Saying Goodbye to Happy Endings

6 May

The Happy Enders My views on Happy Endings have changed over time.  I was introduced to the show by a friend who recommended it early in the second season and made me watch an episode while he was there. It had some funny moments, though I was hardly enamored with it.  Still, based on what humor there was and his recommendation, I plunged in further, and it was still fairly funny, but I didn’t love it.  More than that, even though I watched it, I found myself focusing on what it wasn’t rather than what it was. I complained that it was kind of funny, but kind of hit or miss, and I wasn’t wrong.  I complained that it didn’t have the ambition of shows like  Community or Louie, or the strong but not overly sentimental character development and consistency of Parks and Recreation or New Girl, and I wasn’t wrong.  The characters weren’t deep, it wasn’t always laugh out loud funny (it wasn’t funny enough like Curb Your Enthusiasm or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that I didn’t give a shit about character development), and it didn’t seem to have any real thematic depth.  I noted that it was the volume shooter, the JR Smith, of sitcoms, firing away jokes at a rapid pace, sometimes hitting at high percentages, and often missing several in a row, and viewed that as a negative.

Sometime between the end of last season and the beginning of this, the third season, though, I realized that it was time to stop focusing on what Happy Endings wasn’t, and start focusing on what it was.  What Happy Endings is, is an often funny, and always fun show.  I’ve pronounced before that Bob’s Burgers has become my preferred choice for a show to watch before bed that will simply make me smile and lead me to good dreams before I go to sleep.  It has humor, and just general air of positivity and happy things that sometimes one needs after a tough day watching the Mad Mens and Breaking Bads of the world.  Happy Endings might be the next show on that list.  Even when you’re not laughing, watching the show, you’re usually smiling.  The cast, whose chemistry makes jokes work that wouldn’t, and makes jokes that don’t work, not seem like outright duds, is just having a great time and it absolutely shines right through the screen.  The volume shooter aspect was no longer a negative; I felt confident I’d get a few good laughs, and instead of frowning at the misses, I’d just be smiling through the camaraderie.  There are very occasional character building moments or relationship changes, but there’s none of the heavy and sometimes burdensome oversentimentality of How I Met Your Mother that drives me crazy.  Instead of having to choose between being a show where the characters really develop like Parks and Recreation, or a show that’s just one thousand percent about the laughs like Sunny or Curb, Happy Endings took a slightly middle path and instead of beng a comprimise, it works for them.  Almost every episode begins with the six characters together in one place having a good time, cracking jokes at somebody’s expense, and most episodes end the same way.

If Modern Family is a newer take on the traditional family sitcom (Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, and so forth), Happy Endings is a modern update of Friends, with the classic six friends, three guys, three girls set up.  However, while I never really liked Friends (and don’t love Modern Family much), Happy Endings takes the fun of six characters you like with a sense of humor updated for the second decade of the 21st century. In addition, Happy Endings was a meta-traditional sitcom, and it did that, embracing the 21st century’s obessession with meta-humor, as well as anyone, ir not better.  Instead of being limited by its traditional sitcom – these are six characters who only spend time with each other – format, it’s liberated by that.  When it wants to play with any classic sitcom-y storyline, it just adds in the characters and plot it needs, and cleverly hangs the lampshade by having the characters comment on the sitcom conventions they’re falling into.  It’s the most knowing, winking, sitcom on the air, in this way. In the season (and what turns out to be, unless another network (hear me USA!) picks it up, series) finale, sisters Jane and Alex’s older sister, Brooke, gets married.  Of course, fans of the show have never seen or heard of their other sister, and while old shows would glaze over this point, Happy Endings takes the opportunity to have the characters point out how unusual it is that they’ve never mentioned her, as Adam Pally’s Max says, “We never see her, we never talk about her, she never shows up in any of your flashbacks.”  When others are confused, Dave notes that “Flashbacks” are what Jane and Alex call their photo albums, which he produces to show to the room.  Simple, knowing, well-executed, funny.  Good show.  This is a trope employed over and over again by the show, and it was done deflty and funnily, and with the proper amount of winking, which made these jokes some of the best in the show.

There’s at least a possibility that this isn’t the end, and that a cable network will pick up the show.  I think it would be a good fit for basic cable.  That said, if it doesn’t get picked up, so long Happy Endings.  I’m sorry to see you go.

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