HAPPY ENDINGS (2011-2013)

(HBO MAX/Hulu/Netflix/VOD) Yes, I know the title is terrible, and it’s exactly why I didn’t watch this show until several years ago. Sure, it’s supposed to reflect how you can still be friends with your ex, despite her leaving you at the altar, but 1) that’s not what anyone thinks of when they hear that term and 2) that’s hardly what this show is about. It’s a hangout show that’s best described as a filthy Z-grade FRIENDS. (Okay, so maybe the title is slightly representative of the show.)

The worst part of the title is its poor use of phrasing, because this show -loved- twisting phrases. If you love the Marx Bros., you will love this show. Take, for instance, the rom-com-con cold open. (Yes, I’m skipping over the racist parrot bit because no one needs that.)

Or the following what-if joke regarding Mary Tyler Moore:

However, wordplay won’t get you very far if you lack a cast that can convincingly deliver quips, and HAPPY ENDINGS had one of the great ensembles; they wrangled a melange of brilliant comedic and improv actors (Adam Pally, Eliza Coupe, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson) and straight-laced performers (Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton), all of whom brilliantly handle their ‘so smart it’s dumb/so dumb it’s smart’ banter.

Not all of the humor has aged well, like uh, the racist parrot, the ‘Dave is 1/16th Navajo’ bit, and all of the fat jokes made at Max’s (Adam Pally) expense, but it holds up better than, oh say, 30 ROCK. Also, as a resident of Chicago, I’d be remiss to note that it severely misrepresents the city layout, almost to a hilarious degree, where many of the streets and addresses simply don’t exist. (One address cited would land them in the squarely in the middle of Lake Michigan.)

Those qualifiers aside, HAPPY ENDINGS is perhaps better than any other modern sitcom at what the show calls ‘pile-ons’. Taken out of context, none of the jokes are rarely amazing, but when unfurled over a scene they build on each other, and while the first or second gag maybe elicited a slight chuckle from you, by the time the scene has ended you’re doubled-over gasping for breath and have to rewind because you couldn’t hear the final quips over the sound of your own laughter.