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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Endings may not have one of its own

     ABC's Happy Endings is reminiscent of many short-lives series that have come before it. It revolves around a group of friends who are involved in each other's lives. They hang out in various combinations and get into funny situations. It's a little Friends with a bit of How I Met Your Mother and a dash of Perfect Couples. Thus, it is not completely original. It's late premiere date also gives it a much smaller chance of sticking around than most shows. That does not mean it is not funny.

     The cast includes some comedy veterans, such as Eliza Coupe (Scrubs), Damon Wayans Jr. (My Wife and Kids), and Casey Wilson (Satuday Night Live), as well as some actors known more for drama, like Elisha Cuthbert (24) and Zachary Knighton (Flash Forward). The final star, Adam Pally, has few credits to his name, so he is an unknown equation. Each of the six main characters conducts themselves well. Coupe is always a delight, and Wilson is far less annoying than she often was on SNL. While not reaching Christine Woods in Perfect Couples awesomeness, Cutherbest and Knighton do just fine alongside their more humorous peers.


     The plot itself is a simple set up. Alex (Cuthbert) leaves Dave (Knighton) at the altar. The other friends, all members of the wedding party, try to comfort and hang out with both. For much of the pilot, it appears that they may have to choose which side to land on in this massive breakup. Then Alex and Dave have a long talk, off screen, and everything seems to work out. By episode two, which aired immediately following the first, it's nearly forgotten. Rather than making this a show about how hard it is for a close knit group post breakup, it's just another comedy about a bunch of buddies. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, but by abandoning the characteristic that made the series different, Happy Endings may have shot itself in the foot.

     The jokes are funny. The pilot is bogged down a bit with Dave's depression, but the four friends of Alex and Dave get laughs right out of the gate. Jane (Coupe) is uptight, 'helping' Alex find the 'perfect' roommate. Alex doesn't listen to her, and ends up on a sexy girls web site. Brad (Wayans) fumbles to explain just how he discovered Alex on the website. Jane also delights when asking a waitress to bring her a vodka, but call it water, and keep 'em coming. Penny (Wilson) isn't satisfied with Max's (Pally) level of flamboyance, so she seeks out a gayer best friend, only to find out that she is, in fact, her own gay man best friend. They all try to break it to Dave gently that his sex life with Alex was bad.

     But then, the characters also fall into familiar feeling traps, like trying to help Dave escape from a woman he just starting dating and has fallen into the quicksand of a relationship. Brad tries to dub it 'chicksand', which apparently the writers hope will be a thing outside of the series, but it doesn't resonate as well as when HIMYM does it. The real shame here is that the series just doesn't set itself apart enough. While those elements may not have been the best part of the pilot, that's not really an excuse to abandon them. Otherwise, with the capable cast, it could be the next hit.

     Happy Endings airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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