Season Premiere review — Happy Endings, “Blax, Snake, Home”

I really love Happy Endings and I am stoked that the series was picked up for a second season. I just re-watched season one this weekend while trying to get my girlfriend to love it (she did!) and I forgot how comfortable the cast is with one another and how sharp the writing can be. However, there really isn’t a whole lot to talk about on a week-to-week basis, at least yet. This isn’t Community, where it sure feels like there is a lot of thematic content to parcel out and discuss. I’m not someone who likes to just list jokes or talk about how X scene was hilarious and Y scene wasn’t. With that in mind, I don’t know how often I’ll check in with Happy Endings here on the blog. But I’ll be watching it every week.

Nevertheless, I don’t think Happy Endings’ lack of “thematic content” is a detriment to its success. Like the series whose timeslot it is currently occupying (Cougar Town), Happy Endings works wonders as a weekly 22-minute dose of hang-out time. The six leads all have really great chemistry with one another so that the writers can break them off into twosomes or threesomes and a very small story and just let the actors do their thing.

Adam Pally and Damon Wayans Jr. are terrific together and have been since the beginning – their conversations about race and sexuality are always funny and perfectly boarder the offensive/hilarious line – and everyone else has quickly grown into their roles quite well. Casey Wilson’s Penny and Eliza Coupe’s Jane could easily devolve into hackneyed clichés of the “lonely single girl” and the “Type-A bossy one,” but both ladies prevent that from happening on a consistent basis. The story about Penny turning into a cat lady spinster could have been a major misfire, however, Wilson brought the right kind of knowingly overdramatic presence to it that it worked. Penny and Jane also succeed because both women are generally aware of their obvious “types.” They make dumb sitcom-y decisions and say goofy sitcom-y things, but there is a sense that Penny knows she’s a mess and Jane knows (and loves) that she’s Type-A. That helps, a lot.

Elsewhere on the cast, Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert are always going to be the least funny of the six and the series has figured out ways to emphasize their skills and their characters’ inherent Ted Mosby-ness. Knighton is particularly good a playing Dave as unknowing tool and last night’s episode played that up full force. Cuthbert has her moments and while this premiere didn’t really feature any of them, she still brings a fun, gamer energy to her character. She’s not a total charisma or comedy vacuum, so there’s that.

Finally, an episode like “Blax, Snake, Home” displays how adept the writers have become at developing the series’ overall sensibilities and expanding the world. The fast-paced nature of the jokes and conversations has always been there and David Caspe and his team team have slowly established this weird, slightly absurdist but still mostly real version of Chicago. The random characters who pop up in the background like Glaze or the guy who trained his cats to walk through vents make Happy Endings feel more fully-formed and obviously, add to the overall funny output if you will. The series has a real sharp point of view that has regularly comes through, something that not all comedies seem to be able to do.

Anyway, Happy Endings is lovely. The cast is great and the writing is always improving. You should watch it.

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