At this point, Happy Endings is just on a roll, folks. It’s gotten into that groove where it doesn’t even really need much of a story driving it to be funny. “Lying Around” was pretty vignette-y, with no real A-story or B-story, just three funny plots that did funny stuff, plus two fine guest appearances from legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger (a little esoteric, but he’s based out of Chicago, I think) and the wonderful Fred Savage, now mostly a star TV comedy director but still happy to lampoon himself once in a while in front of camera.
None of the plot points were particularly original. Brad and Jane both end up taking staycations from each other because of sitcom circumstances and find that they enjoy it. Max directs a local TV commercial for Dave’s steak truck and, obviously, he kinda screws it up (but also shows flashes of genius in doing so). Penny is jealous of whoever Alex is dating because the grass is always greener. None of this is mind-blowing stuff at all. But when you cram in this many jokes and you have that solid character foundation to spin gags out of, you’re on pretty safe ground.
Brad and Jane were probably the stars of this episode, so let’s start with them. I was a little worried at how everything was set up: Brad’s parkour obsession felt out-of-date (although boy, did Damon Wayans, Jr., sell it) and Jane’s sorority sister felt like a stock annoying character that this show’s recurring cast usually isn’t (outside of Penny’s romantic interests). But quickly that all got tossed to the wayside. It’s not like anything particularly interesting replaced it, just Jane being aggressively, amusingly lame and two solid Musburger scenes, but it worked.
Their best scenes were when they got back together and made fine work of one of the oldest sitcom tropes in the land: where each character knows the other’s lying, but can’t admit it because they themselves are lying. Wayans and Eliza Coupe have such great chemistry that ridiculous stuff like them sweeping all the shit off their dining room table to make out just feels natural. Was any profound point made about staycations or marriage or whatever? Nah. Who cares! It’s fun to watch those two be into each other, and how rare is that?
The other two plots both had fine moments, but there was even less meat on the bone, with Penny and Alex’s boyfriend-swapping a little too predictable to really enjoy. I liked that a plot about the two of them “fighting” over men contained no actual fighting or real tension. Alex just kinda let Penny date whichever dude she wanted, with eye-rolling the most intense gesture of the episode. That felt true to the characters, but it also made the whole thing a little too slight. Plus, Penny’s men are very stock-boyfriend a lot of the time (with one weird quirk to make them undateable), and that didn’t change here with Kevin and Liam. Most of the laughs about them were just from people describing their exciting/nice and boring dates together.
I was very pleasantly surprised at Max’s ad for Dave, though. Not that it was actually good, but just the manner in which he screwed up. I expected something aggressively weird, possibly sexual or demented in some way, but the more subtle screw-up (they forget to mention Dave’s food truck or its product, and keep hinting at eating hot dogs, his rival food) proved far funnier. The show also had its traditional fun at Zack Knighton’s expense, proving to be a weekly feature here (even Elisha Cuthbert isn’t silly every week) with his truly terrible first shot at a commercial (covered in sweat stains and robotically playing the guitar) the best “Dave is an idiot” moment we’ve had all season.
I don’t have any real complaints about this episode. It just felt like a minor one, which makes sense after a couple that really fired on all cylinders. But I laughed, I struggled to write down all the good lines, and I’d happily watch it again tomorrow, which is exactly the groove Happy Endings should be aiming for every week.
- Penny moves topics onto her new boyfriend abruptly. “So we're not doing segues now?” Jane asks. “No, I gave them up, along with gluten.”
- One of Alex’s sad singles activities is solving movie trivia at her own pace when seeing films alone. “Did you guys know Jack Palace did all his own stunts in City Slickers but not in the sequel?”
- On her date, she can have anything she wants, Liam promises. “In that case… I'll have a little more of this bread.”
- “You know I hate playing capture the flag without you.” “Yeah, cause I'm stealth as hell!”
- Penny’s date was good too: “We watched Con Air with the director's commentary! So here I am, laughing AND learning.”
- “If you like sandwiches and you love taste, then steak me home tonight!”
- Fred Savage is not a person to watch The Princess Bride with. “The director was on my ass in this scene.”
- Fred also asks after Alex’s hummus. “Is that for the house, or is that something I can jump in on?”
- Jane breaks out the honeysuckle candles, to Brad’s surprise. “Dippin' into my private stock, that's cool!”
- “They call it Hollywood, not Hollyfriends.”