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Happy Endings: The Complete First
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/20/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/25/2011
As the old saying goes, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." This rather astute observations means that if you copy something, even if it's not your intention, it means that you are showing respect and admiration for it. We often see this in fashion and sometimes in sports, but for the most part, it occurs in entertainment. How many times have you seen a movie, TV show, or musical act which blatantly "imitated" someone else. Even if the "new" product is enjoyable, sometimes it's hard to see past the "imitation". Such is the case with the television program Happy Endings.
Happy Endings opens with the wedding of Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Alex (Elisa Cuthbert). This happy event quickly turns sour when Alex flees the church with a guy on rollerblades. Understandably, Dave is very upset by this and he doesn't want to see Alex again. The problem is that they have a group of mutual friends who still want to see them. Jane (Eliza Coupe), a competitive Type-A and Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), a laid-back guy who does what Jane says, are married. Penny (Casey Wilson) is perpetually single and can't every seem to find Mr. Right. Max (Adam Pally) is gay, but does everything he can to not act like a stereotypical gay guy. As Dave and Alex try to put their lives back together, their friends rally around them. Alex continues to run her dress hop, while Dave looks into chasing his dream of opening a restaurant. Still, the two can't avoid seeing each other at friendly gatherings, and it's not certain that their feelings for each other are dead.
There's a classic episode of South Park where Butters want to create distracting situations in the town and hid sidekick keeps saying the same thing over and over, "The Simpsons did it." I can only imagine that someone was in the background of Happy Endings saying "Friends did it.", but that apparently didn't stop anyone involved with this show. I'm not talking about the fact that the show deals with a group of six friends, three female and three male. No, the similarities run much deeper than that. The character's personality traits mirror those of the characters on Friends, but they have been mixed around some so that it won't be obvious. Jane is a control freak, just like Monica. Also like Monica, Dave wants to run his own restaurant. Dave and Brad both act like Chandler at times. Penny comes across as a combination of Rachel and Phoebe. Some of Max's eating habits are reminiscent of Joey. Alex...well, Alex is a really undefined character, so we'll leave her out of this. Not only at the characters similar, but the storylines are as well. Max and Dave were roommates in college, just like Ross and Chandler, and they talk about those days. An episode where Dave can't let go of a bad girlfriend is a lot like something which Chandler went through with Rachel's boss. "Short kimono guy" is a lot like "Ugly naked guy". My wife suggested making a drinking game out of all of the similarities. It's as if the makers of Happy Endings assumed that Friends had been off of the air long enough to swoop in and make a show which shares a lot of the same ideas.
But, for the purposes of this review, let's assume that Happy Endings is meant to be an homage or, again, a form of flattery, instead of a straight-up ripoff. If one is able to take that approach, the show is fairly enjoyable. When it's not "borrowing" from Friends, the show doesn't break any new ground in the story department, but it is able to take the story ideas and put some funny situations and clever dialogue into them. The show works well as an ensemble, and every character is given their chance to shine, but it's Max and Brad who emerge as the funniest. Max separates himself from the group as a truly unique character, as he's a gay man who doesn't have any of the stereotypical traits of a gay man. While the show does have some issues with originality, it's as if the creators said, "Let's take all of the cliched men seen on Will & Grace and Sex and the City and give the audience something different." Max's apathy, combined with his penchant for violence create some humorous moments. Damon Wayans Jr. has clearly inherited some comedic chops from his father, and he is able to be both coo and vulnerable, and consistently funny. The only time the show really misses is with Jane. Shows takes a chance with caustic characters like this, as the audience can either love or hate them, and her constant meddling wears thin.
In many ways, Happy Endings is a tough nut to crack. It takes some chances and knows how to be funny, so it works as entertainment. However, the show also borrows liberally from Friends and long-time fans of that show will find some of the similarities jaw-droppingly similar at times. Having said that, the show is harmless enough and in today's TV landscape, it's nice to find a show to make me laugh. I'm putting Season Two on my "I'll DVR it and watch it when I get a chance list.", which is a semi-high honor.
Happy Endings: The Complete First Season gets some extra credit for having TJ Miller guest-star on an episode on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The two-disc set contains all thirteen episodes of the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a minute amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is pretty good for DVD, but the picture is somewhat flat. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly good, most notably in crowd scenes. A few nightclub scenes provide noticeable surround sound effects, mostly from the music. This same music gives us some mild bass effects.
The Happy Endings: The Complete First Season DVD contains a few extras which are spread across the two discs. Disc 1 contains seven DLETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes and come from various episodes. These are all small scenes and the only one which is really interesting is the one which would have apparently been the original opening to the show. "Banana Republic Style Preview: The Girls of Happy Endings" and "Banana Republic: The Guys of Happy Endings" (both 2 minutes) takes us inside the show's costume closet with Costume Designer Keri Smith, who explains the fashion of each character. We also get a 4-minute reel of OUTTAKES. Disc 2 brings us six more DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. There are a few good moments from the "The Shershow Redemption" episode. "Mike Relm Remix" (90 minutes) is a series of moments from the show set to music. "Mark Douglas Interview with Adam Pally and Casey Wilson" (5 minutes) isn't much of an interview, as Douglas, whoever he is, tries to hard to be funny instead of asking questions. This unfunny guy returns in "Mark Douglas Parody Theme Song" (1 minute).
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long