I truly love the show Happy Endings, and believe that it is one of the most underrated sitcoms to come out over the past few years. Going through the entire series on Netflix again recently, I was surprised that I hadn’t done a write-up on it before.
The show had a stunted beginning, and the first season suffered a little bit from them basically restarting the series part way through, in order to get more viewers in who had not tuned in for the original few episodes. This causes a little bit of repeated material, but overall, it was a road bump instead of something that was a complete turn off for viewers.
The basis of the series is a group of six friends, and their zany lives after Alex leaves Dave at the altar. The rest of the group includes Alex’s sister, Jane, and her husband Brad, perennial single girl Penny, and Max, the gay character, who has as much trouble with men as Penny does. While the show definitely took a few episodes to get rolling, once the writers found the niches for their characters, it was off and running, and created a generally hilarious television sitcom.
And one that was cancelled too soon, as it still had plenty of steam going in Season 3 to keep going.
There are many things to like about this series, so I will try to outline a few of them. I would highly recommend Happy Endings to anybody, as the viewership could span from fans of Friends and New Girl to more intelligent and quirky comedies like Arrested Development.
1. The comedic timing of the actors is dead on, and adds to a clever dialogue. There are strong performances throughout the series, and the actors have truly bought in to their characters, and their individual quirks. Much like other sitcoms, each character has a distinct role, and their foibles serve as a primary engine to the plot. Jane is the Type A personality, Max is the uncaring one, Dave thinks he is much cooler than he really is, Alex is the dumb blonde, Penny is the train wreck, etc. The actors are good enough to make us buy into these characters, even though they are indeed cliches. But they work here.
2. The show is aware of itself. They will make fun of the plot holes that emerge in the series, or when a character seemingly appears from nowhere. An example of this is at the end of Season 3, when an older sister to Jane and Alex is introduced. They know it is far fetched, but aren’t above making fun of that fact. There are other “fourth wall” moments, when the characters indicate that they know they are in a TV show, and they work well.
3. The catch phrases. There are plenty of them, and they use them lightly. It is not one of those shows where they will beat a catch phrase to death. In fact, they will move on and use new ones. Most of these revolve around Penny, and her abbreviating common terms, or alternate pronunciations. They remain quirky and fun, because once we start to get bored of one, they have moved on to another.
4. The running jokes. A good series will use running jokes, but they aren’t so intrusive that it will alienate new viewers. Think of shows like Arrested Development or Archer. The jokes are always there, and they are brought up a few times, and they consistently work. In Happy Endings, they use jokes like Alex’s love of ribs (or general love of food), Max’s chubbiness, or Dave’s love of V-necks, in several episodes, and it always works.
5. The allusions. A smart show will use its cultural references well. Something like Family Guy, which is basically one episode long allusion to pop culture, is on the overkill spectrum. Happy Endings uses them much more sparingly, and to a much greater effect. When you catch one, they are generally hilarious. They go from imagined married names for celebrities, to a well placed “I am Queen’s Boulevard.” If you get it, they can be hilarious.
6. The plot. Unlike most sitcoms, that end up becoming dramas before too long, Happy Endings keeps it light. Sure, there is a plot that follows through each episode, and it could easily become drama, but they tackle it in a way that makes it not too plot heavy. The hijinks is what matters, and the running plot is secondary. We don’t have to care too much about the “will they or won’t they” storylines that have affected, and often ruined, other TV comedies.
7. Elisha Cuthbert. More known for dramatic roles, like as Jack Bauer’s daughter in 24, she really shines in a comedic role. Alex is extremely goofy and simple, and she plays it to a T. It doesn’t hurt that she is incredibly beautiful, and credit goes to the writers that they didn’t play that aspect up too much. Rare is the episode that focuses on her being a hot girl. Character first, looks later.
8. The chemistry. These actors work well together. There is great on-screen comedic chemistry between the bunch of them, and this makes it even funnier. They are able to play off one another, and their acting styles and characters mesh well enough that they can rattle on for a few minutes, and produce some gold.
Happy Endings is definitely well worth the watch. Never being too serious, it is not needed that the viewer becomes too invested in the whole thing. It is a fun show, and it is meant to be taken lightly. It was unfortunate that it never received the viewership it truly deserved while on air, and I can envision this show becoming more of a cult classic as time moves on. For now, check it out on Netflix, and enjoy the laughs.