Actress Fran Drescher’s real life inadvertently turned into a story like one of the sitcoms she has performed in. A few years ago, her producing partner and husband of nearly 20 years, Marc Jacobson, announced they were divorcing because, it turned out, he’d been gay all this time. Drescher took the news like a champ (publicly at least), supporting Jacobson and her legions of gay fans with a shrug of “What can ya do?”
In true Hollywood fashion, though, she turned her personal tragedy into the stuff of comedy for her new sitcom, Happily Divorced, which premieres Wednesday on TV Land.
In it, Drescher plays Fran (big stretch), a Los Angeles housewife whose husband (John Michael Higgins) reveals after 18 years that he’s gay. How could she not have known? He did all the floral arrangements for their wedding. But the economic downturn has made the breakup far worse: He’s still living in the house they cannot afford to sell, while she ventures out into the dating world.
Happily Divorced is, like Drescher’s signature sitcom The Nanny, a bright and airy confection with some unfortunately familiar jokes sandwiching some of the truly clever ones. But Higgins (familiar for his Chris Guest mockumentaries) is a gifted comedian, as are her parents, played by George Segal and Rita Moreno. And Drescher herself a bizarrely likable woman despite that annoying accent.
There are few great sitcoms around anymore — Modern Family and 30 Rock spring to mind — and even fewer great three-camera shows, such as Big Bang Theory. Happily Divorced doesn’t approach any of them in quality or laughs, but it does have a breezy sense of humor about gay issues that’s neither insulting nor bitter. It’s a start.
Less likable is Love Handles, the reality series that started airing on Lifetime two weeks ago. Each week, two couples — both fat — agree to go a an exercise and diet regimen to get their relationship back on track. For the third episode, Elaine and Desirea become the series’ first lesbian couple.
The show itself is a depressing, invasive look at people’s lives, all of who seem to blame all the troubles in the world on their own (or their partners’) weight gain. Only peripherally do we realize that gaining weight may be the symptom, not the cause, of deeper issues. Nonetheless, they marshal through their many issues, complaining about how tasteless the food is (yes, when you compare it to the nonstop stream of HoHos and Cheetos that fuel their expanding bellies) and how hard the trainer is pushing them …. until the final act, when everything seems to be better now that they can slip into a size 8.
It’s nice seeing a lesbian couple treated the same as a hetero pair on a mainstream reality show, but honestly, it’s all just a little too distasteful to want to watch it at all. Love Handles makes The Biggest Loser look like Terms of Endearment.