October 2, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Happy Together”



Even though CBS’s HAPPY TOGETHER is inspired by a period in Executive Producer Harry Styles’s actual life, it’s one of those sitcoms where no one in front of or behind the cameras appears to have spent much time on Earth.  The contrivance that serves as the plot has Australian pop star Cooper James (Felix Mallard) taking refuge with his accountant Jake Davis (Damon Wayans, Jr) and Jake’s wife Claire (Amber Stevens West) when Cooper needs to get away from the press after a break-up.  Jake and Claire fall all over each other trying to appear cool in front of Cooper (they go out to a club with him and drink, and then–get this–they get hungover!), but end up taking him in as quasi-adoptive parents when they see how shallow his life of stardom is.  Cooper, for his part, is enchanted by their sheer ordinariness.  (They eat toaster pastries!)

There’s probably a way to tell this story with some wit, and with characters who have the capacity to surprise, but creators Tim McAuliffe (a writer/producer on The Last Man On Earth and Maya & Marty) and Austen Earl (a survivor of 9JKL, The Great Indoors and Angel From Hell, a Triple Crown of terrible recent comedies) haven’t found it.  Jake and Claire say and do things for no reason other than to tip the laugh track into making noise, like writing coy euphemisms for sex on their own calendars (which turned out to be an unintentionally topical touch), and recording elaborate musical outgoing messages on their landline voice-mail.  Claire’s parents Bonnie (Stephnie Weir) and Gerald (Victor Williams) appear to fawn over Cooper some more, seemingly because the show needed more characters, and Chris Parnell, as Cooper’s manager, has even less to do.  Cooper himself is a pleasant, oddly asexual cipher who appears to drift so willingly wherever he’s pointed that one hopes a future episode doesn’t have him anywhere near a Scientologist.

Happy Together doesn’t even play well as a piece of craft.  Under Phill Lewis’s pilot direction, everyone yells at each other in the mode of outdated multi-camera sitcoms, and Wayans and West oversell almost all their gags.  Unless something changes as the show goes on, Happy Together isn’t going to be a title that applies to its viewers.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."