Happily Divorced, the playful new TV Land sitcom starring Fran Drescher (of The Nanny) and John Michael Higgins (of Best in Show) could be the I Love Lucy of our time. If Lucy and Ricky were divorced, and still living together — and Ricky was gay.
The show joins Modern Family and Glee on the very short list of TV comedies that feature gay characters in leading roles, but the inspiration for Happily Divorced is much closer to Drescher’s heart. It’s based on her real-life relationship with her gay ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, with whom she co-created and produces the show.
“We met in high school in Queens, New York and fell in love in the stairwell between classes,” she says. Their mutual love of theatre and performing led to a close friendship and a 20 year marriage. “But twelve years ago, despite the success of The Nanny, I had a mid-life crisis. He’d become controlling and I didn’t know who I was outside of the marriage.”
The two split up and Jacobson moved to New York, while Drescher was hit with the news that she had cancer. “When that came about, he admitted to me that he’d been exploring his gay orientation.” From that point on, the two began to slowly rebuild their relationship. While on a trip to Paris, they discovered the friendship was still there, and began writing a screenplay about themselves called Happily Divorced.
Flash forward to the smash hit debut of TV Land’s first original series Hot in Cleveland; the network began taking meetings with sitcom veterans, including Drescher. “They asked me for ideas for shows that I would write and produce, and at lunch they asked me what show I’d do if I would star in it.”
She pitched Happily Divorced, got the deal, and rang up Jacobson. “I said ‘I just sold the idea to TV Land and I want you to be my partner in it.’” They built a stellar sitcom team, including The Nanny’s married writer/producer duo Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser — and the priceless Rita Moreno as Drescher’s droll Jewish mother.
“We’ve had very, very positive response so far and it’s growing each week in terms of ratings and demographics,” says Drescher. “We’re trying to add some meaningful episodes as well as the comedy,” including a recent episode in which she rejects a “perfect guy” she’s dating when she discovers that he’s rejected his gay son.
A recipient of the Human Rights Campaign’s Ally for Equality Award, Fran Drescher is now fighting for LGBT equality with the most powerful weapons in her personal arsenal: her life experience — and laughter.
Happily Divorced airs Wednesday nights on TV Land at 10:30PM/9:30C. For more info go here.