Chekhov's Gunman


Save ABC’s Happy Endings!

Happy Endings

The tides of film and television are unforgiving. Save This! is a new segment here at Chekhov’s Gunman where Kevin fights to save things that are worth the life preserver.

Yesterday, ABC dropped the news that it would not be renewing its incredibly endearing and wonderful sitcom Happy Endings. It should be needless to say that this is a terrible thing and you should all already be really sad about, but my experience says that you greeted this news with “What’s Happy Endings? Never heard of it” or some other such sentence that is exactly the problem.

Happy Endings is a wonderful (and admittedly Friends-resembling) ensemble sitcom about six friends living in Chicago, often referencing pop culture and being critically underrated. Like most great sitcoms, it excels far beyond its simple premise, bringing us probably more jokes per second than any other show on television. Not all of them land, but this shotgun method of humor works so well because you don’t notice the bad jokes while you’re busy appreciating the four solid jokes that were just rattled off basically at once.

Above all else, Happy Endings is an ensemble piece, and one of the few that never leaves a character out to dry. The story weight is damn near evenly distributed between our six players, all of whom bear their own comical machine guns:

Dave (Zachary Knighton, perhaps best known for ABC’s short-lived would-be Lost follow-up Flash Forward) is the pretentious Dave Matthews type who makes his own clay beads and operates a food truck called “Steak Me Home Tonight.”

Alex (Elisha Cuthbert, The Girl Next Door and known to those who still remember 24 as the unfortunate daughter of Jack Bauer) is his-dimwitted ex-fiancee, who manages to be simultaneously gorgeous and have an unbridled passion for ribs, and also has become the series MVP for one-liners, throwing them out like so many discarded rib bones.

Jane (Eliza Coupe, from the unfortunate end of Scrubs and known to Community die-hards as the secret service agent who falls for Abed) is Alex’s sister, a tightly-wound Type A lady who imbues every line-reading with a beautiful, persnickety twinge. Another actress would have made this character absolutely detestable, but in Coupe’s wonderful hands you positively love to watch her do what she does.

Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr., known as Coach in the New Girl pilot and as the son of one of them-thar Wayans Brothers) is Jane’s dutiful, feminine husband. His chemistry with Coupe is impeccable, and he may be my personal favorite character, knocking out of the park line readings for such wonderful things as defending the fact that he named his sweat pants and railing against Dave’s minor in Afro-American studies.

Max (Adam Pally, probably best known for his scene-stealing cameo as the cameraman obsessed with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3) is perhaps the show’s funniest character, and also probably the most revelatory portrayal of a gay man in the history of television, all due apologies to Glee in that regard. Max is written like a person (a rather slovenly one at that) who just so happens to be gay. His sexuality is not his whole identity, like you see in other such portrayals of homosexuals, but merely a part of who he is, like it is with normal humans. It makes him a more well-rounded and interesting character, as we don’t constantly focus on the fact that he likes having sex with men, although he has some of the sweetest love stories on the show. And Pally works wonders when paired with any other member of the cast, in particular Wayans and the soon-to-be-mentioned Casey Wilson.

Penny (Casey Wilson, from Saturday Night Live but way better here than she was on Saturday Night Live) is the closest thing the show has to a break-out character and is also the show’s real heart. Perpetually the butt of life’s joke, Penny seeks to better her surroundings, proclaiming each year the “Year of Penny.” She has many of the show’s sweetest moments and is deserving of all of the love you wish you could give to that friend of yours’ who just can’t catch a break in the dating world.

Despite having one of the best casts on television, the show also has phenomenal guest stars, turning Colin Hanks into a person that you care exists, and best casting of parents I’ve ever seen (Megan Mullally, Julie Hagerty, and Michael McKean to name a few, and Damon Wayans because duh).

Those looking for a good series entry-point could check out the Season 2 Halloween episode “Spooky Endings” or the wonderful Season 3 future classic “Boys II Menorah,” depicting Brad and Max’s rise to Bar mitzvah DJ stardom.

There have been some murmorings about the show possibly moving to USA or some such network now that it’s off the air, and Sony is pretty good about keeping its shows on the air (Look at Community somehow getting a fifth season), but given the equally-likely scenario where that doesn’t happen be sure to check out everything this show has to offer on DVD, or on Hulu while you still can.

Did I mention every season ends with a wedding?

Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and future-future writer of a billion of these little closing paragraphs. Be sure to check back for our reviews of Community, Game of Thrones, and the summer’s best movie offerings. We also have a weekly Mexican Standoff and all sorts of Good Stuff.

You can also find Kevin on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “Save ABC’s Happy Endings!

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