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For Fran Drescher, art imitates life on ‘Happily Divorced’

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On her hit TV Land show “Happily Divorced” (Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m.), Fran Drescher plays Fran Lovett, a Los Angeles florist whose husband of 18 years comes out as a gay man. Drescher didn’t need to do much research for her role - she lived it.

Drescher’s real-life former husband, writer and producer Peter Marc Jacobson, came out in the 1990s while the pair were in the midst of producing new episodes of “The Nanny” for CBS. After the couple divorced in 1999, they remained close and eventually decided that their story made a promising premise for a new series.

“Happily Divorced” is in its second season, and Drescher says she couldn’t be happier with the episodes produced so far. “TV Land was known as a network that only aired repeats, and our show is helping them carve a new niche,” she told me last week in a phone call from the set of her show. “We come on after ‘Hot in Cleveland’ and it’s a great hour of TV.”

After Drescher and Jacobson divorced, Fran entered the dating pool – something she says she had little experience navigating. “Peter and I met when we were 15, so it wasn’t like we had a wealth of dating experience,” Drescher said. “We really were a little dysfunctional in that way. I had to learn how to date. I had to ask myself ‘What is my type?’ How do I say ‘No, I’m not interested’ so I don’t hurt their feelings?”

“I was in my 30s when we split. This weird, freakish kind of girl-woman,” she told me. “I figured it out and then went through a wild period like an animal that had escaped from the zoo. I finally I found out who I was. I was able to find out what was best for me instead of filtering everything through ‘What is best for us?’ which I had never really done before. My therapist would ask me a question and I would say, ‘Let me see what Peter thinks.’ She said, ‘Never mind what Peter thinks, what do you think?’ I couldn’t wrap my mind around that at first.”

Since its premiere in the summer of 2011, “Happily Divorced” has become known as a show that packs a lot of star power in the form of guest appearances. “On last week’s episode we had Keenan Ivory Wayans, and he was fantastic,” Drescher said. “Joan Collins is on the show this season and she plays herself. Peter tries to subsidize his income from the real estate industry by working as Joan’s personal assistant, and she is hysterically funny. Some of our past guests include Cyndi Lauper, Rosie O’Donnell, Dan Aykroyd, Florence Henderson and Robert Wagner. Renee Taylor, who played my mom on ‘The Nanny,’ recurs on this show. We’ve had Charles Shaughnessy, who was Maxwell on ‘The Nanny.’ Molly Shannon is going to be on soon. It’s been an amazing two seasons.”

In addition to domestic success, “The Nanny” made Fran Drescher a huge star in other countries where the show continues to air, often with Drescher’s voice dubbed in the native language. But how do you accurately dub that singular instrument? “When they made my voice, they broke the mold,” Drescher laughs. “I’ve seen the show where they use my face but dub the voice in French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, you name it. In some countries, after the show runs for many years with the original cast, they reshoot the episodes using our scripts but with their own local talent. There’s an Asian Nanny, a Polish Nanny … there’s actually a Russian Nanny! ‘Happily Divorced’ also airs in many countries, and I love the fact my ‘Nanny’ fans there can see me in my new show.”

Drescher says that she and Jacobson will soon know if they’ve been given the green light for a third season. “We’re now shooting the final three episodes of the second season,” Drescher said. “Historically, they’ve told us in the last week of production. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m very proud of this show.”

“The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow” can be heard each morning on Big 104 – The Biggest Hits of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s - airing on 104.3 FM, 104.7 FM and 107.7 FM.

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