After seeing a few episodes of the newest pals-hanging-out-com Happy Endings, I have to say it’s… not bad. The premise of Endings is that Alex (24’s Elisha Cuthbert) left Dave (FlashForward’s Zachary Knighton) at the altar in first of the premiere episodes that aired Wednesday night.
Now their mutual friends – desperate singleton Penny (Saturday Night Live’s Casey Wilson), married-couple Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Jane (Scrubs’ Eliza Coupe), and Max (Adam Pally) – all try to support Alex and Dave with equal affection. The initial concept seems to be that the group would find this awkward, but by the second episode, Alex and Dave are dating other people and the subject barely arises. The punch-lines came fast and furiously (credit directors such as Community’s Joe and Anthony Russo for the pace), and traded heavily on shorthand references: Dave isn’t just dating a lot, for example, he’s “dating John-Mayer-a-lot.” They spend a lot of time drinking and not just talking about sex. (See Cougar Town for the new model in alcohol-fueled crudity that somehow manages to come off merely tipsy-naughty.)
As a sitcom blueprint, Friends has proven highly influential. Since its success from 1994 to 2004, it replaced the workplace-comedy as the format that made large, younger audiences feel welcome. The Buddies-Hanging-Out genre – the pal-com? – can range from the delightfully gross (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) to the frightfully forgettable (anyone remember Fox’s 2006 Happy Hour, canceled after four episodes?). Current examples of the pal-com include the deadly Traffic Light; NBC’s most underrated (and alas, I presume, now-canceled) sitcom, Perfect Couples, and the aforementioned Cougar Town, the one to beat for all up-and-comers.
Endings tries too hard to push catchphrases into pop culture. A guy is “stuck in chicksand”; Jane prides herself on being a charmer with adults: “I’m parent heroin”; Penny works her highest compliment – “a-MAH-zing!” – until the strain shows.
Still, there was a zany energy to the premiere (and the second, better episode) that I found kind of ingratiating. And the show is trying to do something a little bit different in the way it presents Max as a gay man who’s so over being sitcom-exaggerated, reality-TV-style gay.
Or maybe you found the show grating? Did you buy Elisha Cuthbert as a comedy lead? Let me know, below.