Jessica Parker as anyone else other than Carrie Bradshaw. However, I am happy to admit that I was proven wrong by the show. While there are bits of Carrie’s personality that have been infused into Frances, it’s obvious that she is her own person, and not an aging Carrie. The addition of her friends’ lives in the narrative though, unlike in Sex And The City seems forced and unnecessary. Thomas Haden Church is painfully hilarious as Robert, part sincere husband and part incompetent buffoon. He has the demeanor of a soldier who has seen unspeakable things, to the point where even his apparently romantic declarations seem like he’s barking instructions to his men. It’s clear that Frances and Robert couldn’t be more different, and yet there is something about them together which makes sense, and for me, that’s where the show’s success lies.

Divorce explores every married couple’s worst nightmare – what happens when the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, isn’t the really the one you want to spend the rest of your life with? The show gets into the nitty-gritties of the modern marriage, and connects in ways you’ll never expect it to. There are no yelling matches or burst blood vessels or dramatic revelations or tears. Instead there are awkward silences, obvious dysfunction and unflinching honesty – not what you’d want in a marriage, but everything you’d want in a black comedy.

{Divorce is telecast on Star World Premier HD and is also available to stream on Hotstar}

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