Forget binge drinking – these days, binge watching is all the rage. Don’t be ashamed – we’ve all done it (thanks for that stolen February weekend, House of Cards). So here we are, ready and willing to help you skip the endless Netflix scrolling and Hulu searching. And we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off our new commentary about the state of television today than by getting you hooked on Happy Endings, the most underrated, under-watched series on the air today.
The premise? Ditzy but loveable girl-next-door Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) leaves nice-guy Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar, putting their close-knit group of friends in the awkward position of having to choose sides. Instead, though, the collective forces the former couple to stay friends, keeping their inner-circle intact. And thank heavens they did, as we can’t imagine Friday nights without quirky besties Penny and Max or opposites-attract married couple Brad and Jane.
Clumsy, relationship-challenged Penny, played with gut-busting precision by Casey Wilson, is the glue that holds the group together. Although well-versed in modern dating, she’s perpetually single due to a series of unfortunate events (meeting a guy whose last name is Hitler), and her own poor choices (winding up in a full body cast after a BASE-jumping date). But it’s her casually dropped, nuggety one-liners that may very well be the jewel of the series: “That was my worst birthday since my mom frenched my boyfriend at Epcot.” Oh, and there’s also her tendency to inadvertently date gay men like Max (Adam Pally), Penny’s long-time friend (and short-lived beau), who, as the antithesis of the well-groomed, politically correct, flamboyant stereotypes we’re often presented with, may well be the greatest gay character in network TV history. He’s also sarcastic, crude and absolutely spot-on with his observations: “This guy’s a hipster. The skinny jeans, the scarf no matter the season. All those things you like, he likes them ironically. I can smell him from here, and he smells like a flea market.”
Completing the circle are cutesy-creepy couple Brad (Damon Wayans Jr., a spitting image of his father circa In Living Color) and Jane (Eliza Coupe). He’s a quick-witted corporate-type with a goofy streak, and she’s a nosey, Type A control freak who also happens to be Alex’s sister. Seemingly oil and water on the surface, they’re actually a perfect fit, sharing a kinky sex life (clown sex!) and a knack for scheming, like staging an epic fight so as not to disappoint their friends who wear handmade T-shirts in anticipation of their annual “Spring Smackdown.”
Despite flying under the radar, Endings has stayed afloat for three seasons by earning both critical acclaim and a devote fan following. Blending comedic elements of Friends, Arrested Development and 30 Rock, it manages to serve up something new and refreshing by being both consumed by and annoyed with the frenetic world we live in. It’s biting, but easy to swallow – social commentary at its best.
If you find the first few episodes of Season One even mildly amusing, hang in there, because by episode five, “Like Father, Like Gun,” the series really starts to jell, with a guest spot by the elder Wayans as Brad’s no-nonsense dad looking to let loose and Penny dating a hot Italian guy, with whom she can only talk to in his native tongue when she’s totally bombed. Plus, with only 13 episodes, you’ll spend less time glued to your screen than you do to your desk in a single workday.
The comedic rhythm crescendos in Season Two, with some of the funniest moments to ever grace network TV – from Alex and Penny befriending a gang of bitchy high school girls who turn squeezing into toddler-size T-shirts into a new trend to the spot-on Halloween episode that ping-pongs between Brad and Jane’s hellish night housesitting in the ‘burbs and a costume party where Max indulges in a “weird gay turkey party” and Alex is mistaken for a drag queen.
As of this writing, though, Endings is dangerously “on the bubble,” meaning the network, ABC, has yet to announce whether the show is being renewed or canceled (the potential series finale is set to air Friday, May 3). That indecision has become frustratingly apparent during Season Three – reminiscent of what Fox did with Arrested Development before pulling the plug, ABC has shuffled Endings around so much (Tuesday to Sunday to, now, Friday) that it’s hard for even die-hard fans to stay invested. Perhaps that lack of commitment is a sign of what’s to come.
But, if it is canceled, there’s a possibility it’ll be picked up by a niche cable outlet, a la network-jumpers Southland (NBC to TNT) and Cougar Town (ABC to TBS). Either way, now’s the perfect time to dig in. If you fall in love, you can jump on the “save this show” bandwagon and help it (hopefully) earn an 11th-hour reprieve. If you hate it, well, you only wasted a sick day. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
So let us know: are you a fan? Should the series go on? And, by the way, we’re taking suggestions for Chuck-like Subway sandwich and Jericho peanuts campaigns.