The story of the ill-fated ABC comedy Happy Endings is slightly strange yet not entirely uncommon. Created by David Caspe (That's My Boy), it was helped by the addition of Anthony and Joe Russo, who had helped produce a similarly appreciated cult show in Community. The show's first season started off well and increased in viewership in Season Two. After a slightly unsatisfactory start to its third season, it was bounced around in several different timeslots before receiving the death knell of having its remaining episodes appearing on Friday nights before its cancellation, thus becoming one in another line of shows that actually was entertaining to watch yet not enough people could support for one reason or another.
Like Friends, the show focuses on a group of six people who are close to one another and unlike Friends, is set in Chicago. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert, 24) left Dave (Zachary Knighton, The Hitcher) at the altar a couple of years ago, yet the two remain friends. Alex's sister Jane (Eliza Coupe, What's Your Number?) is a bit of a control freak, but is happily married to Brad (Damon Wayans Jr., The Other Guys). Penny (Casey Wilson, Killers) is close to the girls and try as she might she cannot get a relationship off the ground. She even dated Max (Adam Pally, Iron Man 3) for a time, with the latter using her as a bit of a beard to hide his homosexuality. The show follows their interactions with one another and the fine folks in the Windy City.
The first thing I thought of when it came to Happy Endings was not necessarily that it was doing anything groundbreaking or memorable that caused people to help a lot of praise on it, or have say, its creator to go out on a multicity tour to ramble to people about life, love and the big picture while having a subtle marinating layer of vodka underneath it all. In fact, the show is somewhat formulaic, following the general Tao of Friends with occasional flashbacks like Scrubs, a show that Coupe appeared in for a handful of episodes. Toss in a guest star or two occasionally and Happy Endings does not do anything that substantially separates it from a normal television comedy.
While the stories and character arcs are generally lackluster, what is a surprise, and pleasant to boot, is how the ensemble executes most of what they do. I was expecting good things from Coupe and Wilson (no slouches to comedic material) and got them, and I had not been exposed to Pally's work before and really enjoyed the Max character. There is a slight twist to Max as he plays against things that would help shape a stereotypical gay character on television. Max is a beer-drinker, not afraid to get dirty both metaphorically and literally, not ashamed of getting a tattoo every so often. In a way, it is furthering to reduce the stigmatization of gays on television, and for me at least, a pretty clever and funny one.
Two surprises of varying degrees to me were the performances of Wayans and Cuthbert. On the former I was not sure what to expect from him (and on a side note, seeing a ‘Damon Wayans Jr.' is another book to put in the increasing ‘You Are Old' library), and he brings a mix of physical comedy, hammy overreaction but with a touch of depth that, combined with an appeal to his presence that makes me look forward to what he may do with a more polished cast, such as the one he will be working on shortly with New Girl. Of the most surprise for me was Cuthbert in that she does a few of the same things that Wayans does, and that I simply presumed she could not handle such requirements for a comedy. She is the closest thing to a star that Happy Endings has, and she's a pleasant change of pace compared to previous roles she has been in.
If the work of the characters in Happy Endings is what made the show so appealing for devotees, perhaps I understand it a little better now having spun my way through the third season. Sadly, ABC rid many of the chance to see how Alex and Dave would shake out, or if Jane and Brad would have a kid, or if Max and Penny would ever find love. The show pans out from a wedding where everyone is dancing on the ballroom floor, with smiles on their faces, perhaps the only way the show could have gone out with the demise imminent.
The third season of Happy Endings received a 23-episode order, which are spread out over three discs and all are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I would presume these are relatively faithful to the original broadcast material and the various colors of clothing contrasted against occasionally dour Chicago exteriors look good without oversaturation. While there is an occasional moment or two of crush, the image is devoid of edge enhancement or processing to distract the eye. Looks quite good.
Two-channel Dolby for all of the episodes. This was not a huge surprise to me, but I honestly would have liked for the show to display more of a presumed sonic robustness on video. But dialogue sounds fine and the show lacks any periods that could be considered dynamic. What you expect to get here you get without complaint.
Nothing. I can't say I am surprised as the cast and crew have likely all gone their separate ways.
One would hope that with most of the actors in Happy Endings finding work post-cancellation that this will give people not exposed to their individual work before a chance to see them on a broader scale and thus revisit the show. That is the hope, because with an above average transfer and soundtrack and no bonus material, there is little else for the third season's DVD to be released other than for cloture's sake. But still, it is nice to have them, and hopefully more eyes and ears will see them now that the wrap has occurred.