Eliza Coupe is trying to insert a salt-shaker into Damon Wayans Jr.’s shirt. Adam Pally is making an odd noise with a cell phone. (Is it sonar?) Casey Wilson is making an odd noise with her mouth. (Wounded cat?) And Zachary Knighton is reading a newspaper while Elisha Cuthbert spits waffle chunks into a bucket. Just think: Soon the cast of Happy Endings will start filming, and things will really get weird.
Here on the Paramount lot in L.A., the stars of ABC’s cult comedy are at a diner table for a chatty-chummy breakfast scene. An unlikely gang, this: Alex (Cuthbert), the breezy blonde who left thoughtful V-neckspert Dave (Knighton) at the altar; Alex’s type-AAA sister, Jane (Coupe), and her metrosexual husband, Brad (Wayans); pathologically single Penny (Wilson) and her slob of a former-beau-but-now-gay-BFF Max (Pally). When Penny pulls a sweater out of her bag and asks whose it is, Jane claims it’s hers. Max claims it’s his. He snatches it and hustles out of the diner with Jane chasing after him, and Penny and Dave chasing after them.
”Your skinny body doesn’t fill it out!” cries Max.
”Your non-skinny body fills it out too much!” retorts Jane before tripping him, hopping on top of him, and strangling him with the sweater. And…CUT.
Sooo, what just happened here?
”I was channeling the classic physical comedians, the greats of our time,” offers Pally. ”Michael Keaton. Buster Keaton. Diane Keaton…Alex P. Keaton. Any Keaton.”
Yes, somewhere between Family Ties, The General, Annie Hall, and, sure, Beetlejuice lies a magical place called Happy Endings, where the jokes fly in all directions and the friendships are tighter than a Kardashian tube top. Its frisky rhythms, down-the-wormhole humor, and non-stereotypical characters (Max’s queer eye is focused more on videogames and couch food, while the interracial couple Jane and Brad are the rare TV spouses who are still googly-eyed over each other) have made these late-twentysomething Chicagoans feel like — dare we utter the F-word? — TV’s newest Friends. After an under-the-radar launch in April, Happy has emerged as the comedy underdog story of the fall. ABC senior VP of comedy development Samie Kim Falvey calls it ”the Cinderella story.” Cuthbert admits, ”We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to be here.” Wilson, meanwhile, calls it ”the show that could.”