Six attractive, quick-witted 20-somethings navigate the intricate worlds of dating, work, family and culture in a heavily populated urban environment. Quick, what show did I just describe? If you said Friends, then you clearly don’t understand how headlines work. You’re also technically correct. However, it’s not the show I’m talking about. I’m talking about Happy Endings.
And in reading that opening paragraph, I realize that it sounds like I’m saying Happy Endings is nothing but a Friends-ripoff. That is not what I’m saying. Well, okay, it kind of is, but in a totally good way. Because Happy Endings has been able to nail down the quality that made Friends so great: it is literally about nothing more than these six people going about their everyday lives. Sure, they’re quirkier than the average person, and way more culture-savvy than most of the people you know combined, but the acting is so believable and the writing is so fresh, that it has quickly become among the best half hours on tv, even if it’s not really building to anything.
And say what you want about Friends, yes, it probably should have stopped a season or three earlier than it did, and yes, by the end of it every character had become a caricature of their former selves, and yes, it’s the reason you still cringe when a “will they-won’t they” plot crops up on a show, but in its early seasons, it is hard to deny that Friends was the source of some of the most clever and legitimately funny television on the air, and lent legitimacy to the moniker of “Must See Thursday.”
And that all happened because the show kept it fast and loose. Noone was spending whole seasons chasing a girl or planning weddings. Heck, Friends (and come to think of it, Happy Endings) began with a bride ditching out on a wedding. So instead they found tension in real-life matters, trouble at work, blind dates, power outages, the sudden presence of poultry, etc. And that’s exactly the kind of thing Happy Endings is doing so well (minus the poultry thing).
Look, this is not to say that Happy Endings is my favorite show, or even my favorite comedy (although it is up there). But whereas shows like Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia are more interested in deconstruction and Parks and Recreation is too invested in its universe, Happy Endings has achieved what few shows are willing or able to accomplish: it has created a universe that is just a pleasure to drop in on and observe, for no other reason than it is just a funny place to be.
Even How I Met Your Mother, the likeliest precursor to the Friends throne, is still too dedicated to the ever-present premise set up by its title. While it’s had its chill out episodes (heck, even seasons), it’s always going to be building up to the meeting of Ted and the mother. And that’s great! That’s part of what makes that show so special, and Happy Endings‘ relaxed vibe is part of what makes it so special. I’m not saying the characters aren’t allowed to grow, on the contrary, I hope they do, as it makes for more interesting television, but as long as the interpersonal relationships stay at the forefront of the show, I’ll be happy to keep tuning in.
So I don’t mind that Max has stumbled into a pseudo career, or that Penny and Alex are roommates now, or that Dave bought a food truck. That’s because those developments just happened and they also happened to make sense so they stuck. And it happened organically and didn’t disrupt the fabric of the show. The single camera format helps. Whereas with Friends, every time somebody moved, that would be the focus of an episode or two as it was going to physically change the way the show had looked for several years, Happy Endings is perfectly content to have Penny just be moved into a new place. Because it doesn’t matter.
Because while, for my money, Happy Endings is indeed the new Friends, that is not to say that they are the same show. They have similarities and they share a lot of vibes, but there are several fundamental differences. The camera formats for one, diversity for another (A gay guy! A black guy!). That last one is big, as it provides just a slightly different worldview than its predecessor was capable of. And that has led to a solidly funny show. One that deserves a bigger audience than the one it has. I’m looking at you, America.
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on October 18, 2011