Happy Endings is the story of six Chicago-based friends hanging out, having a good time, and engaging in a lot of behaviour that’s quite possibly criminal. But who exactly are they, and what does a racist parrot have to do with all this? Let’s find out.
Dave Rose Jr. (Zachary Knighton)
Happy Endings opens with Dave getting left at the altar. This is a problem, both because it destroys what he thought was going to be his future, and because after years of being in a relationship, his friends and his now ex-fiancée’s friends are hopelessly intertwined. The solution? Everyone still hangs out together, and after a few episodes the show just becomes about six funny people doing funny stuff.
This means that Dave starts out as a kind of audience identification figure – a “cool dude”, if you will – and then gradually becomes more (much more) of a figure of fun for his attempts to be a “cool dude”. He’s pretentious, he has bad taste in clothes, he’s an aspiring restaurateur who ends up owning a comedy food truck, and in one episode everyone starts having sex dreams featuring him, which leads to the line, “He’s Freddy Krugering us in our dreams with sex”.
Alex Kerkovich (Elisha Cuthbert)
Alex is the one who leaves Dave at the altar – for a guy on rollerblades, no less. Fortunately that guy is never seen again. Alex is the extremely inattentive owner of a boutique (named “Xela”, Alex backwards) that never seems to do any business, and the show doesn’t hesitate to point out and make fun of that fact.
Much like Dave, her character evolves over the course of the series, which is a nice way of saying she goes from using Wikipedia to look up Hitler jokes to impress a guy to thinking Wikipedia is something you can catch from swimming. As she puts it herself, “Thank you. I have my smart moments. I’m not as dumb as I am”. The upside of this is, it does make her a lot funnier.
She also has a racist parrot called Tyler.
Jane Kerkovich-Williams (Eliza Coupe)
Alex’s older sister, Jane is fierce, controlling and just a little bit scary. She and husband Brad start out as a fairly typical over-achieving sitcom couple – the ying to Alex and Dave’s yang – and then the show just takes it a whole lot further. One example: her pride in the fact her great-great-grandmother Senka was a master of “The Kerkovich Way,” which is basically gaslighting.
Further complicating the weirdly overtly sexual relationship she has with Brad (she once described a certain sexual activity as a “Handrew Jackson”) is the way the series gradually shifts their power dynamic, as Brad eventually loses his job while she gets drawn into the surprisingly high-powered world of car salesman and zoo owner The Car Czar (Rob Corddry).
Brad Williams (Damon Wayans Jr.)
Jane’s husband, one of Dave’s best friends and inventor of the term “chicksand” (“that’s not a word”), Brad is just as neurotic as his wife – as shown in episode 1 of season 2, where he basically wears a shirt that’s also a dress because “Daddy likes a deep tuck”. He’s the guy with the steady job, until he isn’t, and it turns out he is not good at job interviews (“I mistook the first guy’s baby for a dog”).
He also has a slightly shady past, including appearing on reality show The Real World: Sacramento, which never aired because a crazy contestant burnt the house down. You’ll have to wait until season 3 to meet his early ’90s ventriloquist’s dummy SinBrad – but it’s definitely worth the wait.
Max “Maximum” Blum (Adam Pally)
Max is a slob. He’s a scammer. He’s a selfish, boorish bro who’s a little chunky and definitely lazy. He’s also gay, which makes him the antidote to pretty much every gay stereotype on commercial TV. The show itself calls this out early on with an episode where his ex-beard Penny tells him he’s a “terrible gay husband” for his general disinterest in shopping and being fabulous (he’d rather watch sports). Eventually – after spending time with the amazingly flamboyant Derek – Penny realises that she’s actually Max’s gay husband.
Still, most of the time Max is looking to get laid and get paid from his various scams. He and Brad had a hip-hop Bar Mitzvah group called Boys II Menorah; he and Brad were going to start an all-black circus called Ringling Brothers for Brothers (“the greatest show on earf”); one time his arch-rival returned to ruin his life, only to realise his life was too sucky to ruin; he once planned to spend winter hibernating like a bear and may have literally turned into a bear. You get the idea.
Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson)
Penny likes the boys. Penny likes the boys so much she’d drug a friend to have sex with a sexy masseur. She likes the boys so much she’s out there trying to date while wearing a flesh-coloured medical helmet that… does not look attractive. She’s surprisingly into music – or at least, making references to the Dave Matthews Band – and she saved the drummer from Chicago (the band, not the city, though the show is set in Chicago) from choking, so now they owe her one.
She also has a catchphrase (“Ah-mah-zing”) that she’s constantly trying to make happen. It doesn’t. And that’s barely scratching the surface of her bad decisions. As Jane says to her at one point, “I’m gonna say this because I am one of your best friends, and I don’t wanna overstep, but every choice you make in your life about everything is monumentally wrong.”
Season 1 episodes of Happy Endings air on SBS VICELAND from Saturday 2 May at 5:05pm. A box set of all three seasons will be available to stream at SBS On Demand the same day.
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