Why Sarah Jessica Parker’s new show Divorce gets it so right

Sarah Jessica Parker makes a triumphant return to TV with her new show Divorce, which starts on Sky Atlantic this Tuesday. Here's why it's seriously compulsive viewing.

Let’s get one big point out of the way first. Sarah Jessica Parker’s role of Frances in HBO’s new show Divorce is not an older, suburban answer to Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw.

Divorce is not Carrie 2.0, Carrie Ten Years Later or Carrie Does The Suburbs. But it must be said, if you loved Parker in Sex and the City and have found her movie appearances since the show wrapped in 2004 haven’t quite hit the spot, then you should be very pleased with Divorce.

Parker stars not as Carrie but Frances, a New York recruitment consultant who comes to the realisation in episode one – at her best friend’s disastrous 50th birthday party – that her marriage to Robert (Thomas Haden Church) is dead in the water.

But what might not be Carrie 2.0 (aside from anything else the wardrobe is a far-too-conservative array of silk dresses and elegantly cut coats) still brings back the everywoman awkwardness and flaws which made Parker so watchable in Sex and the City, as she struggles to keep a cool head – and her dignity – when the power play between her and her estranged husband begins to see-saw back and forth.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church in Divorce

Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church in Divorce

Divorce‘s secret weapon is Catastrophe star and writer Sharon Horgan, who penned the screenplay. With Catastrophe, Horgan showed her knack for using humour to explore the complications of modern relationships. In Divorce, despite the gloomy premise of a family and relationship being split in two, this humour translates brilliantly to a larger-scale HBO set-up.

Thomas Haden Church is brilliant as Frances’s endearingly dorky spurned husband Robert (Parker personally requested Church for the role after the pair hit it off filming 2008’s Smart People). When Robert hears Frances’s Australian lover down the phone, he mistakes his accent for French and starts bombarding him with rude, badly accented voicemails. It’s little moments like this which make the show so watchable – playing out all the absurd, tragically comic things we do when we feel betrayed and heartbroken. Horgan also seems to understand that the simplest realisations are often the most powerful. At one point Frances tells a friend she knew her marriage was over when she found she couldn’t think of a single thing to say to Robert.

Providing light relief is Molly Shannon as Frances’s friend Diane. There’s a pretty memorable scene early on in the series when Diane threatens her husband Nick with a gun. We’ll leave you to find out how that one plays out, but only in the hands of a writer as skilled as Sharon Horgan could a moment like that be so funny.

Divorce begins 11th October at 10pm on Sky Atlantic 

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