The early 2010s were a golden age for American sitcoms. They were smart, they were funny, they weren’t afraid to go a little weird. New Girl’s the most obvious example from the class of ’10, but what’s the story with classmate Happy Endings? Here are seven reasons why if you love one, you’re going to love the other.
They’re both about a group of friends
Happy Endings is about six Chicago-based friends, some in relationships, some not, and two – Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton) – trying to figure out exactly what they are after Alex left Dave at the altar. But that’s not what really matters.
Remember how in New Girl there was that whole “hey, Jess is the new girl” set-up that lasted maybe a couple of episodes before the show promptly forgot about it and just became about a bunch of likeable characters doing funny things? Same deal here.
While Alex and Dave’s off-on-whatever relationship remains a thing throughout the series, it stops being a serious concern after a handful of episodes as everyone just starts hanging out in whatever combinations are the funniest. Which is pretty much all of them.
The box set of New Girl (seasons 1–7) is streaming at SBS On Demand now:
They both have great casts – and great chemistry
Alex has a sister, Jane (Eliza Coupe), who has a husband, Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.). Alex and Jane are friends with Penny (Casey Wilson) while her college boyfriend turned gay best friend Max (Adam Pally) is also Dave and Brad’s best friend (Dave moves in with Max after getting dumped).
Much of what makes Happy Endings so memorable is the chemistry between the entire cast. This is a show where everybody works well with everybody; there isn’t a pairing that doesn’t get big laughs, and while some were more obvious than others (see Jane and Brad’s openly and somewhat weirdly sexual relationship together), this is a group where anyone can team up with anyone else and make it work.
Isn’t the same guy in both shows?
Back in 2011, Damon Wayans Jr. appeared in two sitcom pilots: Happy Endings and New Girl, where he played Coach. This wasn’t particularly unusual; actors can often appear in more than one pilot a season. What was unusual was that both pilots were picked up by their various networks, which meant Wayans Jr. had to make a choice. Happy Endings won.
Fast forward three years and when Happy Endings wrapped up Wayans Jr. was back on the market. New Girl was still going strong and Coach hadn’t been killed off or anything, so they offered him his old job back. He returned for season four, and then made regular guest appearances right up until the series finale.
Everyone’s kind of… weird
New Girl looks like a show about a bunch of attractive people leading cool lives… and then you actually watch an episode and realise these people are kind of nuts (in a good way). So if you’re thinking Happy Endings is just an updated version of Friends, you’re in for a bit of a surprise. Especially as the show itself makes fun of the superficial similarities in the season two episode The St Valentine’s Day Maxssacre.
Sometimes the weirdness can be something small, like Dave’s love of V-neck T-shirts. Penny can only speak (fluent) Italian when she’s drunk. Alex takes comedy dumb to new heights (Wikipedia is not an infection you get from swimming). Everyone sucks at business: their bad ideas include Dave’s food truck “Steak Me Home Tonight”, Max and Brad’s short-lived bar mitzvah MC business, Boyz II Menorah, or Brad’s equally short-lived limo company (the limo explodes).
They both created their own worlds
The best sitcoms create their own reality. Over seven seasons New Girl became known for a string of running gags, recurring characters and character quirks that turned a show set in a loft into an entire comedy world. Happy Endings had half the episodes, but went at it twice as hard.
The gang has their own in-jokes, like the wall of abuse known as a “pile-on” or the mockery that Penny’s season one catchphrase “amaahhzing” gets in season two. The supporting cast is consistently great too, from Rob Corddry as a car salesman (and briefly Jane’s boss) known as the Car Czar (he knows what cars are) to Megan Mullally as Dana Hartz, Penny’s lounge singer mum (they were in a double act called Two Hartz Beat as One).
They’re both funny
You’d think this would go without saying, but Happy Endings is one seriously funny show. The plots alone are great – sure, why not have an episode where two of the characters start chugging cough mixture as a way to straighten out their lives – but when you combine it with a lot of jokes (we’re talking Brooklyn Nine-Nine levels of joke after joke after joke) and a cast of very funny people, and you’ve got about as sure-fire guaranteed laughs as you’re going to get.
They might often take on regular sitcom plots (they even tackle one of New Girl’s standards, the prank war), but they always put a unique spin on things; Brad’s heart-warming bonding with his straight-laced dad (Damon Wayans) wouldn’t be the same without a fireworks frenzy.
At their heart, they’re both hangout sitcoms
Sitcoms live or die by their characters. If you don’t want to spend time with them, that’s it, show’s over. But that doesn’t mean all sitcoms are equally focused on characters. Some are based around a set-up like a workplace; others have long-running plot lines that keep things moving forward. And some are just about a bunch of people you’d like to hang out with.
In a way they’re the most challenging. If the characters don’t click, there’s nothing to fall back on. But when they do work, they’re often the most fun to watch. Who doesn’t want to spend time hanging out with a bunch of likeable, funny people having a good time? And if you liked spending time with New Girl, guess what? You’re going to like spending time with Happy Endings too.
Season 1 episodes of Happy Endings air on SBS VICELAND from Saturday 2 May at 5:05pm. A box set of all seasons (1-3) is available to stream at SBS On Demand now.
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And we're back! After adjusting to working from home, Fiona and Ben decide to swap the pyjamas for work wear (from the waist-up at least), fire up the video call and run through an extended iso edition of What We've Been Watching. They also talk impacts on cinemas and the industry, discuss virus movies & TV and do a round up of Fiona's latest interviews.