Happily Divorced is a sitcom about a Los Angeles-based couple, florist Fran (Fran Drescher) and her real estate agent husband Peter (Peter Marc Jacobson) who’ve been married for 18 years. They are coming to terms with the fact that Peter has just come out of the closet as a gay man. With Peter’s revelation, they immediately make plans to divorce. Why immediately, you ask? It’s because all the key details of the show’s main plot need to be established within a 20-minute episode.
We watched it so you don’t have to. Here are some key takeaways from the divorced-themed sitcom.
Divorced couples may choose to live together for economic reasons
Fran and Peter plan to divorce, sell their fabulously decorated bungalow, and split earnings from its sale. The show is set during the Great Recession (2007-2008), thus, the couple have difficulty selling the house. The ideal scenario is one where Peter moves out, which does not happen because the economy is bad and Peter is not selling a lot of houses. While Peter can move out, he chooses not to. He’d rather stay with his ex who is fine with the proposed living arrangements as long as they’re both able to keep boundaries. But boundaries are meant to be overstepped, especially in a sitcom.
Fran and Peter live in California, a state where couples are legally allowed to continue to cohabit while going through a divorce — just like in Washington state. However, when Fran starts dating and instantly hits it off with a guy named Elliott, the arrangement complicates their otherwise convenient setup.
In real life, a divorced couple can continue to cohabit even if the couple did not separate amicably if it makes financial sense — especially if the couple’s incomes remain the same post-split. They can save money by not setting up a new household.
It really does make economic sense to cohabit with an ex after the divorce is finalized
But they would still need to split properties.
Elliott, Fran’s new man, is also divorced. According to him, since he and his ex were in a community property state, they split everything 90:10. As a joke, this is only mildly funny, and we certainly advise that taking anything that a character says in this show about divorce with a grain of salt.
Some of the dialogue, however, is based on facts.
For instance, in one episode, Fran and Peter briefly touch on tax matters. Peter says that they didn’t get a refund on their individual income taxes that they would normally use to help pay property tax because they’ve already started filing for taxes as singles. It is a fact of post-divorce life that the ex-couples lose their tax advantages after they split.
Childless couples tend to encounter fewer divorce-related complications
Childless couples are more likely to divorce than those with at least one child. Incidentally, Fran and Peter do not have kids. In a span of two episodes, they find that getting back to their old ways as husband and wife is not that hard; they are both fine with seeing the other date other people and both manage to play nice toward each other’s in-laws. We’d like to think that their being child-free is what allows them to remain extremely friendly toward each other. But of course, this is a sitcom, so these situations are merely played for laughs.
In non-situational comedy, a divorced couple who have kids and continue to live together in the same house may delay their kids’ grieving process. Thus, staying together may be a bad idea. It is only a good idea when one can create jokes about it and have it be acted out in front of a live audience and made for a television show.
A straight spouse can cope living with a gay ex-spouse
Fran and Peter would be called a mixed-orientation couple (in which one of the couples is gay, lesbian, or bisexual) had they remained a couple. And to many of their friends, they may as well be a couple. After all, the way they decided to live post-divorce is as if they’re still together. They even end up becoming good friends and roommates as much as a straight woman can stay affable toward an ex-husband who turns out to be gay.
In real life, however, the straight spouse may have issues about an ex coming out as gay/lesbian/bisexual/etc. These issues include having damaged self-esteem (“Am I not man/woman enough?") and feelings of self-doubt (“Did I do anything to cause this?”) as well as having feelings of hurt, anger, bitterness, and despair.
Interestingly, the show was created by real-life exes, Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson, and some of the events in the show are inspired by their divorce. This is why despite the questionable conceit, the show manages to be believable, smart, funny, and insightful. They may have divorced but they got jokes out of it.
We do not write plots for sitcoms about divorced couples as we are too busy writing divorce settlement agreements and the like. Consult Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams if you need to lawyer up for your divorce case in Washington state.