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Interview with Peter Marc Jacobson,
Creator and Executive Producer of "Happily Divorced" on
I really enjoyed this one-on-one phone interview with Peter.
He seems really nice, just like any guy I've known from New
York City. He created "The Nanny" and then "Happily
Divorced". He was married to Fran Drescher for a long time,
and then they divorced, and he figured out he was gay. Their
story is, in part, what "Happily Divorced" is based on. It's
such a unique and interesting story as well as sitcom idea.
"Happily Divorced" is a very funny show that I've only
recently started watching, but now I want to go back and
watch all 3 seasons. Make sure you tune in to tonight's
Suzanne: So how has season three of your show been going?
Peter: So far, so good. We've got a really exciting finale
coming up this week, and this season, with a big twist in
it. Peter and Fran do a dance from their old wedding. It's
really funny and they have this choreographed dance that
they did, and they recreated it. It's really funny and cute.
I think it's been our best season so far.
Suzanne: Are there any interesting guest stars or anything
else you can tell us about in the season finale?
Peter: Joan Collins is on the last show. She's become like a
semi-regular on the show. And the guy who plays Elliot, D.W.
Moffat, is on the last show. And the guy who plays Neal, who
was Maxwell Sheffield's brother on "The Nanny", Harry Van
Gorkum. It's a big show. There are a lot of big twists and
turns. Fran goes to London, there are big wedding
dresses...it's a big show. And I got to direct it!
Suzanne: Oh, good.
Peter: Yeah. It was really fun.
Suzanne: Have you directed many episodes?
Peter: I directed 3 or 4, I think, all together. This season
I didn't have much time, so I just decided to do the finale
one. It was a blast. It was so much fun, and it turned out
really good, so I'm very excited about it.
Suzanne: Cool. Now, how much turnaround time is there
between the time you get the script, and the time you have
to figure out all the directing, before you actually shoot
Peter: The weekend. (Laughs)
Suzanne: Really? Wow.
Peter: Normally, they get it at least a week in advance, but
with the last show, you start to catch up (by the end of the
season) because you fall behind a little bit? By the last
one it's pretty much... but because I'm writing it with the
writers, too, we sort of know what's going on as we're doing
it, so it makes it a lot easier.
Suzanne: You said she goes to London...where was that shot?
Peter: Studio City. (Laughs)
Suzanne: Oh, okay. So no big location shoots or anything.
Peter: Nope, nope. I think our big location this year was 17
feet away from the stage. We don't do much location shooting
Suzanne: Is there going to be a season 4?
Peter: We're hoping so. We're hoping for big ratings on the
last one. The ratings have been great, for the last couple
of episodes, and we're hoping that this last one will be a
really big one, so if you can tell your readers to please
tune in and watch, we'd appreciate that.
Suzanne: I will!
Peter: It's a really good finale episode to watch, so if we
could get the best ratings we've had of the year, that would
Suzanne: Now, since this is a cable show, do you still find
out in May (about renewal) or just, whenever?
Peter: They don't have a rule. It really depends on when
they get their money, and when they make their decisions. I
know they're launching "The Exes" and "Soul Man" in June, I
think. I think all their concentration right now is on that.
And then when that starts going, I guess they'll decide
sometime the next group that's coming back, which would be
us... but we'll see.
Suzanne: I don't like a lot of sitcoms on TV nowadays, but I
do enjoy "Hot in Cleveland", and yours, and a couple of
Peter: Thank you.
Suzanne: It seems like TVLAND fills this void in the sitcom
realm. Is it just for us older people?
Peter: I think the advertisers in the other networks are
missing an entire group of human beings that they weren't
making television shows for. Somewhere along the line,
advertisers told them that the only people that are buying
products are young kids, so "that's who we want to get to
watch our shows". So anyone over the age of 35 was
considered over the hill. Now, they've realized that that's
not quite true. Plenty of people who are 40 and over are
still buying products and still change products and are
still major consumers. TVLAND was smart enough - the people
over there, Keith Cox and Larry Jones - were smart enough to
know, "Let's make programs for people that want to see shows
in front of live audiences, that were brought up on that
kind of television". So many people say to me all the time,
"God, I miss that television so much". This is a place that
they can go and watch great shows with great actors and deal
with problems, and things that they deal with, and not just
what their kids deal with.
Suzanne: Do you think the sense of humor is different, too?
You know, I have to watch all of the new shows that come on,
and it just seems like, I hate most of the sitcoms. I wonder
if it's just me, or is it because I've heard all the jokes,
or they're just not making them as funny, or what it is?
Peter: You know, it's a different style. The shows with live
audiences are designed with jokes in them for people to
laugh in the audience. When there's no audience out there,
it's a different kind of style. Not better or worse, just
different. Either you like that, or you like more of the
other style, or you like both. A show like "Girls", which I
find very funny, is a totally different style of comedy, but
some people prefer more of the live audience, proscenium,
stage-like show. I like those type of shows, too. I was
brought up on 'em and I just find them fun to watch. I like
a live audience, so I use them. They always say "canned
laughter", but it's not canned laughter. There's a real
audience sittin' out there. A couple of hundred people every
Friday come to see the show and enjoy it. If they don't
laugh, we re-write the joke, or we cut it. I think that's
probably what it is. You prefer that style.
Suzanne: How similar is Peter on the show to you?
Peter: He's pretty similar. I came out in my
mid-late-30's-40. I was kind of lost in this world, as is
Peter. I was oblivious as to when people liked me, didn't
know how to get involved in it. I was pretty fumbling and,
like he is, I was much more comfortable being a married man.
I was married for almost 20 years. So I knew that. I knew
how to do that. So we find the humor in that. He does that
so well. He's not doing an imitation of me. He's doing his
version of this role, but we write it in such a way that a
lot of things he does do, reminds people of the way I do
things, or of my obliviousness.
Suzanne: Are you in a long-term relationship now, or just
dating, like the Peter in the show?
Peter: I'm single.
Suzanne: You're single.
Peter: Yes, completely utterly single. (Laughs)
Suzanne: Still testing out the waters there...
Peter: Yes, I'm testing out the red sea by now. (We
Suzanne: I read an interview with you, where you said you
grew up in the 70's and you said you didn't know about being
gay in Flushing. Same thing where I lived, in California.
Kids used the F word to insult each other, but we didn't
know anything about gay people. We didn't know that we knew
any gay people. But then years later I found out that three
or four of my former classmates, including one a really
close friend, were gay. I had no idea. They didn't tell me.
But they knew.
Peter: That's the thing, you have these feelings but you
have nothing to relate them to. No one talks about it,
and there was nothing represented on television about it. You may see this
one guy that's this flamboyant character on television, and
you say, "Well, that's not me". So who am I? I just tried to
fit in the way everybody else told me I should fit in. When
I got older, I realized that something was not... why do I
have these feelings, why do I have these thoughts...I went
to so many therapists about it, all of whom said I was not
Peter: Or didn't think I was, couldn't say I was. Well, you
live and learn. It's a different time now. You didn't have
shows like "Glee" back then.
Suzanne: So did you ever hear from any former classmates that
they were gay?
Peter: No, not classmates so much, but I did hear from
people, like somebody came up to me, they saw an interview
and realized they were living the same lie that I was. They
hadn't come out. I've gotten that, and I've gotten children,
young people, that say that they come out to their parents.
One young woman, her parents were not responding very well,
and she wanted to commit suicide. I turned her on to the
Trevor Project. Recently she wrote me a note, telling me
that if she hadn't heard about all of this, she probably
wouldn't be alive today, thanking me.
Peter: Beyond making people laugh, you hope you do
some good as well.
Suzanne: That must make you feel good.
Peter: It does, it does. It's lovely. We really did it just
to make people laugh, and to realize that the American
family is not just one thing. There are many many different
types. There are single parent families, mixed raced
families, all different types out there. They're all just as
special and wonderful and unique as any family.
Suzanne: In the show, it seems like Peter's relatives and
some friends knew before he did. Was that true in your case?
Peter: I think so. I think people had an idea or thought,
since I was very interested in the arts and fashion...I
think people might have thought. I mean, I have people like
that, that I meet. They'll say things or do things in a
certain way, and I'll think, "Hmm". There's this guy that is
always flirting with me, and he says he's straight. I turned
to my friend, and they said, "Well, he's nice, why don't you
go out with him?" and I said, "He's straight", and they
looked at me, and I said, "I know!" I guess he's not ready
Suzanne: Well, you never know. I know someone that everyone
always thinks he's gay because he sounds it, and he works in
the arts, but he is straight and has been married for a long
Peter: Exactly, you don't know what's going on in someone's
brain. You can't judge. I've met many men that are very
masculine and tough, but they're gay. You don't have to put
a label on anyone. And honestly, it shouldn't matter. I
think it will get to a point in history where we won't care.
That wonderful movie that just came out, "The Perks of Being
a Wallflower". There's a scene where the gay young boy
kisses his straight friend. The friend doesn't do one of
those stupid macho things. He looks at him and he says, "I
understand". He's not gay. The guy says he's sorry, and I
understand. A moment where you see change in history where
people aren't so freaked out, just because somebody does
something, it doesn't mean you're gay, it doesn't mean
anything bad, it just means that this person was looking for
some attention or something. He was a kind friend to him,
and it was a lovely way to handle the scene.
Suzanne: Yeah, it's amazing, especially growing up back when
we did, when nobody came out of the closet, to wrap your
head around what you're saying. No labels, no judging, that
sort of thing. It's difficult. I can't even imagine how
difficult it would be for someone who's actually bigoted to
get past that idea.
Peter: I have to say, I know a lot of straight men who will
go to gay bars because they always know they will meet some
Peter: There's not a lot of competition. It's like a big
secret out there. They love the gay bars because the gay
guys buy them drinks, and they go hit on the 30 beautiful
women that are there.
Suzanne: That's funny.
Peter: I always find that the guys who are truly truly
straight are the most comfortable. It doesn't matter to
them. They don't think that way. They know no gay guy is
going to force themselves on anyone. Just like anybody else.
It's great to see these clubs in certain areas where there
are gay guys and straight guys, and everyone gets along
fine. I meet straight men who like me to fix them up with
women, and vice versa. What people do in the privacy of
their own bedrooms doesn't matter in the long run.
Suzanne: Of course, yeah. It's really interesting because
it's still such a new concept to a lot of people, especially
in certain areas of the country.
Peter: The big cities are always better.
Suzanne: Do you have anything planned for the future, like
after you show? Do you have other ideas in case this one is
over, or even if it lasts another 10 years, do you still
have something else you want to do after that?
Peter: You know, I've always dreamt of doing a Broadway
show. I know series television, so I enjoy doing that. I had
a great funny idea in development for Logo, but then they
changed the people in charge of Logo and what they're
doing... but it was a really funny sitcom for them. I
developed that for them. There's always a bunch of stuff
going on that you've got floating in your head.
Suzanne: Thank you for your time!
“Happily Divorced" For Better
Or For Worse Episode: 224 February 13, 2013 On the heels of
being kissed by Neil, Fran flies to London to surprise her
fiance Elliot. But she quickly realizes that Elliot has the
surprise for her.Guest stars: Joan Collins, D.W. Moffett, Harry
Van Gorkum, Colin Ferguson
Executive Producer, Writer, Director, “Happily Divorced”
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. Peter also
directed two episodes of the sitcom in the first season. The
TV Land series was picked up for a second season after a
terrific reception from viewers and critics alike.
started his career in front of the camera, guest starring in
such memorable series as MURPHY BROWN, BEVERLY HILLS 90210,
THE FACTS OF LIFE, DYNASTY, TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, MATLOCK,
and some not so memorable ones that locked in his medical
insurance. He also appeared in the films SPREAD, MOVERS
AND SHAKERS, GORP, and other noteworthy epics. Peter went
on to win the Drama-Logue Award as best actor for his
portrayal of Danny Zuko in a Los Angeles production of
GREASE. After fifteen years of unsold pilots, SAG dues and
psychotherapy bills, he and his Encino therapist decided it
would be healthier for Peter to go behind the camera. So he
did. He and his then wife, Fran Drescher, created, wrote
and executive produced THE NANNY for CBS for six years
making it one of the most sought after series in television
syndication. He had a good shrink!
on to co-write THE NANNY ANIMATED CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, OYE TO
THE WORLD, and THE CHATTER BOX. He wrote the CBS pilot
DIVA and executive produced, wrote and created CCPD, a pilot
for FOX with Dan Aykroyd and created CHARMED LIVES for
Embassy. He then executive produced the Paramount film
BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST and wrote the Disney film MAMA MIA
along with Frank Lombardi which got him a really nice place
by the beach.
NANNY left the airwaves, Peter moved back to his hometown,
New York City. But not Flushing this time --- Tribeca! He
got a really nice loft but on a low floor with no view.
While in New York, Peter and writing partner Michael Scalisi
wrote the Film WHO I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION which was set
to go starring Scarlett Johansson, but when the German
economy went down the tube so did the money for Scarlett.
slitting his wrist, Peter went back to his television roots
and created, produced and wrote, with Nick Scotti, the cult
reality series NEW YORK NICK for E!’s Style Network. But
Hollywood called again (and honestly the winters in New York
were brutal). So Peter sold his loft and moved to the Hills
of Beverly, well Sunset. He found a house that he has
turned into a showplace overlooking the city. In fact, it
was used for a season of Bobby Flay’s Food Channel show.
directing a couple of episodes of the Joey Lawrence sitcom
RUN OF THE HOUSE when Caryn Lucas offered him a job as
Co-Executive Producer of WB’s WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU, where
he remained for two seasons and directed several episodes.
Peter then directed HOPE AND FAITH, RITA ROCKS and the web
to the current success of HAPPILY DIVORCED, QUEEN OF HARTS,
which he created, is in development with LOGO.
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