The second episode of Happily Divorced takes place six months after Fran and Peter are divorced because of his coming out as gay. Six months can be long time for some things, but for major changes in people’s lives Fran, Peter, and Elliot, the man Fran is dating, discover that in some ways not much has changed for the formerly married couple. Old patterns persist in some hilarious ways and Elliot bows out of the relationship, leaving Fran and Peter to continue working on their lives as separate people by going out together to see a friend sing at a gay bar. They are living out the French proverb: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, part of the premise is that Fran and Peter are still in love.
This is the sort of situation that sitcoms are made of, and while what happens might seem far-fetched in terms of real life, I see some very real connections, in principle, if not in detail. To me, what’s going on here is Fran and Peter’s emotional life has not had time to catch up with what has happened in their daily life. Love can’t just be turned off and on, even when something happens as dramatic as someone in the relationship coming out as gay. Fran and Peter are still not only friends, but in love, even though in their “real-world” life they are divorced.
That brings up something interesting that I noticed in the pilot and in the underlying structure of this sitcom, and that is the seemingly automatic jump to the divorce when Peter came out to Fran. For them it appears as if that is just what happens. However, some couples do sometimes make another decision, based on their love and friendship, and they find ways to stay happily married. Obviously, there are big adjustments to be made, but some would rather make those adjustments than end the marriage. That arrangement, of course, has to work for both the husband and the wife, and it sometimes does.
But as for the sitcom Happily Divorced, laughs are its lifeblood and I continue to look forward to them. I also look forward to more conversation about the realities involved when gay men marry straight women.
The show is on Wednesday nights at 10:30/9:30c on TV Land.
See www.MiltFord.com/playing-it-straight.html for information about my book Playing It Straight: Gay Men and Heterosexual Marriage, based on interviews in many parts of the United States with men who now identify as gay or bisexual (mostly gay) and who are or were married to women.