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Divorce: The Complete First Season
HBO Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/9/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 5/9/2017
A new episodic series on HBO used to be a big deal. Before Netflix originals started taking over with binge-worthy TV, HBO was the channel that aired some of the most memorable and critically-praised shows in television history such as The Sopranos, The Wire, and Game of Thrones. Not to mention many iconic shows such as True Blood and Sex in the City. So a new project starring Sarah Jessica Parker was eagerly anticipated by many as Sex in the City and her iconic character of Carrie Bradshaw helped define what makes a series great- entertaining, engaging stories with characters so well-developed that you canít help but immerse yourself in their stories.
The story of Divorce centers on married couple Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Robert (Thomas Hayden Church). The couple share two children and two careers, but little else. Frances, bored and disengaged with Robert, has an affair with Julian (the always wonderful Jermaine Clement), a professor who sees their relationship in a much different way than Frances. Thinking she is in love with Julian, and that he wants something more than what he really does, Frances allows the shaky seams that were holding her marriage together to begin to unravel, creating an acrimonious separation with caught-off-guard Robert. Mixed in their lives are friends Dianne (Molly Shannon) and Nick (Tracy Letts), another married couple whose relationship is so explosive that Dianne ends up doing something shocking to Nick at his birthday party in the very first episode. But their relationship has what Robert and Frances has been lacking- passion- and it makes for a good dramatic contrast.
Divorce works because it balances some comedy in the middle of what becomes a dramatic and sad exploration of a disintegrating union. While there are no big twists, no laugh out loud moments, and no moments that feel so tragic you canít help but be moved to tears, there is something there that makes you want to watch it. Perhaps it is because of how good Church and Parker are at bringing their characters to life. Church is especially good is this role, and makes Robert a more sympathetic character than he might be if he were played by someone else. But even though both actors are good, the biggest flaw this series has is that it is hard to imagine they were ever really a couple. There is just something about them that makes it hard to see them as ever being in love, or even happy together, as their personalities, ambitions, and desires seem so different from each other. But, don't go into Divorce expecting to see Parker as Carrie Bradshaw. While Frances is still a privileged white woman, she's a much darker and world-weary character than Carrie. Also, don't expect to see Carrie's wardrobe here either. Frances dresses much more conservatively than Carrie, and the women who helped user in the "bare-legged" look now wears tights with nearly every outfit.
Iíd be remiss if I didnít mention how much the side characters bring to this show. Molly Shannon is a little over the top in most things, but her character Dianne is a really good fit for her. And if you were sad like I was when the character of Dale was killed off The Walking Dead, then you are in luck because Jeffery DeMunn is Max, Francesí initial lawyer who deals with an event that causes him to become unreliable for Frances. The scenes between the two of them are humorous and also very touching. Thankfully, the characters, and stories continued to develop and improve as the episodes went along. While the series does not bring anything new to the table, it does make it a watchable show. It is not in the same league as some of HBO classics series, but it is a satisfactory viewing experience.
Divorce: The Complete First Season offers a new use for a coffee can on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Video. The 2-Disc set contains all ten episodes from the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. There are several daytime shots here which contain a snowy white background, and these moments display no grain and are well-balanced. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the actors are nicely separated from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven drama, we don't get a slew of dynamic effects here. Party and street scenes provide mild stereo and surround effects, and, at times, we can pick out individual sounds. The show's score sounds fine and never drowns out the actors. Overall, the technical package rivals HD broadcast quality.
The extras on the Divorce: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc are spread across the two Discs. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY on Episode 3 "Counseling" from Parker and Executive Producer Paul Simms. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. We get AUDIO COMMENTARIES on Episode 6 "Christmas" from Parker, Simms & Writer Tom Scharpling and on Episode 7 "Weekend Plans" from Parker, Simms & Writer Adam Resnick.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long