Review: Happy Endings 1×1

The new Friends? No, but it'll make you laugh

Happy Endings

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC

Remember Friends, kind of around the later seasons? You know when everyone was 30-something, Ross and Rachel had already got together and broken up, Chandler and Monica were married, and Joey and Phoebe just sort of hung around a lot?

Now imagine the exact same set-up, just a bit more diverse, a bit more cutting edge, with one-liners that didn’t entirely rely on insulting one another and with a bit of actual pathos and real characterisation rather than everything going by the numbers.

Because finally, after attempts at funny, mid-season rom-sitcoms from Fox, CBS and NBC, ABC has weighed in with a bittersweet affair that actually does make you laugh.

Plus it’s got Elisha Cuthbert in it as a woman who dumps her friend/boyfriend of 20 years at the altar, their mutual friends then having to decide whose side they’re on in the break-up. Here’s a trailer, which pretty much covers every single thing of importance in the first episode:

Plot
Forget who gets to keep the ring — when a couple splits, the real question is, who gets to keep the friends? In this modern comedy, a couple’s break-up will complicate all of their friends’ lives and make everyone question their choices. When life throws you for a curve, hold on tight to the people you love. Every circle of friends has someone who’s the gravitational center. For years, perfect couple Dave and Alex drew their friends in and held them together. Now that they’ve split, does this group have the stuff to stay together? Or do Max, Brad, Jane and Penny have to choose sides? Suddenly every event is a negotiation… like, who gets to go on the annual ski trip? There are a lot of big questions to be answered, but this group has been together so long, somehow, little by little, they’ll figure out how to hold on, even though their center is split up. It helps that Dave and Alex have agreed to stay friends. But there will definitely be other complications down the road. This show isn’t afraid to ask the embarrassing personal questions that inevitably arise in every long-term, close-knit group of friends.

Happy Endings stars Eliza Coupe (Scrubs) as Jane, Elisha Cuthbert (24) as Alex, Zachary Knighton (FlashForward) as Dave, Adam Pally as Max, Damon Wayans, Jr. (The Underground) as Brad and Casey Wilson (Saturday Night Live) as Penny. The series is from executive producers Jamie Tarses (My Boys), Jonathan Groff (How I Met Your Mother), Anthony & Joe Russo (Community, Arrested Development) and co-executive producer David Caspe (the upcoming feature film I Hate You Dad). The pilot was written by David Caspe and directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, and is from Sony Pictures Television and ABC Studios.

Is it any good?
Well, no one’s going to be giving it awards for subtlety or good acting, but you know, it’s a hell of a lot funnier than its competitors, the characters are pretty appealing and it does do a roaring trade in one-liners.

Now, I’ve compared it with Friends and this is a touch more real-world than Friends, although still a little bit in a sitcom bubble of unlikelihoods. The characters aren’t quite as appealing as Friends‘ either.

But they do actually feel like real, normal people. You feel for Zachary Knighton’s character when he’s dumped at the altar – bravely making you actually hate Cuthbert in the first few minutes of the show. You get to like her again as she reveals why she did it – and it’s not something bizarrely over the top. Eliza Coupe (the slightly masculine doctor in the final two seasons of Scrubs)’s character is likeable, playing against standard sitcom type for a married woman, by not being desperate to have kids, not being perfect while having an incompetent, baby man of a husband. Ditto Casey Wilson’s Penny, who while a little too desperate for a partner, gets to be different from many other sitcom women as well by being perfectly normal.

Then we have Damon Wayans Jr as, basically, a regular guy – but not a sitcom dick of a guy. Yes, a Wayans you won’t hate. Who’d have thought such a thing possible. And we have Adam Pally, who plays a gay character who isn’t camp, isn’t buff, doesn’t have great taste in clothes. He’s a regular gay guy. Wow.

So regular type people, facing regular type situations, with just a sprinkling of sitcom unreality and jokes on top.

The acting will make you cringe in a lot of cases, but if you can stomach that, this is definitely worth a try, since there’s a good chance it’ll make you laugh.




  • Thanks for that, Rob. I thought I was the only one who enjoyed the first two episodes. I think the comparisons by other critics to ‘Friends’ was unfair, because they really aren’t the same type of format even if they are comedies.
    And I think people know are remembering the “legend” of ‘Friends’ more than the actual show. It really was a cartoon…..

  • Marie

    I actually laughed several times watching the trailer. That NEVER happens. Hope it gets a UK screening – will let you let us know if you hear anything?

  • MediumRob

    @Toby: Yes, Friends started off great but by about seasons three the characters had just become a collection of character traits (Monica shouts and is OCD, Chandler makes jokes, etc). They stopped being real people, no one had any other friends. Then the whole Chandler/Monica romance just neutered Chandler. It was horrible. Still funny, but it just became a broad brush joke machine.
    @Marie: no one’s acquired it yet, ratings haven’t been great, so it’s possible it won’t last more than 13 episodes, so is unlikely to get acquired. But E4 and Living have made a thriving business out of picking up shows that no one else wants and that haven’t been doing very well in the US, so you never know. I’ll keep my eyes open anyway.

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