Why I Watch: Happy Endings

Happy Endings, the show with an almost-but-not-quite questionable name, a stellar cast, and writing that busts guts the world over – and yet, it’s also the show that averages 4 mil viewers per week. It’s one of the best shows on television right now, so why isn’t everyone watching it? This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but now that the season two finale has aired, I think it’s the right time. This post, unlike others on this site, doesn’t contain any majorly huge spoilers, so if you’re wondering what the big deal is with Happy Endings, you’re free to read through – please do, in fact.

Already a fan and looking for a recap of the season two finale? Check it.

The premise: Happy Endings follows a gang of six friends in Chicago as they transition into their thirties, facing the trials and tribulations that come with trying to figure out what being a real adult means. The show premiered with a bang at the wedding of Alex Kerkovich (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton), where Alex gets cold feet and leaves Dave at the altar. In the aftermath, the six of them have to figure out how that change affects their lives and, more importantly, try to face the challenges of adulthood while still having fun. If you’re thinking this sounds like a Chicago-based Friends that’s been adapted for the post-Y2K era, you’re absolutely right.

The characters, left to right:

  • Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton) is the left-at-the-altar half of his and Alex’s dissolved high school sweetheartship, trying to figure out who he wants to be as a bachelor and what he really wants in life. He lives with Max and owns a successful food truck, Steak Me Home Tonight.
  • Jane Kerkovich Williams (Eliza Coupe) is one half of the married yuppie couple with her husband Brad, and also Alex’s older sister. She’s very competitive and always has to be in control – believe me, a relaxed Jane is not the best Jane.
  • Brad Williams (Damon Wayans, Jr) is married to Jane and works for an investment firm, and is by and large the wealthiest one of the group, relevant here because they regularly depend on him for money purposes. However, he’s also incredibly kind and adores his wife and friends, and is probably the most thoughtful person on the show. (DWJ left after the pilot of New Girl to be on Happy Endings, which I think was the best move.)
  • Alex Kerkovich (Elisha Cuthbert) is Dave’s former fiancee and Jane’s younger sister. She owns a trendy boutique, Xela, and lives first in the apartment she and Dave shared, moving in with Penny after a smoke damage incident. She’s sweet, though I believe I’ve used the phrase “dumber than a box of hair” to describe her before.
  • Max Blum (Adam Pally) is Brad and Dave’s best friend from college, as well as Penny’s best friend. He’s openly gay, yet regularly defies television stereotype. He’s single and unemployed, though at one point he buys a vintage limousine and occasionally drives it as a way to make money.
  • Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson) is the self-proclaimed leader of the group, having been friends with Jane, Alex and Dave since high school, and BFFs with Max since college. She’s always dating someone new, but her fear of perpetual singledom and neuroticisms tend to drive away her beaus. However, Penny is the backbone of the group, the glue that holds them together. She’s known for her abbreviations (abbrevs, really) and catchphrases (“amahhhzing”).

So let’s get into the nitty gritty of why I watch Happy Endings. Actually, it’s simple: it makes me laugh, and when I say laugh, I mean cackle like a madwoman who will never laugh again. In fact, I was just saying last night how I was eating some Reese’s pieces while watching some of this show, and I laughed so hard I drooled a little bit and some Reese’s fell out of my mouth. TMI? Sure, sorry, but I don’t think I could ever say that about another show. This show is a brand of funny that isn’t anywhere else on TV right now (except maybe How I Met Your Mother, but Happy Endings does it better), and these actors do it better than anyone else. It’s up there with Parks and Rec in its consistency of funny, even though it just wrapped its sophomore season.

One thing Happy Endings does spectacularly streets ahead of all other shows is create characters that are not SocialJusticemobiles TM. What I mean by that is that all the characters are well-rounded, and they don’t fall into a predictable box. For a while, I wavered about Max’s character, wondering if they were trying so hard to break a stereotype that it broke the joke, and then I realized that Max is his own person. He doesn’t exist to create or break stereotypes of gay men – that happens naturally. Max does his thing and doesn’t care if anyone else likes it. And that’s where it rises above other comedies that tend to rely on stereotypes and predictability. I do love Modern Family, but really – you know from the beginning exactly how each character is going to react, and if he or she decides to take another course, it winds up being the butt of a joke about not being yourself. Obviously it’s working for them, but I don’t prefer it.

With Happy Endings, I feel like I never have any idea what anyone is going to do, but I know it’s going to make me laugh so hard I’m lit’rally wiping away tears. Real people don’t always react the same way. Real people don’t look at their lives and decide which Issues they best represent and act in a way to promote those issues. And by giving their characters choices, Happy Endings has done a better job of creating a realistic yet still hilariously wacky comedy that is up there with the best.

I’m going to come out and say it. Happy Endings is the closest anyone has ever gotten to replicating Friends in a way that’s appropriate for the decade and the characters, even if that wasn’t their endgame. Friends went off the air in 2004, when I was 14, after a ten year run. I can watch it now and appreciate it and love it (and I do), but I can’t imagine what it was like to have lived it week to week. Is that too dramatic? Whatever. But I’m almost 24 and now is the time to enjoy this kind of ensemble sitcom and I fully intend to. If this show gets canceled, I will riot. Happy Endings is funnier than Modern Family and a better ensemble sitcom than the very similar How I Met Your Mother. There, I’ve said it – and I believe it.

And because I couldn’t decide which of these two clips to leave you with, I’m going to give you both. First, Penny leads the gang in a Jazz Kwon Do routine, and second, Brad and Jane regain their swagger to the tune of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” Watch both. They’re short and there’s no way you’ll ever regret it.

So, are you intrigued? Heard good things about the show but wondering if you should check it out? Just try a few episodes. Start wherever you want, since there aren’t really any real spoilers for a show like this. But I guarantee you’ll want to start at the beginning and work your way up. You have until next fall, pending renewal – now’s the time. And if you’re already a fan of the show, let prospective viewers know why they should be watching!

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About Bailey

I'm a writer and a feminist. I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of television.

One Response to “Why I Watch: Happy Endings”

  1. Great post! Love this show!

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