Oh, hi there. Remember these guys? It’s the gang over at ‘Happy Endings’, returning after months of radio (and more importantly, television) silence. I don’t know who’s in charge of scheduling at ABC, but they should be fired. Keeping a show as smart and funny as ‘Happy Endings’ off the air while running endless, dreary episodes of crap like ‘The Middle’ should be considered a crime. Sadly, it looks more and more likely that the show itself will be fired, as ABC’s currently running a “Save Happy Endings” campaign, which places the onus of the show’s low ratings on the audience and not the network itself. How do you expect any series to do well if you fail to market it, and then change its air day every two weeks?
ABC seems to want to drop this thing like a hot potato, running two episodes per week to finish out the third season. Friday’s (yes, Friday; thanks, ABC) episodes, ‘In the Heat of the Noche’ and ‘The Straight Dope’, prove that if the show’s fated for a slow death, it will at least go out with its head held high.
In ‘Noche’, Brad discovers that the children’s gym where he works, Chuckles & Huggs (named after the company’s founders, Terry Chuckles [David Alan Grier] and the late Robert Huggs), is in financial turmoil. Using his business talents, and with the help of Jane, Dave and Alex, he’s able to turn the place into a success. The episode has a ton of great gags, from Dave being a hit with the kids for a song about doody (he later laments, “I know there’s more in me than just doody”), to Jane’s continual attempts to bond with children (trying everything from gambling to hunting with crossbows). Alex begins selling bracelets the kids have made in arts and crafts, and ends up running a child sweatshop.
The resolution of this storyline is disappointing, as Brad seems to do a 180 from the path that led him to Chuckles & Huggs in the first place. He ends up getting offered a normal job and decides to take it, because, in Brad’s best line of the entire series, “I do love business. I like taking care of it, I love getting down to it, I love minding my own. Love it as usual or mixing it with pleasure.” And yes, the show makes the resolution funny, but it seems to rob Brad of a journey that was one of the most interesting elements of the season.
Meanwhile, Penny and Max, attempting to not text their significant others so much, take a Mexican sleep aid called “NocheTussin,” whose only warning is, “Good luck”. As Penny explains: “My mom got it from Mexico because it’s discontinued in the States… and in Mexico, which is why the Mexicans smuggle it in from Nicaragua, where it’s also illegal. It’s made in Libya, in a neighborhood of Tripoli called Little Mexico.” The two wind up in a perpetual drug haze (with some hilarious references to ‘Requiem for a Dream’ thrown in for good measure) and try to give each other identical interventions.
While the second episode, ‘The Straight Dope’, isn’t quite as insane, it’s still grade A ‘Happy Endings’ material. In an attempt to avoid talking to an old hook-up, Max begins chatting with a girl at a bar (Abby Elliott), who thinks he’s hitting on her. He intends to let her down easy, until she reveals that she gets seats to sold-out sports events and concerts through her work. Max pretends to be straight (prompting Brad to ask, “Did you get off the P train and get on the V train at Grand Sexual Station?”) to get more tickets. At first, Brad and Penny are horrified, but then Brad realizes he can also get tickets, and claims that Penny is still in love with Max to discredit her. Penny eventually gets Max to confess by telling the girl to hit on him, and she ends up taking Penny out as a thank you.
Meanwhile, Jane and Dave make fun of Alex for watching too many terrible TV shows, including ‘Baby Justice’, about an infant who is also a small town sheriff. (The tagline is, “I’m getting too old for this poop.”). So, Alex decides to start reading more, and quickly becomes smarter than Dave or Jane. They don’t know what to do, and try to get her to watch more bad TV and movies, to no avail. Alex eventually reverts back to her old ways when confronted with actual intelligent people, who also happen to be complete snobs.
Both episodes run at a breakneck pace, and are loaded with jokes that would be showstoppers on any other comedy. In fact, ‘In the Heat of the Noche’ may be the best episode the show has ever done. If ABC does the unthinkable and cancels the series, let us hope that some smarter network will pick it back up, because this is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite sitcoms.