Wait! Before You Completely Dismiss HBO's 'Divorce'
As it typically does, HBO is airing two comedies in the slots after its big Sunday night drama, Westworld. Insecure is getting most of the attention, and rightly so: It’s an original relationship dramedy with a diverse cast that, like Atlanta, is entertaining and educational for clueless white people (I’ve also enjoyed seeing the rise of the clueless white person stereotype in Insecure, Atlanta, and Black-ish).
Some of us clueless white people might not want to admit it, but we also like Divorce, which nobody talks about because, like Togetherness, it’s yet another series about affluent white people relationship problems. Like Togetherness, it also attempts to mine the comedy in the devastation of divorce, which, for a certain demographic, is increasingly relatable, as we see friends and family members go through that experience: Cheating, custody arrangements, lawyers, divorce settlements, broken hearts and angry exes.
I know what many of you are saying under your breath, though. “Really, Rowles? Sarah Jessica Parker? Thomas Haden Church? And the poster boy for affluent white people dysfunction, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts ( August: Osage County, Ugh!)?” He’s like the Richard Russo or John Irving of playwrights, authors I used to enjoy before I grew up and realized, My God, man! Do you not see the world through anything other than your penis and your small New England college towns?
I get it, I do! I didn’t want to like Divorce, either. And in the beginning, I didn’t really. I am not a fan of Parker (see, e.g., my review of the unctuous I Don’t Know How She Does It), and while I don’t dislike Thomas Haden Church, I think that Sideways is one of the most painfully overrated movies of the 21st century. I thought that Divorce would be the Sideways of TV. Why would I care about a bunch of wealthy, entitled assholes whose problems are a product of their own narcissism?
Ultimately, that’s what makes Divorce tick, and why it has grown on me over the last several episodes: Because these entitled, wealthy assholes are getting exactly what they deserve. We’re not meant to like them. They are terrible people who hurt each other in terrible ways, and they are reaping the consequences of that. There is satisfying poetic justice in that. A lot of good people do a lot of good things in the world and still get f*cked over in the end.
For once, it’s nice to see bad people get f*cked over by their own bad decisions, and therein lies the comedy of Divorce. Frances and Robert are like the Home Alone bandits: They can’t stop themselves from doing stupid shit, and they continue to end up flat on their asses with a tarantula crawling across their face. Yes! You miserable assholes, you get exactly what’s coming to you!
That’s what sets Divorce apart from Togetherness. We rooted for the characters in Togetherness, who were trying to escape their middle-aged malaise. In Divorce, we root against them. We say, “You didn’t know how good you had it with your middle-aged malaise!”
And if that doesn’t clinch if for you, know this: The source of the subversive relationship comedy in Divorce is creator and writer, Sharon Horgan, the same writer, creator, and star of Amazon’s amazing relationship comedy, Catastrophe and a producer/writer and star of the British series, Pulling. The marketing people should really be playing that up, because behind Parker’s peacoats and Haden Church’s terrible mustache is the comedy DNA of one of TV’s best writers.
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