Co-creator Peter Marc Jacobson previews the HAPPILY DIVORCED finale!
After a six year run as executive producer and co-creator of the hit sitcom THE NANNY, Peter Marc Jacobson and ex-wife Fran Drescher were able to create another hit series, HAPPILY DIVORCED, based loosely on their story. The show is coming up on the finale to their second season (tonight at 10:30/9:30c) and we had the chance to chat about what’s coming up, what’s next for the show, what it’s like writing a fictionalized version of yourself, and we found time to chat about some REAL HOUSEWIVES.
How is it filming a show that is a fictionalized version of your life – how is that different than other things that you’ve done?
It’s funny – last week, I’m on Facebook, and I am always putting pictures on Facebook from the show, and all kinds of stuff, and I go on vacation. I was in Florida and was at the beach and pool, and I didn’t have my shirt on, so I was posting pictures, and people were making jokes about it. I read a draft of a script that came in and Caryn Lucas, one of the writers, wrote a joke that Fran’s yelling at me, and I can’t stand you on Facebook, putting the shirtless pictures every five minutes! [laughs] It was right out of real life, and when they read it in front of people, they laughed so hard. It’s fun to use pieces of your life [laughs], you just have to have a good sense of humor about it.
Talk a bit about the inception of the show – how it was decided that this where we’re going to go?
We were on vacation together in Paris, and we were on the first vacation we went on together as ex-husband and ex-wife. We were staying at a hotel, and had these plans to go out to dinner. I knocked on her door, and I was all dressed up, she was still in bed, and I said, what are you doing? She said, “oh I overslept.” We got into this argument like when we were married. We looked at each other and said, this would be a funny movie, this divorced couple that go on vacation together. We started writing this movie, and TVLand called and asked Fran to pitch TV shows and they said, “well, if you were to do a show that you were to star in,” and she said, “it would be me, my ex-gay-husband and my new boyfriend.” And she said, “do you want to hear the idea I have for new shows?” And he said, “no, because we just bought that one!” It was bought right in the room, as they say; we’re very lucky.
How do you approach writing for the show – does every episode come directly from your life? Is every episode based on a “true story,” so to speak?
We take pieces of our life. Or somebody’s life who is writing on the show. We like to take some truth, something that happened to somebody. And most of it is me and Fran, and then go from there. Yeah, it’s the easiest way to do it. It rings true, and then find the humor in it, what happened to us, and to develop it from there.
Have you come to a moment yet where you’re writing episodes and you say “maybe that’s a little too far or a little too personal?”
Well, certain jokes that sometimes we’ll do, that haven’t really happened to me, and people laugh at it, and by the end of the week, they stop laughing, and I say that’s really not right for the character. He wouldn’t respond that way. It’s a little too stereotypical, I wouldn’t respond that way, so even though it got a big laugh, maybe we could do better, so we pitch on other ideas. Nothing that’s really off limits for television. We don’t get that deeply into their sex lives. Peter now, on the show, has a boyfriend, and that took a while, but we explained it that he was dating him, but not telling Fran, and that turned into a fight between him and Fran of course [laughs]. There’s very little we won’t discuss. We try to discuss everything with the writers so that we can come up with funny ideas and fun stuff to do.
What can you tease for us about the finale?
[Last week] is the beginning of the next to last. It’s a two parter. It’s a bit twist that’s going to be happening. Fran’s planning a wedding and has been apart from her fiancé for practically the entire year while he’s working on an album. We have a new neighbor next store named Neil who played Maxwell Sheffield’s brother on THE NANNY. She starts having dreams about this next door neighbor, and big twists start to happen.
Why do you think now is a time to get involved with HAPPILY DIVORCED and what do you think it is about the show that really captures the audience?
You know, it has really nothing to do about the gay or straight thing. It really has to do with love. People that have loved each other, maybe split for some reason, divorce, friendship, whatever it is. There is a love there, a friendship there, that can come back in a healthier, better way sometimes. It may not have been meant to be a love relationship. At this point, 60% of all married couples get divorced, and there is no reason you have to be enemies with these people. You can find the love that was there. It may not be the same, but I think that Fran and I are closer now than we ever were.
How is your relationship with Fran – it seems like through working together to get through everything, you’re closer than you would have been if it hadn’t happened?
We’re great! I just got off the phone with her, and we were planning our trip to Paris and should we go to Italy. We fix each other up. We love being with each other. We laugh a lot with each other. We go to each other when we’ve got problems. If something was wrong, she’d be the first one I’d call, and vice versa. There is a very deep, deep, deep rooted love there for each other, and respect for each other.
You have a great working relationship on top of it – are you two working on anything besides HAPPILY DIVORCED right now?
I was developing a show for Logo that is not going to be happening; I think they changed everybody who was working there. Right now, I am so tired [laughs], I can’t even think about getting involved in another show right now!
After the show, and the story of you and Fran – do you have people approaching you or saying things to you online? What are they saying to you?
It’s funny – yesterday, somebody came over to me from a television show and said, after your interview, I realized that I was living the same life that you were, and it changed my life, that interview. Thank you – you’re a gay icon! I said, well, I’m hardly a gay icon [laughs], but I’m glad that we were able to help you, or we were able to help you! Him and his ex are close, and they’re working it out. This has happened quite a few times. I had a girl call, well, not call, but on Facebook, saying that she came out to her parents, who didn’t respond well to it. The young girl wanted to commit suicide, and I begged her to contact the Trevor Project, which she did, and I think it saved her life. She wrote me about a year later, and said without this, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this today! Beyond making people laugh, which is basically really what we’re trying to do. There is a message thereof, I don’t even like to say tolerance, I just want to say love. Tolerance to me means that someone is doing something wrong, and I don’t think that’s true. We were all put on here by some higher power, and we all need to respect each other’s differences and enjoy each other’s differences, and learn from them!
What are you watching when you have downtime to go through the DVR?
Oh I’m addicted to that new show GIRLS on HBO. I think it’s such a clever good show, well-written and well-acted; great cast. I love EPISODES; I love DOWNTON ABBEY; I love a show called THE MIDDLE on ABC, I think it’s so well done. MODERN FAMILY. There is such good television out there to watch. GLEE is fun. There is a plethora. And of course the HOUSEWIVES.
Do you have a favorite city?
Well, of course, I love New York because Fran’s cousin Aviva is on it, and I’m a friend of Andy Cohen, so I love some Mama Elsa from Miami. I wanted to meet her when I was in Miami last time but couldn’t for some reason. She’s funny, she’s a great lady.
I wish you continued success!
Thank you for supporting the show – tell a friend. It’s always difficult on cable to get people to watch the evening of, because they TiVo things, which we love, too, as long as they watch it within three days [laughs]! The major thing at this time in television history is getting people to watch within that week, so you count in the ratings!
You heard him! Be sure to check out tonight’s finale, and let us know what you think! Also, be sure to let TVLand know that you want more of HAPPILY DIVORCED!