TV Review: Divorce or: No Sex in the City (Starts Wednesday on Showcase)

Did you ever wonder what would become of Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw had she moved to the suburbs, popped out two children, and wound up married to a man she no longer loves and has “literally nothing to say” to? Well, HBO’s latest offering Divorce may just be for you then.

Given that it’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s grand return to TV following her 6-year stint on the award-winning Sex and the City (arguably the program that set-up HBO as a go-to channel for worthy television), it’s fair to say that there’s considerable pressure on Sharon Horgan’s dramedy in which Parker stars as Frances, a frustrated woman of sorts who’s fast-approaching 50 and finds herself stuck in a rut she doesn’t know how to pull herself out of.

When the first episode starts it’s difficult to not immediately liken both the show and Parker to Carrie’s city-based sexploits as she stares blank-faced in a mirror, her skin bare of any beauty enhancement, seemingly addressing the audience in a confessional-style we’re all too familiar with.  In reality, Frances is talking to her husband (Thomas Haden Church), and it becomes immediately apparent we’re looking at a couple who are anything but satisfied with one another.

To say there isn’t much of a hook to Divorce isn’t to criticize the product at all, and perhaps in the show’s simplicity is where its brilliance rests as both Parker and Haden Church are equally committed to delivering the strongest work they can; Haden Church is undoubtedly the show’s MVP as he sprouts off Horgan’s script with acid-tongued precision.  Though the first episode showcases a lively moment involving Frances’ friend Diane (a scene-stealing Molly Shannon), a handgun and a hot temper, it’s the dialogue stringing everything together that proves Divorce’s worth; “She couldn’t handle the atmosphere in the house, so she choked herself to death”, Shannon observes, deadpanned, about her recently deceased pug’s reaction to her own crumbling marriage.

Whilst Sex and the City was never one to shy away from drama, however uncomfortable it may have been, there was still a sense of optimism that laced that show’s mentality.  Divorce is just plain uncomfortable, and could prove an all-too hard-hitting watch for those who have experienced a disillusioned marriage themselves or are currently in a relationship where cracks are starting to show.  But, again, I think that’s the point of Divorce (the show, that is), to highlight the feeling of defeat, failure, and guilt we all may feel when reflecting on a partnership that once appeared rock-solid.

Sex and the City this is not – and we should be thankful for that seeing as how that second feature film turned out – even though it’s difficult to not want to liken the two, but Divorce very much harnesses its own identity and continues to prove Parker’s strength as a comedic performer.  After previewing the first several episodes provided by HBO I can assuredly call myself an invested viewer of a series that will probably entice viewers with Parker’s presence but will keep its audience due to Haden Church’s inspired performance and its innate ability to make us laugh at situations we know we shouldn’t be.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Divorce will debut on Foxtel’s Showcase Wednesdays from October 12 at 8.30pm.