October 23, 2012




WHERE WE WERE:  Chicago, where six of the oddest balls on television hang out.  When last seen, Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton), who started the whole show off when she deserted him at the altar, were secretly back to seeing each other again.  Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr), husband of control freak (accent on “freak”) Jane (Eliza Coupe), had been laid off.  And Penny (Casey Wilson) and her BFF Max (Adam Pally) were enduring their own dating disasters.

WHERE WE ARE:  You know what this season has been missing?  A series where a bitter Bulls fan can liken Chris Bosh to one of Omar’s boyfriends from The Wire.  Where an experimental one-man band goes by the name Yoko Uno.  Where Brad’s African-American ventriloquist dummy circa the 1990s is called “Sinbrad.”  Where there are innumerable opportunities for putting the syllable “cazh” (as in “casual”) in conversation, even if Rizzoli & Isles & Cazh doesn’t work quite as well as Tango & Cazh.  In other words, it’s a pleasure to welcome Happy Endings back, as nutty as it’s ever been.

Although Happy isn’t what you’d call a plot-heavy show, the season premiere, written by series creator David Caspe and Executive Story Editors Daniel Libman & Matthew Libman, and directed by Fred Goss, does cover a few bases that will probably develop over the next few weeks.  After a failed attempt to keep it cazh, Alex and Dave are planning to move in together, a likely recipe for disaster.  (There was brief mention of Penny’s semi-buried romantic interest in Dave as well.)  Meanwhile, it turns out that Jane loves the idea of a “Mr. Wife” stay-at-home husband, and encourages Brad to develop his skills at candle-making and, of course, ventriloquism.  She’s so enthusiastic about it, in fact, that Brad hides the fact that he’s got another job, but by the end of the episode, he’s decided to really take some time off.  Penny and Max have the screwball plot of the week, in which Max, nursing Penny while she’s in a half-body cast after an unfortunate–but luckily, taped–fall down many, many stairs, is so attracted to her physical therapist that he starts to Mercy her, telling her doctor she can’t have her cast taken off because she’s in Bolivia, where her cast is helpful in her new narcotrafficante career, when he’s not dosing her  with sleepy tea and Lunestra.

At its best, Happy Endings combines the dense pop culture joke-book of 30 Rock with the warmth and cameraderie of Friends.  It’s an awfully tough tone to achieve and sustain, and Happy took half a season to get there, but now it rolls along expertly, with as many laughs as any show on the air.  None of it would work, of course, if not for the crackling, immensely likable cast, which is capable of delivering the wildest of one-liners with absolute precision.

Happy Endings was very solid in the ratings last season, but for much of that time, it had Modern Family as a huge lead-in.  Now it’s going into Tuesday 9PM, which has become the sitcom equivalent of a slasher movie, a brutal 3-way face-off with New Girl and Go On  3 very good comedies that can’t all thrive there.  Happy may not be the most emotionally substantial of the trio, but it could be the flat-out funniest.  However the ratings play out, one hopes that the odd network out will blink and reschedule whichever show comes in 3rd, rather than giving up on it.

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."