Happy Endings is the best comedy on TV.
Yes, I said it. I can only imagine the ire and vitriol boiling up inside devotees of the The Office, Parks and Recreation, How I Met Your Mother, and Big Bang Theory upon reading that . But before you all decide to get your mob on and chase me with flaming copies of TV Guide, take a breath and hear me out. Happy Endings is well worth your time.
What makes this an outlandish statement, aside from the show’s competition on other networks, is the fact that such a great comedy is on ABC. Three years ago, the best ABC could muster in the comedy department was Ugly Betty and the wretched 9th season of Scrubs where Zach Braff and of the Sacred Heart gang returned to teach Med School. But then something incredible happened. ABC took a massive, Home Run Derby-style swing with a show called Modern Family. The show was a massive success both in terms of ratings and awards haul. Modern Family readied the ground at ABC like a cover crop, making the soil fertile enough for Happy Endings to blossom.
If you’ve never watched the show, it centers on the lives of six friends who grew up together and now live in Chicago. The three female leads are sisters and , and the loveable . The male leads are roommates and , and Jane’s husband . This setup should seem familiar to most sitcom fans. It’s a dead ringer for Friends. A set of siblings (Monica and Ross), a married couple (Chandler and Monica), two quirky characters (Phoebe and Joey/Penny and Max), and a will-they/won’t they couple (Ross and Rachel/Dave and Alex) all living in a big city. Just like Friends, Happy Endings’ pilot kicked off with a girl leaving a guy at the altar, (Rachel leaving Barry/Alex leaving Dave.) And just like Friends, Happy Endings is much funnier when the plot doesn’t revolve around that couple. Since its first season, which focused on the fallout from Alex and Dave’s nixed nuptuals, Happy Endings has totally reinvented itself. The show has shifted the focus away from the two of them as a former couple and focused more on the six characters as a group. Each character is incredibly unique and not at all formulaic. Separate, they are each funny in their own right, but together, they make this show a hilarious symphony.
Happy Endings' brand of comedy is as quick as any show on TV. It’s very much like Community in that is has broad jokes with great setups, but also a steady steam of small quippy jokes to keep you laughing throughout the entire episode. It’s quirky, but not if you get my drift. The show walks a very fine line between broad and narrow. It’s broad enough that a brand-new viewer could watch an episode and understand enough about the characters to enjoy the story and laugh his or her ass off. On the other hand, the show is narrow enough that regular viewers don’t feel like their watching Nick at Nite fodder like Everybody Loves Raymond or nearly everything on NBC save The Office, Community, and Parks and Rec. To regular viewers the show is warm and inviting. It feels lived-in. It’s a show you want to show to your friends. There’s enough plot carried over from one episode to the next that you feel like you’re watching a story unfold from week to week. But it's not so dependent on over-arching plotlines that you can’t jump in on a random episode in the middle of a season. Each episode stands on its own and merits rewatching. Just like a fine wine or the best of Arrested Development, each installment of Happy Endings is just as good or better the second time around.
Which brings us back to my original statement: Happy Endings is the best comedy on TV. I’m not making this statement solely from conjecture or personal opinion. I’ve validated it with a very discerning test. The DVR test.
The idea behind the DVR test is simple. In today’s TV watching world, no one has the time or the inclination to watch commercials. Even if we’re free at the time a show comes on, most of us will record the show and wait 5-10 minutes before starting it, so we can fast-forward through commercials. Or we catch it on Hulu and suffer through three 30-60 second . If you’re like me, you save up your TV shows throughout the week and get caught up on the weekends. With episodes of each of our favorite shows, this practice of saving-and-binging puts us in an interesting quandary: what do we watch first? It’s not a matter of deciding which show is better than the others. It’s a matter of asking yourself, “Which show am I most excited for?” For the last three years, my answer to this question has been 30 Rock. It’s the most consistently funny and enjoyable comedy since Friends or Seinfeld. Now currently airing its sixth and final season, 30 Rock has earned a special place in my heart and my DVR.
My wife and I found Happy Endings about halfway through last season, so it too began recording recently which created a dilemma last week. When I opened up the DVR list to plow through the week’s episodes, I found an episode of Happy Endings and the Season Premiere of 30 Rock. To my surprise, I didn’t hesitate to watch Happy Endings first. Which episode was better? I can’t really say. They were both great. Which episode am I more excited for next week? It’s Happy Endings, and it’s not close. It is the new king of the TV comedy mountain. Set it to record on your own DVR, and I bet you’ll feel the same way.
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