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Happy Endings – What’s in a name?

Two new episodes of 'Happy Endings' aired last night, one of which dealt with whether a name means anything -- whether it's one we're given, or one we've adopted for ourselves.

- Season 1, Episode 3; 4 - "Your Couples Friends And Neighbors; Mein Coming Out"

One of the many issues that single people go through when dating is figuring out what’s “wrong” with this new person you kinda like. It can be a minor quirk — such as he brushes his teeth in the shower or always has to put his left sock on first — or it can be worse — such as that he never introduces his girlfriends to his family or that he won’t let you claim a drawer in his bedroom. Whatever it is, it’s probably better to get it out into the open sooner rather than later. (And that goes for problems with us girls, too! One of my issues is that I always get extremely angry when I’m hungry, so I pretty much need to have a half-meal before going out to dinner.)

ABC‘s new couples comedy, Happy Endings, dealt with the “what’s wrong with him” situation in a different way in one of two new episodes last night, when pairing Penny (SNL‘s Casey Wilson) with a guy named Doug Hitler. Um, awkward?

Like an episode in Season 2 of Sex and the City (“The Freak Show”) where Carrie desperately searches for what’s wrong with her new boyfriend Ben — and finds nothing — Penny frantically doodles Hitlerisms in her notebook and vents to girlfriends Jane (Eliza Coupe) and Alex (24′s Elisha Cuthbert) until she comes to terms with her date’s last name. But, just as SATC‘s¬†Carrie turns into the one with issues (Ben walks in on her trying to break open a case from his closet while a cigarette dangles crazily from her mouth), Penny ironically becomes, at least in Doug’s eyes, someone not worth dating.

Generally speaking, I am enjoying Happy Endings, enough for me to have watched the first two episodes online yesterday and then the back-to-back ones last night. However, the premise — that an engaged couple (Dave and Alex, who break up after Alex leaves him at the altar) can still leave their friend group intact without an oppressive amount of weirdness — feels like a stretch. Maybe it worked that way in college, when you dated someone in your dorm and somehow all the dorm friends got along after you broke up, but this is adult life, and we’re talking about an engagement after a relationship that lasted many years. So, we’ll see if any residual issues spring to the surface between Alex and Dave. I’m predicting they sleep together at the end of the season, wonder whether they should tell anyone, and then very “maturely” realize by the start of season two (if there is one) that they’re still not right together.

I am trying to figure out what I like so much about this show. The dialogue kind of reminds me of a cross between Scrubs and Gilmore Girls — wacky, fast-paced, mock-insulting while still maintaining the love. What’s funny is that I had not seen the seasons of Scrubs in which Jane starred, but the acting reminded me so much of it that I mentioned it to my husband, who confirmed that she was in fact on the show in its later seasons. I must have caught an episode here and there and stored her face in my TV memory somehow.

Of the two episodes that aired last night (“Your Couples Friends and Neighbors” and “Mein Coming Out”), I enjoyed the second one more, but they both had their funny moments. For those of you not sure whether you want to catch these online, I’ll give my quick take on both without giving too much away. …

“Your Couples Friends and Neighbors”¬†includes a funny twist on what happens when a couple, with an already established group of friends, tries to step outside their comfort zone and meet other couples they think they can connect with. I did enjoy Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.)’s reluctance to “hang with” Carl, a guy from work, who happens to be married to a woman his wife Jane likes. In fact, I really love Brad’s character in general. He doesn’t have to be that “macho” male (unlike the guys in Traffic Light) in order to have a sense of independence in his relationship. Jane’s character is a little over-the-top, but it’s almost like she knows it, so it’s not so annoying.

“Mein Coming Out,” which features the aforementioned Douglas Hitler, also includes a series of very funny scenes between Max (Adam Palley) and his parents as he tries to avoid the inevitability of telling them he’s gay. (Speaking of “What’s in a name?”, Max and I share the same last name: Blum! I don’t think I have ever seen that name portrayed by any character before, and that’s exciting.)

One of the things that Max’s character strives to avoid, which he’s mentioned a number of times in different episodes, is being that “stereotypical gay guy.” It’s not that he’s at all ashamed of his orientation; it’s just that it’s not his personality. Also, he thinks that Penny is enough of a stereotypical gay guy for the both of them.

I haven’t really gotten a great read on Dave (Zachary Knighton) yet, but I do like him … even if it’s just because he’s cute. Is that wrong? Ok, he kind of reminds me of a poor man’s Jason Bateman. Is that better?

I will continue to watch Happy Endings because, despite some implausible plot lines (such as a homeless painter squatting in Dave and Max’s ceiling crawl space), it’s still a funny show, and well-acted. What do you think about it?

“Your Couples Friends And Neighbors” quotes:

“No ‘biscuit,’ no ‘boo,’ no ‘sweetie,’ no ‘black Han Solo’ — none of your pet names are gonna get you out of this.” — Brad, confronting Jane about seeing a couples’ therapist behind his back

“It’s my third biggest phobia behind public speaking and drag queens with no makeup!” — Max, talking about his fear of spiders

“You do not take someone’s Apple Smacks without getting a serious beatdown, son.” — Max, to the squatting artist
“Dude, you can’t act hard when you’re talking about fruit cereal.” — Brad

“Mein Coming Out” quotes:

“I’m sick of being your beard. I mean, for someone who behaves nothing like a gay guy, you have even less of an idea how to act like a straight guy.” — Penny, in response to playing Max’s girlfriend of three years in front of his parents

“Operation Beard was a huge success. I owe you big time. If you ever want to get into a country club and you’re looking for a fake white husband, I’m your guy.” — Max, to Jane after she pretends to be his girlfriend at dinner

“Hey guys. Guess what? I finally decide I’m into Hitler, and it turns out I’m too much of a Nazi for him! … Oh, hey, Mr. and Mrs. Blum!” — Penny, to her friends in front of Max’s Jewish parents
“Two sluts and a Nazi? What are you into, Max?” — Mr. Blum
“Uh, dudes.” — Max

Photo Credit: ABC

One Response to “Happy Endings – What’s in a name?”

April 22, 2011 at 3:49 PM

I’ve seen this show compared to Friends but I feel like it is much more like Coupling (UK version, not the travesty that was the US attempt). Happy Endings makes me laugh out loud and I agree that Dave is a very cute guy (even cuter, in my opinion, than the adorable Jason Bateman who I’ve had a crush on forever).

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