HBO’s Divorce Is a Cold, Ugly and Unfunny Series


Divorce Series Premiere Plot Summary:

The marriage between Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Robert (Thomas Hayden Church) is falling a part, and you’ve got a front row ticket.

As the editor-in-chief of Pop-Break, I know that when no one has volunteered to review an important show, I must write the review myself. While HBO’s new 30 minute dramedy Divorce was not on my must-see radar, I knew any new HBO series, especially one with Sarah Jessica Parker returning to the small screen for the first time in years, had to be reviewed.

By taking on this review,  I skipped the end of WWE No Mercy, the third quarter of the New York Giants versus the Green Bay Packers, and the latter portions of the Clinton/Trump debate.

Three minutes into the series and I was literally dying to see what Hillary and The Donald were talking about.


Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Because the pilot episode of Divorce was one of the most excruciatingly unfunny, and unlikable shows I’ve ever had to watch. Outside of the God awful Chelsea Handler NBC series, Are You There, Chelsea? or the unmitigated dumpster fire that was Rosemary’s Baby Part 1 and Part 2, I have never hated a show so much, or wanted to punch out of watching something so quickly.

Guys, this show made me want to hear what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were saying. That’s how bad it was.

From the jump this show sets a very clear tone — no one in this series is likable.  We find this out in an extremely hamfisted, nauseating, and melodramatic birthday party for Frances’ friend Diane (Molly Shannon). Within moments we get the cliched “I hate my husband/I hate my wife” banter between Diane and her husband Nick (Tracy Letts) which escalates into weird 50 years old grinding their junk on each other, a gun being shot (nearly killing Robert) and Nick having a massive heart attack. It’s one of the most bizarre sequences I’ve ever seen on television, and I’ve seen a smoke monster be born out of a woman’s vagina on Game of Thrones.

Moments later in a very crowbarred in scene, Frances declares she hates Robert’s existence and wants a divorce. And at that moment I was wondering how many times Trump had said the word “Gina” and how many times Hillary did a shoulder shimmy.

Luckily, this moment was anchored by two very convincing performances by Church and Parker. SJP was particularly convincing here, because you really feel for her. I figured this was the character I could get behind — she’s honest, and has some emotional depth.

But don’t worry people — Frances is a complete asshole. Remember, no one on this show is likable. Turns out she’s actually been having a torrid love affair with the schlumpiest British man in history. Seriously, think of any doughy, kind fugly British actor ever, and this guy makes them look like Robert Redford in his prime — both in terms of looks and charisma.

When she professes her love for him, and says she’s getting a divorce…SURPRISE…he bails. So what does Frances do…SURPRISE…she tries to make amends with her husband. Remember, she’s an asshole, people. But, in the blink of an eye Robert discovers the affair, and Robert delivers an absurdly written rant about being the Sandra Bullock in the relationship and kicks her out. Okay, maybe I can get behind him? Nope, because he assholes it up by promising to ruin her life and turn her kids against her. No one here is likable.

Womp. Womp. Comedy!

Maybe this series isn’t for me. Wait, correction. This series isn’t for me. I’m not one who enjoys overly morbid and dark humor — especially when that humor is based on death, dying, illness, or the collapse of a marriage. Sorry, those things don’t tickle my funny bone. If they tickle yours…let’s not hang out when you’re watching this show because I will continuously ask you why you don’t like being happy.

To be fair, if there is one bright spot, it’s the performances of Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker navigates her character through the absurdities of this entire episode and makes her the most fleshed out, most believable, and most human character. Everyone else is really just a sketch at this point, even Church’s character. Parker makes Frances an everywoman, someone you’ve met or currently know, and if this show had better writing, she’d an awesome character to watch.

But unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing funny that happens. The dialogue is beyond cliche. This 30 minute show trudges at a slug-like pace. It made me pine for a damn presidential debate and I can’t stand either candidate!

If you dig this kind of realistic and dark dramedies, you’re going to love the hell out of this show. For me, I’d rather be stuck watching Trump and Clinton debate for 24 hours straight.

Rating: 1/10.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites