I think I’m supposed to shit on the new show, “Happy Endings,” because it’s yet another “Friends” clone, another in a long line of relationship comedies that have debuted just this season on the networks, including “Mad Love,” “Traffic Light,” “Better with You,” and “Perfect Couples.” I’d read a few reviews myself before tuning in, and the general consensus seemed to be that a few great lines couldn’t save “Happy Endings” from the similarities it has to those other shows.
But I liked the pilot. I thought those few clever lines were enough to separate them, at least from “Mad Love,” “Better with You,” and “Perfect Couples,” which don’t have the benefit of clever lines (“Traffic Light,” on the other hand, reaches levels of moderately amusing every single week). I liked the cast, especially the caustic Eliza Coup (“Scrubs 2.0”) and the gay guy, Max (Adam Pally, whose iMDB photo is with Shaquille O’Neal, which endears me to him even more). I thought that the banter was fun — it reminded me a lot of our own comments section here: Witty, quick, alcohol-fueled, rife with pop-culture allusions, cynical, sometimes bitter, and usually with a heady blend of sex and crazy. I laughed ten or 12 times, a couple of times loudly (what can I say? I like a good dig at John Mayer). I may have liked it more than the show deserved, but because I made an association with a few of those lines to our comments section here early on, I developed a quick affection for it. (Quick aside: This article made me appreciate what we have here at Pajiba all the more. You never know how great a comments section is until you visit another site’s).
Plus, I like Casey Wilson. She was criminally underused on “Saturday Night Live.”
It is a “Friends” clone, though. I won’t deny that. But I liked “Friends” until the last couple of seasons. And in general, I like good relationship comedies, though good ones are a rarity.
“Happy Endings” opens at the wedding of Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Alex (Elisha Cuthbert). A dude barrels into the church on roller blades and announces his objection, all Graduate style, and Alex ditches her fiance at the altar, only to return from the honeymoon a week later to confess that she didn’t run away with rollerblade guy. She ran away because Dave was kind of a douche to her. The bitterness between the two thus makes it awkward for the six close friends to hang out with each other, and that’s kind of what’s at play with the premise.
There’s nothing original in the set up or the dynamics between the couples. There’s a bitter singleton (Casey Wilson), an adorable and hilariously mean gay guy, a married couple rebelling against a suburban identity crisis (Coup and Damon Wayans, Jr., who is very funny in the pilot) and Dave and Alex, who hate each other. But the pilot has great energy, some spectacular lines, and a great comic pace that lands somewhere between “Cougar Town” and “Community.” (I think there are some writers or directors behind the scenes of “Happy Endings” associated with those other two sitcoms, too). I have no idea if the show can keep it up in subsequent episodes, but if it lasts long enough, I think “Happy Endings” has the comedic ability to separate itself from “Friends” and the rest of the relationship-comedy glut.