Happy Endings is a sitcom for people who aren’t dickheads
Now is the age of the modern sitcom. America finds itself happily swamped in the genre, with heavyweights such as Modern Family and 30 Rock duking it out with spunky indie newcomers like New Girl and uber-sharp meta comedies like Community. With The Big Bang Theory still preoccupying all the dickheads who think that scientific words are hilarious, and the slow fall of How I Met Your Mother from its once lofty heights, a small niche has opened up in the quirky-lovable-gang-of-friends genre that Friends once used to rule so entirely. And amidst all the new shows, slipping by almost unnoticed as Zooey Deschanel continues her life role of Manic Pixie Dream Girl (look it up), Happy Endings has been doing very well for itself. And it should be. One of the sharpest and also just genuinely funniest shows out there, it’s just hit its third season and looks ready to make a contender out of itself.
On paper, Happy Endings looks absolutely textbook. Main character Dave (Zachary Knighton) with will-he-won’t-he interest Alex (Elisha Cuthbert). Weird friend Penny (Casey Wilson). Married couple Brad and Jane (Damon Wayans Jnr and Eliza Coupe). Funny, sarcastic gay friend Max (Adam Pally). Ok, maybe the last one is new. But once you get past the biographies, the show shrugs off the similarities with Friends and HIMYM and becomes something very unique. For a start, it’s surprisingly clever. Underneath its fresh façade, and just behind the more obvious sight gags, there are the machine-gun fire dialogues that manage to slip in the less PG jokes and also throw in references to pop culture left, right and centre. There’s a double penetration joke in there in the first season so gloriously set up and then so deftly done that I only caught it the second time of watching, and the best thing is that this is not an isolated event. There’s always something that you’ll miss the first time round, and that in itself advocates repeat watching.
Secondly, it manages to pull off more quotable lines than almost any other show at the moment. Penny, played brilliantly by Casey Wilson, is the real architect behind it; managing to come up with a plethora of catchphrases that just seem to stick. Am-aaah-zing, that soooks, kyaht (her way of saying cute), and abreevs are just some of hundreds of Penny-isms. The show runs with it as well, managing to both try and make it a running gag, but then also having the self-awareness to let its other characters really dig in and make fun of it. Think along the lines of Anchorman, and you’re on the right track.
And finally, and most importantly, this show is as good as it is because of the characters themselves. The chemistry between them is sensational, and they all seem to work together perfectly, which, in a show with the aforementioned rapid-fire dialogue, is pretty important. They are all hilarious in their own ways. Brad and Jane really stand out as the married couple, simply because they are not your standard TV couple. They are both still hugely into each other, so none of this lack of sex stuff that seems to be the norm, and they riff off each other with insane timing. Max’s caustic sarcasm is impeccable together with Penny’s endearing goofiness (and nobody does a better fall than Casey Wilson), while Dave and Alex manage to be funny without the focus always being on their love life, which is refreshing. It’s a disservice to their nuances to try and describe each of them in any more detail, so you will just have to watch the show to know what I mean.
NBC have done themselves a favour by choosing to renew this blinder of a show, and I’d advise that you follow suit and catch up on Channel 4 before the third season hits British shores.