Divorce First Look Review: Breaking (People) Up (Is Never Easy)

Chad White

Season 1, Episode 1

This is a first look review of HBO’s Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, and Molly Shannon.

Absent from TV for years, with the exception of a stint on Glee, Sarah Jessica Parker returns to the small screen for another starring role on an HBO series. Divorce is a return to dramedy that leans more towards the drama aspect for Parker. But a show that throws out the possibility of a reconciliation by the end of the episode makes for a decent development for a new show.

Parker stars as Frances, who is married to Thomas Haden Church’s Robert. Like most married couples, they pretty much hate each other -- Frances moreso than Robert. After an altercation involving a drunk friend, Diane (Molly Shannon), and a gun, Frances decides it’s time for her and Robert to split. But he doesn’t want that; he found that the incident should've made them closer. Within minutes, we’re introduced to the only reasons why Frances stayed: the kids. Sure, they’re both embarrassed by their mother -- seen as she walks them to the bus -- but they still love her.

Soon after, Frances’ escape is shown. She’s been cheating on her husband with pizza worried Julian (Jemaine Clement) who she informs that she’s getting a divorce. But when he doesn’t return the same affection, she becomes worried that she made the wrong choice and tells Robert she’s ready to give love a second chance. However, her plans are foiled when he calls Julian (who she so stupidly labeled “J” in her phone) and discovers everything.

The first two acts were common fodder for a show about a failing couple. Lies, cheating and emotional truth came off as pedestrian but both Church and Parker’s versions of the characters were done so well that it was easy to look over the faults they deal with. Really, Robert came off as the innocent one even though he was said not to be a good husband. One of the funnier and equally sad scenes involves him trying to bring Frances to orgasm via oral pleasure as she kicks him away only to double down on the divorce talk she would soon reneg.

But it would seem that the writer, Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan, had other plans down the line. The same honest truths and animosity towards the significant other from the Amazon series is on display in the HBO show. That coupled with Jesse Peretz’s straightforward but engaging direction give Divorce the sincere feeling that everything won’t turn out alright for Frances and Robert.

Should you watch Divorce?

Having never seen Sex and the City or its films, there’s no way to compare the two. Parker did a decent job in this pilot but Church stood out (is he a good actor or is his stilted performance perfect for the role of divorcing dad?). Shannon, too, is a star in the middle of the bleak story. Horgan’s Divorce is a new direction on the same plain as her other show. With the ending 180 turn of an impending divorce, it’s going to be an unusual display of what love really means for these three characters.