Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson play a couple that divorces but shares the house in the new ABC comedy Splitting Up Together. Normally a TV show can get years out of a will-they-or-won’t-they story line for an attractive young couple; in fact, Fischer’s relationship on The Office took years to get Jim and Pam together, and they didn’t get married until the series finale.
Splitting Up Together, however, begins with the divorce. It’s a very different and modern spin on a rom-com. Many couples in real life cannot afford to sell a family home in today’s market, let alone afford two new places individually. Yet this arrangement already begins to make Lena (Fischer) and Martin (Hudson) appreciate what they had.
Now that they have no filters, Martin and Lena finally begin speaking frankly, but they’ve already lost their marriage. Martin tries to win her back, but it won’t be easy.
“There’s these great scenes where maybe Lena is getting ready to go out on a date,” Fischer said. “You’re rooting for her to go on this date, but at the same time, your heart is breaking for Martin. Within the same scene, you’re kind of simultaneously excited for one person and your heart’s breaking for the other.”
Martin never even danced with Lena at their wedding. Now that they’re divorcing, he’s taking dance lessons, but it may be too little too late.
“I think it’s going to be fun to see them coming close and then falling off the ledge again, because that’s sort of true to what happens sometimes,” Hudson said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of ups and downs.”
So if you like the show, should you hope that they don’t end up back together? As soon as they do, the show is over.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be hard not to root for these two people,” Hudson said. “This is a situation where they think it’s final, but in being apart is when that spark might come back to where maybe it’s not.”
If they make it to a second season, Hudson said he hopes to be confronted with the decision to sell the house.
“If there’s a season 2, there should come a point where we can exist apart, meaning we’re not connected by just finance or the lack of finances anymore,” Hudson said. “There’s a decision now that has to be made of whether or not we’re actually going to [split up].”
Fischer liked the idea: “Oh, that would be a big moment of decision. We can now afford to sell the house. Do we do it? Look at us coming up with plotlines! Call Emily [Kapnek, creator of Splitting Up Together].”
The series premiere reveals that Lena is very Type A, planning everything for the kids in advance. Martin is the free spirit who frequently mocks her fastidiousness. That’s good for odd-couple comedy, but people like Lena can attest to having great success by planning ahead.
“You’ll see the way that Lena is, she’s vindicated in her Type A-ness,” Fischer said. “I think the problem for Lena isn’t necessarily that she’s a planner and that she’s structured. It’s that she’s unwilling to consider other points of view. So she thinks that only her way is the right way to do it.”
Hudson can relate, but he knows better than to second-guess his wife.
“I can’t stress how much this is like my life,” he said. “The way I handle it is I don’t get frustrated because I’m not going to change who [my wife] Erinn [Bartlett] is. I love her for who she is, so when she wants to do her thing and pack 1,000 bags or whatever she needs to do, I’m like, ‘Go ahead.’ I’m not involved, because if I get involved I will get upset.”
In real life, Fischer admits overplanning isn’t always necessary and said her husband, Lee Kirk, sometimes surprises her by pulling things off without her input.
“I remember asking him, ‘How did it go today? So you took the diaper bag,’” she recalled of one incident. “He goes, ‘No, we forgot the diaper bag.’ I was like, ‘What? What did you do about blah blah blah?’ All he had was a clementine that he had put in his jacket pocket. And he was like, ‘And guess what? Everything was fine. We managed to get through the day or this hour with a clementine.’ And I’m like, ‘Are you sure you didn’t need three backpacks and 17 snacks and four changes of clothes to go to the park? What?”
On the other hand, Hudson has seen the wisdom in his wife’s planning.
“Sometimes it does pay off by the way,” he said. “There’s plenty of times where my wife brings 18 bags and I’m like, ‘Oh, thank God you brought a football helmet. I don’t know why you did but it worked out.’”
The series reveals that throughout their marriage, Lena and Martin were each stubborn. Now that they take turns as single parents, they see the wisdom of each other’s ways.
“I think that when they are forced to be the only parent in the house, they realize that only their way doesn’t work,” Fischer said. “There does need to be a balance of both philosophies. Lena has to ease up and Martin has to become more structured.”
They also learn to enjoy their time apart.
“Even though you are in the back house, if you can let go of it, there is a sense of freedom, the feeling of just being alone and lying there by yourself without responsibility,” Hudson said.
“I think we can all as parents relate to that,” he said. “The minute the kids go to bed in my house, it’s like I’m alive again. Reality has all of a sudden come back and chaos is gone and it’s quiet. My wife and I are like, ‘Oh my God, let’s do something. Let’s watch a movie.’”
Fischer admits that she and her husband stay up way past the children’s bedtime, too.
“They say this is why parents lose so much sleep, because after the kids go to bed, you should probably go to bed like an hour later but you’re like, ‘No, I need to keep feeling this feeling of my independent self,’” she said. “So you stay up way too late.”
Splitting Up Together premieres Tuesday, March 27 at 9:30 on ABC.