If you only know her as the Nanny, get to know Fran Drescher as the happy divorcee when Happily Divorced returns for the second half of its second season. TV Equals went with a group of reporters to watch a rehearsal and get the scoop on the new slew of episodes.
Anyone who’s been to the taping of a sitcom knows how fascinating it is to watch the filming of a TV show, but it’s rare to get a glimpse at the rehearsal process. It’s clear why the show has become a TV Land favorite; under the guidance of producers Drescher and her ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobsen, the set of Happily Divorced was like a collaborative workshop with the actors and the director all striving towards the goal of making the best possible episode.
I could see no egos at work; Drescher was as concerned about perfecting the lines of the unknown actor playing a security guard as she was with her own or with guest star Joan Collins’. The director was very open to suggestion, allowing the actors to test new ideas or different approaches while maintaining his vision when necessary. The set seemed like a good, creative environment, no doubt a reflection on the relationship between its producers, which is itself the center of the entire show.
Based on the real-life marriage between Drescher and Jacobsen which ended in divorce when he revealed he was gay, Happily Divorced tells the story of Fran and Peter (John Michael Higgins), who can’t be married anymore, but can’t afford to move out of the home they shared. “It’s hard for us to replace each other even though there’s an obvious chasm between us,” Drescher says, admitting to speaking about the characters as well as herself and Jacobsen. In the episode which we saw being rehearsed, Peter went against his better judgement and let Fran do him a favor. When it backfired, he was forced to ask himself why he couldn’t seem to learn his lesson when it came to his ex-wife, something I remember Mr. Sheffield asking himself quite often on The Nanny.
It’s natural to make comparisons with Drescher’s most famous role, but she points out that Happily Divorced is an entirely different ballgame, saying “this show has a maturity to it and a little more groundedness.” Unlike The Nanny which had a relatively young cast, Jacobsen says, “the whole cast of this show is very experienced.” He goes on to explain that this experience “allows the performer to fill (the show) with heart.” However, Drescher is quick to reminisce about the hey-days of the 90′s though, with her characteristic laugh.
After taking a mid-season break, the show returns this week to finish up its second season with even more laughs and guest stars. In addition to Joan Collins who plays an aging actress and Peter’s boss, guest stars will include Debi Mazar, Ralph Macchio, Cyndi Lauper and Molly Shannon.
One has to assume that Happily Divorced will be around for awhile; as Drescher and Jacobsen continue to work together and be such a large part of each other’s lives, they will no doubt have plenty of fodder for new stories about Fran and Peter. But as to whether either character will settle down with a new man, Drescher believes it would be the end of the show. “We’re still soulmates,” she says, speaking about the characters, but perhaps herself, too. “At the end the of the day, the thing we do best is be married to each other.”
Happily Divorced returns to TV Land on Wednesday, November 28 at 10:30 p.m.