Have you seen the hangout comedy whose pilot episode follows a runaway bride navigating her way back into a friend group?
No, I’m not talking about “Friends.” “Happy Endings” may have stolen the trope from the beloved sitcom, but it proceeded by firing on all cylinders. Many suggest “How I Met Your Mother” and “New Girl” as generational successors to “Friends” — “Happy Endings” deserves to enter that conversation.
The ever-sharp comedy premiered in April 2011 and ran for three seasons. Ten years later, the off-the-wall humor and insane cast chemistry have held up like a charm.
“Happy Endings” had it all except solid scheduling and a proper title. Someone in ABC’s marketing department must have been a CBS sleeper spy because their titling is comically atrocious.
“Cougar Town” is a show about a group of friends in a cul-de-sac who like wine. “Trophy Wife” follows a familial dynamic of step parenting and blended families. Like, come on. I’ll let “Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23” slide even though the name probably killed it. That’s an iconic title, plain and simple, but evidently, not everyone has taste.
“Happy Endings” follows a group of six friends engaging in classic sit-com shenanigans in Chicago. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) is the runaway bride in question, having left Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar. Both remain in the friend group, pillared by Alex’s older sister Jane (Eliza Coupe) and her husband Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.).
The show’s rapid-fire humor makes for endless rewatch value. “Happy Endings” is a more niche and silly hangout than its predecessors, and it’s all the better for it.
The pilot episode follows the delusional yet ever-charming Penny (Casey Wilson) celebrating her 30th birthday with the group and her new boyfriend — who she told she was 26 — setting her up as the chaotic scene-stealer of the show.
And the group includes sloppy Max (Adam Pally), a gay man whose entire personality doesn’t revolve around his sexuality. This was ABC in 2011. That’s kind of a big deal.
In a season one episode, they address this exact topic. Penny is fed up with Max not being a stereotypical “gay best friend,” so she outsources and finds Derrick (Stephen Guarino), who lives for fashion, shade and brunch. It’s a total mess, written in the silliest, most-self aware way possible.
And Derrick isn’t a one-off character — he pops up now again as the effervescent straw that stirs the drink. He got an entire season finale dedicated to his wedding. “Happy Endings” was committed to the bit.
“Happy Endings” is a cross-section between the familiarity of “Friends” and the humor of “30 Rock,” with a touch of “Real Housewives”-esque campiness. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without watching the blunders of Penny Hartz, and I have to thank Wilson endlessly for her tour-de-force performance.
A season one episode has Penny realize she can speak fluent Italian when drunk, a ploy she attempts to keep up with to date an Italian man. The season two premiere sees Penny declare “The Year of Penny” — only to spiral when she feels her new apartment has cursed her into life as a “spinster.”
Do I actually want to be this messy? Debatable. But watching Penny live out life’s chaos with her flair for humor and a sprinkle of delusion is always entertaining. And “Happy Endings” gets props for never taking the easy sitcom route of casting her as undesirable.
The group is comprised of dynamic, effervescent players. Well, Dave is pretty bland. But he’s the straight man of the group — both figuratively and literally — and that’s okay.
Every episode is belly laugh-inducing. It’s a genuine crime “Happy Endings” only has three seasons. And I have hardly mentioned Jane, but she’s the older sister I never had, the mother everyone would want and the friend we all need. Between her blonde bob, her ambition and her intense competitiveness, she’s an inspiration. She invented vision boards, too (just trust me, don’t google it).
I want more plots like Penny trying to hide from her new crush the fact she’s wearing a prescription helmet after suffering a concussion from a kickball match. That sentence was chaotic, but needed to capture her nature.
I want more ridiculous competitions, such as when Jane and Max fight over who’s “less vain” for ownership of a sweater. The two are vastly different sizes, so who knows what magic this alleged sweater holds, but who cares?
“Happy Endings” is the hangout comedy we all need. Anyone who watches it will come out a funnier, more well-rounded person. That’s a guarantee. Legally, it’s not, so please don’t press charges. I’ll pull the Tucker Carlson defense and say any reasonable person would know what I say is ridiculous.
All episodes of “Happy Endings” are streaming on Hulu. Just a heads up that season one was aired out of production order, so you might want to check the Wikipedia page to watch the story in its intended order.