Not So Gleeful

Why The Gays Should Be Un-“Happy” With Fran Drescher

When TV Land debuted Hot in Cleveland last summer, the nostalgia network lucked onto a winning formula: Take veteran sitcom actors (Valerie Bertinelli, Betty White, etc.) and cast them in familiar/cliché sitcom roles and storylines. With Cleveland one of the  top shows on basic cable it’s not surprising TV Land wanted to reproduce its success.

Enter Fran Drescher’s new sitcom, Happily Divorced, which debuted  to solid ratings on Wednesday. (With Cleveland‘s season premiere as a lead-in, Divorced nabbed 2.4 million viewers.) The series—based on Drescher’s real marriage to Nanny co-producer Peter Marc Jacobson—sees her and her husband (Best in Show’s John Michael Higgins) renegotiating their relationship when he comes out to her after 18 years of marriage.

“[It’s] inspired by our story, because Peter is now living as an openly gay man, but Peter and I split up before he came out… That wasn’t the reason why we split up, and I was the one who ended the marriage, and he didn’t want it to end. It was only after that, and [The Nanny] ended, and he moved 3,000 miles away and went into therapy that he started to connect with his true orientation.”

Sadly, while the truth may be stranger than fiction its not necessarily more humorous: After watching the debut episode, we  can confirm that not only is Divorced somewhat clumsy and insulting—it’s plain just not funny.

The first mistake was opening the show with Fran’s husband confession (made in bed after having sex during The Tonight Show). Instead of screaming or crying, Fran’s character (named Fran, natch) responds with the kind of ho-hum annoyance one reserves for burnt casseroles and forgotten anniversaries. In fact, the whole episode feels like an  Everyone Loves Raymond rerun, with Fran’s ex cockblocking her on dates, her sassy best friend providing support and a too-loud laugh track telling you when something’s funny. We get that TV Land is aiming for older viewers who may not click with the metahumor of 30 Rock and The Office, but Divorced feels like it was shot in 1997. (You know, when gays were wacky, stylish and asexual.) With shows like Modern Family and Glee presenting more well-rounded (and still funny) gays, there’s really no excuse for this kind of laziness.

Of course it’s possible the show will get more nuanced as the season continues. We want to give Drescher and TV Land the benefit of the doubt—except that since Happily Divorced is aimed squarely at Middle America, it’s unintentionally sending an all-too familiar message to a vulnerable demographic: Namely that gays are a threat to traditional marriage.



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  • Abel

    Balderdash. The show had to establish its premise, and having done so, will probably improve. The first couple of NANNY episodes were similarly expository – establishing the situation, introducing the characters. Drescher is a talented and funny lady, and her heart is in the right place. Give it time, fellows. It may fail, but at least give it a chance, don’t bury it on the first date.

  • RomanHans

    You mistakenly said there’s humor in The Office.

  • Daez

    Perhaps this same situation is all to common. Funny how you can say the message it sends to middle America when you don’t really claim to be part of it.

    The message is simple… There was a generation of men that wanted to be hard workers, dads and have the American dream. Because, during that generation all that ran contrary to being gay, they decided to bubble their true nature and build all that with the opposite sex. Eventually, like all bubbles do, the damn thing burst and they were left to pick up the pieces.

    How those pieces get picked up is a pretty damn interesting premise for a show.

    Did I mention, this exactly storyline happens way more than anyone wants to admit to.

  • Disgusted Gay American

    I agree with Abel….FD has always been a big LGBT supporter…..and a Very Good friend to Gays… Abel said – it needed to cememt its premise – it can only get better…..the Nanny Rocked!

  • ewe

    @Abel: Dresher is a talented and funny lady? That’s hysterical. LMAO.

  • ewe

    OH MOI GAWD. This great Aictriss seems ta awlways have a noo yawk axent and the same state of moind. She must be fabulus and tailented and funny too. HA. That’s a stretch!!!

  • ewe

    @Abel: She may want to be Lucy but she’s really only Loosey.

  • fredo777

    @RomanHans: There is. Get your funny bone checked out.

  • akn

    If the gays on Glee are considered “well rounded,” then I have no hope for any of us.

  • Bullitt

    Modern Family shows well-rounded gays? The queens scream AND whine. That’s well-rounded?

  • GARY


  • Karl of Themyscira....the indescribable lightness of being Wonder Womans number one fan.

    Love Fran Drescher…its good to see her back on prime-time but this show needs a bit more work.

  • Tony

    It was ok…I’ll watch it again to see what it’s like.

    I found the guy playing her husband a bit dull. I know he’s not an actor, but I’d rather they used her real ex-husband.

  • fredo777

    Believe it or not, but I think the gays on “Glee” + “Modern Family” are interesting, multi-faceted characters, if you bother watching this shows regularly enough + don’t get caught up on the more immediately obvious/stereotypical aspects. Kurt is effeminate + fashionable, but he’s also smart, talented, + witty. Karofsky is a formerly-bullying closet case, but also evolving + seems genuinely regretful about his former ways. Not to mention Cam who is both a dramatic, flamboyant theater-lover + a farm-boy at heart who is fiercely protective (even somewhat butch) when it comes to those threatening his family.

  • fredo777

    * these shows

  • Abel

    @Ewe, I do think she’s talented and funny. THE NANNY surrounded her with a very capable cast and good scriptwriters, but she kept it going quite a few seasons, and I have real affection for that show. No, Fran Drescher is probably not a great actress, and no one is longing to see her play Lady Macbeth, but she’s a good comedienne who knows how to play her shtick. There are all kinds of talent, you know. What do you want, Lucille Ball as MAME?

  • ewe

    @Abel: No i don’t want that. Fran Drescher wants that. She has said as much. Listen i really don’t find someone picking their teeth in front of the camera as schtick. I suppose it is. I do not dislike her. I just think she is incredibly predictable and that is where the unfunny occurs or the funny doesn’t if you prefer. As far as that show goes it was nothing but horrible stereotypes pushing classism and fantasy that does not exist. It was not credible. Sexist too. But i hated Will and Grace as well and never saw a full episode of Seinfeld, never once watched Friends or Sex and the City ever. Not once have i watched the office or Law and Order even though i am aware of the names through an inundation of advertising all around me. I am strictly a Rachael Maddow and Anderson cooper kinda gal/guy.

  • ewe

    and i like Thomas Roberts too. It’s very strange. I think he was the grand marshal for the Stonewall festival in wilton manors but i i heard and read nothing anywhere about it yet.

  • dvlaries

    I bailed at the last glance of Betty to the second American Dad on Adult Swim. Can’t stand Drescher, never could.

  • mbr47

    Liked the show. Hated your review!

  • Mark Hipps

    Not sure what show you saw and where you are coming from but this show is hilarious. This is not a documentary. It is a comedy and it is great . lighten up. Not everything on the show is going to hit the mark but this comes close. oh and the scene in bed where she says . “What? ‘ when he tells her he is gay was hilarious. Would it have happened that way in real life maybe not , but again this is a comedy not a docu-drama and a lot of people diffuse hurt and anger with comedy. Actually i am thrilled that it has avoided being too over the top. I found it believable actually. I have been in a similar situation. Your reality is not everyone else’.

    thank you Fran Drescher. Thanks for letting us laugh at ourselves again. yes it is difficult being gay. It is difficult coming out at 40 and 45 and even 48 ( yes at 48 ) But thanks for letting us see the humor in it

  • R

    This review was obviously written by someone who was born in the late 80s or early 90s. It’s just plain ridiculous. You have to remember something very important in this sitcom. Fran’s character (as well as that of her gay husband who just came out after 18 years of marriage) is realistic because they are older characters. Even though we are living in a much more modern age where the gay community is obviously cast differently on other shows and even movies, this couple has been married for 18 years. She JUST found out he’s gay after all that time. 18 years ago was 1993 – DUH!!! Naturally, her mentality as an older woman who has been sharing a heterosexual relationship for that long and over the span of almost 2 decades with this man is OBVIOUSLY going to be different now that he says he’s gay. It’s not like it was a couple that just got married, say 5 years ago – this is different. As such, the reaction is normal. Even when you think of the film, Philadelphia, which is from the same year I just mentioned, 1993, there was a completely different attitude towards gay couples in America than exists today. So this writer is not taking this into consideration. It’s actually very silly to slam a show this way when it makes no sense to do so. Plus, I have tons of gay friends, support the gay community and am very in touch with the modernness of the gay community today…yet I LOVED Happily Divorced! I’m sure many out there feel exactly the same way as I do. So…a HUGE dislike to this writer – you’re not at all in touch with what the show is trying to portray or express. I think your critique totally sucks.


    Wanted to like the show, but I think it’s gonna tank! It seems like they’re trying WAY TOO HARD. Franny, you’ll always have The Nanny!

  • Church

    It is obvious that Fran is paying back all the gays for their years of worship.
    The second episode already had gay men sniffing after her ex-husband.
    The “normalizing” by hollywood of homosexuality and mixed races is alarming.
    I believe in “Live and let live,” but Hollywood won’t be happy until we have gay, mixed marriages for everyone.

  • Regular Watcher

    @Church, if you truly believed in “live and let live,” you’d let them live according to their beliefs instead of subjugating them to yours. It’s not “live and let live” otherwise. Living that way and claiming to live that way aren’t the same. In my opinion, gov’t shouldn’t be in the marriage business.

    The show isn’t bad. It’s fairly predictable, but I like that about it. I miss the classic sitcom. I’d rather watch this than The Office, 30 Rock, and Retired at 35. Even Retired is funnier than those two programs. If that’s where comedy is going, count me out.

  • Tim

    Oh god, I HATE Modern Family. The gays in that show, especially the fat guy, are horrible. He plays the worst kind of gay. I cringe when I watch him. I find the rest of the show un-funny as well. I don’t know how it wins awards. As for Glee, I watched every episode. I like Kurt, but I don’t think he should represent how gays should be played (or dressed).

    Out of all the shows you mentioned, I liked Happily Divorced the best. So what if it’s like it was shot in 1997? I still watch Friends with my friends. We LIKE that the shows kind of stick to older/more innocent humor. Sure, I’ve watched the Office before, it was funny, but I just don’t really like it. I’ll talk The Nanny over that show any day.

    I do love 30 Rock. But it doesn’t have what The Nanny has, and that is a lovability factor. Yes, we can all relate to Liz Lemon and yea, I laugh the whole time. The show also has rewatch value. But it will never have the “heart” factor that shows like The Nanny, Friends, or Frasier had.

    Btw I’m 28, so it’s not like I’m some old fogey who misses the 90’s.

  • Tim


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