Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Wonders If Divorce Can Ever Be Funny and Welcomes the Return of the Missing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Wonders If Divorce Can Ever Be Funny and Welcomes the Return of the Missing

Article excerpt

WHEN Sharon Horgan was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme, she was asked whether it was possible to make divorce funny. Horgan's reply, like her writing, was a masterpiece of vague certainty and unbending doubt. She cited a remark made by Gwyneth Paltrow the actress who coined the phrase "conscious uncoupling" to describe her own emotional train wreck. Paltrow reportedly asked her father Bruce how he managed to stay married for 33 years, and he replied: "Well, we never wanted to get divorced at the same time."

Horgan's Divorce (Sky On Demand/ Now TV) is funny, but the humour is tempered by an undertow of sadness and an emotional complexity. Also, it stars Sarah Jessica Parker, an actor whose reputation rests on her turn as the sexy, insecure singleton in Sex and the City; the show that turned feminism into a gay fantasy of shagging shoe-fetishists, while falling back always on the comforting notion that everything could be fixed with a cuddle from Mr Big.

Chris Noth, aka Mr Big, subsequently became the semi-corrupt ham that Julianna Margulies had to stand by in The Good Wife, so Parker's progress is overdue, but there are signs that she knows what she's escaping from. Her character, Frances, isn't Carrie, though there is a joke about her laptop being thrown through a window. Meanwhile, upstate, she's older and sadder, and marooned in parenthood, still bewildered and incapable of holding onto a thought for more than 10 minutes.

That's where the tragicomedy lies.

The fact that Parker's character is married to, and in the business of uncoupling from, Thomas Haden Church (the dude from Sideways) is equally appropriate, because Church as Robert now represents dull dependability and flattened fury, where once he was a charmingly straightforward fool.

Is it really funny? It is, though the bittersweet notes are dialled up. …

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