My interest in Fran Drescher goes all the way back to her appearance in the film Doctor Detroit, in which her trademark voice grabbed a very semitic part of my soul and dug its way in. I’ve enjoyed watching her over the years, even when I’ve not always enjoyed the material she’s been involved in.
Happily Divorced brings some of the key behind-the-camera names from The Nanny to a new TVLand series. In this case, the concept is a workable one; Fran plays a woman whose husband came to realize he was gay; they divorce, but due to economic situation, they continue living together. (It’s derived somewhat from Fran’s marriage to the series cocreator, who turned out to be gay.)
It falls into the pattern we’ve seen in the recent run of TVLand original sitcoms – good older cast members, shallow treatment of everything, heavy on the sex. There’s good folks, good concept here, if they can rein it in, they may have something. But if it’s just more of the pilot, an endless string of “how could I not realize he was gay when he used to do this stereotypical gay thing” gags.
As for Ms. Drescher… hmm. It seems to me that working actresses face a decision at some point — they’ve been playing the pretty lady for so long, but their hitting the age where work is harder to get. Do you get the plastic surgery, try to keep looking a bit younger than you are, get a few more years of work out of it? It’s an understandable decision to take… but a few years later, you can end up looking like something not quite human. You don’t look like a lovely-aged distinguished older woman; you end up looking like a poorly-made mannequin. Drescher, while not the worst example, has a face that looks pumped out and dead, and the stiffnesss seems to have an effect on her delivery. Her nasal tones are still there, but her comedic delivery is off its peak..
And speaking of those nasal tones, there’s one source of humor they seem to be pedaling back from here. Not only is there no reference in the episode to her being Jewish, it seems to be specifically contra-indicated. Her mother is played by Rita Moreno – one can’t complain about the talent she brings to the show, but she doesn’t scream Drescher’s mom – and her dad is Robert Walden, who can read somewhat Jewish but never as much as Drescher does.
It could be saved, but having seen the direction that TVLand sitcoms take, I wouldn’t bet the house on it.