Interview with Peter Marc Jacobson of "Happily Divorced" on TVLAND - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Peter Marc Jacobson

Interview with Peter Marc Jacobson, Creator and Executive Producer of "Happily Divorced" on TVLAND 2/8/13

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 finale!

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 it?

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 on TVLAND.

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 be fantastic.

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 others...

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 both laugh)

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 gay, so...

Suzanne: Wow.

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.

Suzanne: Wow.

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 yet.

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 time.

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 women there.

Suzanne: Really?

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  Sneak Peek!

PETER MARC JACOBSON____________________________________________________________

Executive Producer, Writer, Director,  “Happily Divorced” (TV Land)

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.

Peter 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!   

Peter went 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.

When THE 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.

Instead of 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. 

He was 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 series TEASE.

In addition to the current success of HAPPILY DIVORCED, QUEEN OF HARTS, which he created, is in development with LOGO.

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