Judge Patrick Bromley prefers a happy denouement.
Our reviews of Happy Endings (published November 29th, 2005), Happy Endings: The Complete First Season (published September 28th, 2011), and Happy Endings: The Complete Third Season (published December 12th, 2013) are also available.
Cranky landlords, nosy childhood friends, Brazilians, gym bullies, sexy Halloween costumes, racist parrots, Happy Endings.
A show with a promising but problematic first season finds its footing to become one of the funniest shows on TV.
Facts of the Case
Meet the gang of Happy Endings, a group of twentysomething Chicagoans looking for love and happiness in the Windy City. There's Dave (Zachary Knighton, Surfer, Dude), proud owner of his own food truck (called Steak Me Home Tonight) and former jilted fiancee of Alex (Elisha Cuthbert, The Girl Next Door), the jilter and sister of Jane (Eliza Coupe, What's Your Number?), the Type-A who is married to Brad (Damon Wayans Jr, The Other Guys), whose best friend is slacker Max (Adam Pally, Solitary Man), who used to go out with Penny (Casey Wilson, Killers) even though he's a gay man and she might as well be.
Here are the 21 episodes that make up Happy Endings: The Complete Second Season:
• "Blax, Snake, Home"
It's nice when patience pays off. I liked the first season of the ABC sitcom Happy Endings, mostly for the ensemble and the raw materials that it had to work with. It was the kind of show that could clearly turn into something funny—or else turn smug and obvious and die a quick death. Luckily, my instincts were right, and Happy Endings hit its stride in season two to become one of the fastest and funniest sitcoms on the air. Even if no one is watching.
Existing somewhere between the ensemble relationship comedy of Friends and the absurdism of Community, Happy Endings is all about speed and jokes per second—it's the fastest-talking TV series since Gilmore Girls went off the air. There are more good lines in a single minute of this show than in an entire episode of a lot of what's on CBS, delivered with keep-up-or-get-left-behind speed and confidence by what is become one of the best ensemble casts on a sitcom today. In its second season, the show has been more willing to abandon reality and get completely silly, but manages to do so without losing our sympathy or investment in the characters. That's not an easy thing to pull off.
The biggest problem with season one—the two "straight" characters played by Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert who had little to offer—has been fully rectified in Year Two to the point where Cuthbert is now giving one of the funniest performances on the show. It's the same thing that happened with Friends when the writers realized that everyone needed a character to play; it couldn't be divided into "funny" people and "straight" people. So Happy Endings has very wisely turned Dave into a douche and Alex into a dummy, and both actors (especially Cuthbert) sell their jokes with total sincerity. The bad news is that Adam Pally, who was one of the bright spots of Season One, has begun indulging many of his worst instincts, creating a character that's smug and obnoxious and too self-aware in the fact that he's being funny (again, the same thing happened with David Schwimmer in later seasons of Friends). He's actually become the weak link in a very strong ensemble—so strong, in fact, that it's easy to overlook those times it feels like Pally is mugging for laughs.
Happy Endings looks really good on DVD. Between Cougar Town, Suburgatory, Modern Family and Happy Endings, ABC produces some of the best-shot sitcoms on the air; they all look warm and colorful, slick without feeling artificial. As a Chicagoan, it's very, very obvious that Happy Endings isn't shot in the city despite that being where it takes place—the color palette and even the sky are all wrong—but that's a minor complaint. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is handsome and bright, just a step below the original HD broadcasts (it's a small step). The audio tracks get the job done, presenting the dialogue in no-frills fashion and balancing it out with the occasional pop song. Luckily, Happy Endings has no terrible laugh track to factor into the mix.
There's a real scarcity of extras included on the three-disc set. First up is a collection of deleted scenes cut for time, offering some more amusing character bits but hardly proving integral to the plots of their respective episodes. The only other bonus feature is a gag reel that's reasonably amusing, because, one again, watching funny people make mistakes is preferable to watching unfunny people do the same.
Twenty-two episodes were shot for Happy Endings: The Complete Second Season, but only 21 aired (except in the UK, where the whole season was broadcast). The mysterious 22nd show is not offered on the DVD set, which is a shame. Supposedly, it's going to appear during the third season on ABC.
If you're a sitcom or comedy fan and you're not yet watching Happy Endings, you're making a mistake. Don't dismiss it as another Friends clone, even if that's what it feels like at times. More accurately, it's the clever and fast-paced ensemble comedy that How I Met Your Mother used to be before jumping the shark. The cast is great, the jokes are fast-paced and the show is only getting better.
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