Happy Endings Proves a Refreshing Take on Sitcoms

ABC’s Happy Endings, starring Eliza Coupe, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson, Adam Pally, Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert, premiered midway through the spring season last year. The show was met with understandably low ratings due to its poor time slot and ABC’s seeming reluctance to advertise it whatsoever.

Happy Endings focuses on the lives of six best friends that live in Chicago. It is a spin on the much used “hangout” show that was popular back in the ’90s with sitcoms like Friends and Will & Grace and that can be found today in shows like Cougar Town and How I Met Your Mother.  However, Happy Endings really isn’t very much like that other show about six friends, nor is it trying to be. Though the cast gets asked to make the comparison in roughly every interview they have ever done, they generally dismiss the inevitable question by mentioning that Friends had one crazy person; they have six. This is an astute point and a huge part of what makes Happy Endings so fun to watch. The humor is not especially like that found in stories with more realistic character depictions, but the show would be trite and overdone otherwise.

The core “gang” in Happy Endings is made up of a a married couple, a gay man, a serially single girl and two more characters whose wedding we witnessed in the pilot. Antics ensue. However, despite the fact that the characters fit into these classic television roles, the writers find a way to make them original and interesting, at least compared to traditional television. For example, the gay character, Max, is the most masculine person on the show. It’s not groundbreaking television, but it certainly doesn’t feel sterile, like many other new comedies these days. The twist of the pilot was that the bride decides not to marry her fiancé, and instead runs off with a man who roller-skates in to break up the wedding. The first few episodes are spent untangling this drama and bringing the group back together so they could all be friends again. Season One was enjoyable and easy to get hooked on, but hardly anyone regularly tuned in for it. Shockingly, despite its terrible ratings, the show was renewed for a second season and has become one of the best and most consistently hilarious comedies on television.

Last week, the writers used a fairly common “hangout” show trope of introducing a very specific, newly-established group tradition and crafting the episode around it. The episode is titled “The Butterfly Effect Effect,” and the plot centers around an apparently annual fight between the married couple, Brad and Jane, that operates as the group’s Groundhog Day—spring, apparently, doesn’t come without it. Brad and Jane have been getting along particularly well lately, so the group spends the episode trying to get them to get in a blowout fight. In a more traditional comedy, this episode would be completely ridiculous and stupid, but it was one of Happy Endings’s best to date. That’s just the kind of show it is. If you like laughing, I deeply suggest it for your future consumption.

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