That Guy … In the Bar … That’s Been Divorced
HBO’s new show Divorce has been somewhat fascinating – sometimes it gets things exactly right (at least in my experience) and sometimes it’s way off the tracks. And by way off the tracks I mean utterly unrealistic.
Briefly, it’s the story of a successful business woman, Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Robert (Thomas Hayden Church) living in Hastings-on-Hudson NY, a pretty, upscale town on the Hudson River an hour or so north of New York City. The town, by the way, is pretty much a character.
So, for a lot of reasons, most not apparent to us, the audience, at first, Frances and Robert decide to get divorced. Frances makes the decision, Robert is caught utterly by surprise, things happen. For most of the first three or so episodes it seems as if it’s mostly Frances’ fault, inasmuch as any divorce is one party’s fault, but that changes, slowly, over time.
Before they file papers, they decide to give counseling a shot. To say it does not go well would be an understatement of epic proportions. It ends spectacularly and Frances and Robert move without hesitation from trying to work the marriage out through counseling to working the divorce out through mediation.
Which is great and, so far, everything that happens in the show mirrors, sometimes eerily, what I see in practice. But, as they go to counseling in Episode 4 and the season has six more shows to go and HBO just renewed it for a second season, I had a pretty good idea mediation wasn’t going to work.
It didn’t. It seemed to be moving ahead perfectly, the mediator was great, Frances and Robert seemed to be getting along better in mediation sessions than they had anywhere else so far. Most importantly, it seemed that it was, based on what we know from the first three episodes, fair.
Then, Robert goes out to a bar with a friend. You know that friend, the divorced guy. The divorced guy who has access to exactly one side of the story. He’s an expert in divorce law, though, because he’s been through it. He is astonished that Robert would try mediation – Frances is the family’s main breadwinner, she owes him.
A line is floated out there: “In mediation one partner gets the cup, the other gets the coffee.”
And that’s it, Robert is done with mediation, his friend and a few beers does it. Unfortunately, in my experience this is dead-on. It happens. Often.
It might not be a friend in a bar, but it might be a mom, a dad, a cousin, a guy who…, a guy who knows a guy who…, etc. There’s never a shortage of back-seat drivers who don’t participate in a mediation, are not knowledgeable about the law for facts of a case, but who have enough information to stir up a little buyer’s remorse and blow an otherwise fair mediation agreement out of the water.
The show can’t give mediation the due that it deserves because, again, certainly no second season. There is no reason real people shouldn’t – it works.
I may come back to the show again soon; I have a feeling it’s about to jump the shark.