Tube talk: Happy Endings

ABC is not exactly being subtle about its desire to turn Wednesday nights into a comedy block. They’ve already renewed Modern Family, Cougar Town, and The Middle for next season, while the fates of Mr. Sunshine and Better With You are currently undecided. Enter midseason replacement Happy Endings, which premiered last night with two half-hour episodes. Last night’s episodes aired in the prime post-Modern Family slot, but starting next week the show will air after Cougar Town.

But enough about logistics — is the show any good? Well, I’ve gone on record as saying I don’t like to evaluate a program so quickly, but there will only be 13 episodes of Happy Endings this season so why not? I’d say it has the ingredients of a good sitcom: a solid ensemble cast with a few potential stars (I immediately gravitated toward Casey Wilson (Penny) and Damon Wayans, Jr. (Brad)), some snappy dialogue, and decent comedic timing. It’s pretty rare for a comedy to hit its stride right out of the gate, and Happy Endings is no exception. But there’s stuff to build on here.

The interaction between the characters has a decent amount of chemistry and believability, a critical factor for any ensemble show. The funniest “pair” so far is Wilson as the single, long-suffering Penny and her non-stereotypical gay “husband” Max (Adam Pally), who had the best quips of the first two installments. I’m not feeling much chemistry with the only actually married couple, Wayans’ Brad and Jane, played by Scrubs alum Eliza Coupe. Coupe’s character on Scrubs (Denise) was one of the few strong points over the final few seasons of that show, but I feel like she’s being underutilized so far.

After two episodes the only real weak points are, oddly enough, the ostensible leads. Dave (Zachary Knighton) is a little whinier than a lead character should be, and keeps reminding me of Jason Batemen. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), on the other hand, is just too vanilla. Of the two, Dave has more potential for growth. I don’t know how much mileage the writers will get out of the core premise of the show — Alex left Dave at the altar on their wedding day to run away with another man, and this throws the dynamic of a group of six friends into chaos — and by the first regular episode it appeared that they had largely abandoned it in favor of the typical “single guy/gal looks for love” plots for the pair.

It’s hard to view any ensemble comedy about a group of friends without referencing, well, Friends. As much as that show went off the rails in later seasons, early in its run it set a new standard for the type of sitcom. I think Happy Endings, given some time to grow and stretch its creative legs, could at least be in the same ballpark. Hell, it can’t turn out any worse than Perfect Couples, can it? ABC is sure hoping so.

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4 Comments

  • Blerd

    Agreed that the two characters that were supposed to be the “leads” were the least interesting characters on the show. Eliza Coupe is playing against type (since she was so acerbic as Denise on “Scrubs”), but her character might grow on me. Wasn’t totally thrilled with the writing, but the show definitely has potential!

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