Take six twentysomething Chicago friends, add cocktails and hormones, shake, and, you've got Happy Endings
, the hilarious, edgy new comedy that asks: when a couple splits, who gets to keep the friends? Dave (Zachary Knighton, TV's FlashForward
) finds fulfillment (sort of) manning a food truck after losing his hot fiancee Alex (Elisha Cuthbert, TV's 24
) at the altar. Alex's type-A sister Jane (Eliza Coupe, TV's Scrubs
) is almost happily married to horndog Brad (Damon Wayans Jr., TV's The Underground
). Dave's roommate Max (Adam Pally) is a gay, sports-loving slob, and Penny (Casey Wilson, TV's SNL
) is on the prowl for a good man...or men. The laughs are nonstop as they do what tightly-knit friends do best: hang out, have fun, debate the meaning of life, hook up, break up, and do it all over again!
"It's like Friends
, only different." That's the gist of how fans have described this quick-witted, funny, and unexpectedly intelligent sitcom on numerous message boards. It's also quite apt and a nice compliment for a show that stumbled down a rickety, wayward path as an ABC midseason replacement in April 2011, getting green-lit just a month later for a full second season on the fall roster. Happy Endings
presents a gang of six friends (!) working through that awkward about-to-turn-, turning-, just-turned-30 phase where they can't fit in with the hipsters, but fear the idea of letting go and getting older. The winning ensemble cast play with or against each other in various groupings while the show makes good-natured fun of their foolishness in clinging to hipsterish speech, style, manners, and dress. A recurring example of being caught in some sort of cultural middle is their intentionally moronic use of "I know, right?" or just "Right?" as a comeback that sounds even wronger than it does coming from people who talk that way with authentic sincerity. The premise laid out in the pilot has Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) playing runaway bride to Dave (Zachary Knighton), who is stranded at the altar while their best friends (!) Penny (Casey Wilson--bubbly and boy-crazy), Max (Adam Pally--gay but not swishy), and Brad and Jane (Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe---married) look on in bewilderment. The conflict that's the glue and the meat of the 12 ensuing episodes is figuring out if they can all stay friends (!) without anyone having to choose sides. It turns out they can, hence the title. With one camera, no laugh track, and sets that pretend to place them in Chicago, the troupe of six tease, torment, support, and are generally there for each other thanks to snappy scripts packed with running, recurring, and throwaway gags.
Though there's nothing groundbreaking in setup or style, the cast brings a high level of accountability by making their individual characters real and giving their group dynamic a gloss of believable unreality. It fulfills the best measure of any TV show by positively answering the question, "Do I want to spend my valuable time with these people?" They're smart, but also shallow and dopey as demanded by the quick pace of jokes that are crammed together with well-timed precision. Are Dave and Alex deep down still in love? Is there anything that can honestly rattle Brad and Jane's soul-mate devotion? Will Penny ever find a socially or age-appropriate boyfriend? And by the same token, will Max find a boyfriend who can appreciate his slothful attitude and the completely non-gay cut of his jib? There's ample room for more fleshing out on all these themes. The 13 episodes in this DVD set are presented in their originally intended order, which was not the case when ABC jammed back-to-back episodes over six weeks in the spring season. (The special features are skimpy--a couple of Banana Republic tie-in promos, a faux-hipster interview, deleted scenes, and outtakes.) There's a little bit of overall arc, but each installment pretty much stands on its own, with favorites being the one where Penny makes best friends with an über-stereotypical gay guy (Stephen Guarino, playing it hysterically over the top); the one where a long-lost college buddy gets married, but follows his wife's freak-out about Alex being a wedding jinx; the one where Jane shows off her creepy competitiveness in a martial arts class; and the one where Brad's father visits for some medical tests and shows a new-found love for everyone except Brad. The underlying theme of the Dave and Alex situation often fades into the background, popping up just enough to add romantic tension when needed. Though many people compare the show favorably to Friends, there are just as many who will give thanks that it really is different. Both camps can coexist and be happy that Happy Endings has not come to an end. --Ted Fry