Showtime’s new show Happyish (the pilot is free online) starring Steve Coogan and the always phenomenal Kathryn Hahn debuted last night, and it presents a difficult conundrum for me. I am of a similar opinion as many other critics when it comes to wanting to see more diverse representation on television, but as a married white dude of a certain age with kids, it’d be disingenuous for me to suggest that I dislike seeing myself reflected on TV. Because I don’t mind it. Because shows like Togetherness and Happyish speak to me on certain levels, and how can I realistically complain about that?
I will say this, however: While shows like Broad City or Inside Amy Schumer or Orange is the New Black offer diverse representation, they also speak to everyone. I love those shows. On the other hand, if you’re not a married white dude with kids, Happyish will mean nothing to you. It’s themes are not universal. They are tailored to a very specific demographic: Affluent white males who have everything and yet still remain unhappy.
They’re the worst.
Steve Coogan (replacing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) plays Thom Payne, basically a 21st century Don Draper: He works in advertising. He has a beautiful family. His wife, Lee (Hahn) is a goddamn rock star who is supportive, who is beautiful, who is an amazing mother, a who actually wants to have sex with her husband. Thom Payne is living the dream.
But of course, he’s miserable. He’s riddled with anxiety. He can’t get it up. He’s terrified that he’ll lose his job, even though losing his job might be the best thing for him. He hates/is terrified of millennials. His suburban malaise is insufferable, and yet identifiable. Because there’s something in many of us who can’t help but to catalogue all that’s wrong in our lives even when so much is right. Because we’re spoiled assholes, that’s why. Because we don’t realize how fucking happy we really are.
What separates Happyish from Togetherness (at least after one episode), however, is that the sum of Happyish’s parts is much better than its whole. There are a few hilariously relatables scene in the pilot (for married white assholes) — in particular, a scene about whether it’s better to raise an “asshole” or a “pussy” for a son — but there are some other things, like a dream sequence in which Thom fucks an elderly Keebler elf — that don’t work. That take us completely out of the show. Moreover, even for someone who can sometimes relate, it’s exhausting. I don’t want to hear about this guy’s complaints. I want to tell him to shut the fuck up, just like I want to tell myself to shut the fuck up every time I complain that there’s too much shit in my house. I want to tell him to get over himself. But I also wish my kid were sometimes a bit of an asshole, too. Because it’d be a lot easier for him in life.