Tonight, the best sitcom that no one is watching returns to ABC after a long hiatus. Happy Endings has had a spotty past with ABC’s programming schedule. Before the series went on its hiatus, the network started running the show twice a week on Sundays and Wednesday nights. Now the show is coming back with two new episodes on a Friday night. Unfortunately, a Friday night, multi-episode, time slot is a death knell for a series still struggling to find its audience.
The show follows a group of six friends in Chicago and the hilarious hijinks they get themselves into and out of. Max is the lovable slacker of the group. Alex is the dimwitted blonde. Penny is the perpetually unlucky in love romantic. Brad’s a, frequently effeminate, laidback guy who’s married to Jane, Alex’s control freak sister. Dave is constantly searching for his own identity with hilarious results.
The problem, it seems, is in the show’s premise. A diverse group of friends in a big city hang out everyday and deal with relationship problems. This lends itself to prejudging from people sick of an overused formula. Happy Endings takes a fresh approach, though. The characters make constant references to their genre counterparts as well as a healthy mix of mainstream movies and the more obscure of pop culture’s offerings.
In a way, the show is slightly similar to How I Met Your Mother. But, where HIMYM takes its rom-com style and plays up the sentimentality of the genre without being overly cheesy (most of the time), Happy Endings does something slightly different. The show embraces its romantic comedy roots but also uses the tired formula to its advantage by making light of it. Whether the characters are participating in a John Hughes-themed relay race, escaping from hipster zombies invading a food truck or MC-ing Bar Mitzvahs, it’s consistently hilarious. That’s a rarity in today’s sitcoms.
The ensemble in Happy Endings is the terrific glue that holds the show together. Each actor fits his or her role perfectly with zero weak links. Elisha Cuthbert, in particular, proves herself to be a surprisingly great comedic actress as she plays ditzy Alex. The show often makes references to her work on action series 24. Damon Wayans Jr. and Adam Pally are great as well. They play Brad and Max and, in a clever rebuke of sitcom norms, their characters play against their respective stereotypes. It’s refreshing and hilarious all the same.
If you’re reading this and want to pick up a new sitcom, definitely give Happy Endings a whirl. You’re not going to regret it. The new episodes air tonight on ABC. You can buy the first two seasons from Amazon here and here.
Regardless of the show’s future, though, I just really wish “Rom-Com Con” from the show were a real thing.