It’s not that those weren’t two perfectly fun episodes of Happy Endings—they were, very quotable and silly and all the nice things I expect from this show. But they also shared a surprising incoherence and very broad, dumb endings that didn’t really click for me at all. Don’t get me wrong, I still laughed a lot and struggled to keep up with every hilarious, bizarre line that poured out of the cast’s mouths, but I felt a little underwhelmed by this hour. It’s partially that no sitcom should be played back-to-back like this. Damn ABC with its Happy Endings Happy Hour.
Both episodes had steak truck plotlines and Jane vs. Alex plotlines but the first set up a conflict between the sisters that was barely noticeable onscreen, a huge mistake given the comic potential of such a battle. Max discovers an ocean of unresolved tension between the two when he starts going to their barber Krisjhan (played by the ever-lovely RuPaul), and he unleashes all this into a fight the likes of which the Kerkovich family hasn’t seen in 20 years.
At least, so we’re told. We don’t actually see much of this fight outside of a brief bit of sparring in the bar; Max just delivers the news of the fight to Brad, and then they plot how to solve the problem. I felt gypped by the lack of a real Kerkovich throwdown! I assume it was just tough to fit into the episode given time constraints, but come on! The whole thing gets solved by a sisterly Serbian dance in traditional dress, prompted by an insane crone of a grandmother that had some (hacky) comic potential but didn’t get to realize it because she showed up five minutes before the end of the episode.
Oh well. There was a lot of funny little gags here—Max’s changing, ridiculous hairstyles (first he has Dave’s hair, which prompts a torrent of specific abuse) were a nice well of constant physical comedy. The creepy Brad doll in Jane’s storage locker was a nice sight gag, although it also felt wasted. The Dave/Alex/Penny plot never really clicked for me either—again, funny moments, like the screwdriver he uses to start the car, but a little rushed and with an abrupt, stupid ending.
Still, RuPaul fit right in (he and Adam Pally have some natural chemistry). Dave’s mom’s Yelp reviews were fantastic (“Davey, what’s the name of that movie where the horse goes to the war?” “Uh, Warbiscuit, duh” Alex replies). And apparently Max calls Brad’s Prius “the Maxmobile” because sometimes he sleeps in it.
The second episode had another big-name guest star in Andy Richter as Penny’s long-lost dad, a deadbeat who fled the family because he was only 17 when she was born. There wasn’t quite enough to this character outside of the fact that the very pleasant Andy Richter was playing him. Megan Mullally is an outsized presence as Penny’s mom, but Richter really just shrugged and said he was sorry and was very nice. There was a moment of tension when he “moved too fast” to reclaim his dadhood, but that felt very forced and was pretty quickly resolved. Richter’s funny! Why give him so little to do?
In fact, Penny’s wedding plots have generally been pretty drama-free, maybe because the show is trying to avoid the usual Penny romance misery stuff. That’s either because that well has run dry, or because the writers are planning a particularly insane/chaotic wedding episode, or both, but it does mean that anything focusing on the wedding thus far has been a bit of a snooze.
So this episode really relied on the Montague/Capulet war between Dave’s steak truck and a Brazilian competitor, a quasi prank-war that was very thinly drawn indeed. Dave is looking to take down his rival, but not really, only kind of—it’s Max who’s really causing trouble. Meanwhile Max is falling for the Brazilian steak truck owner’s son, Wilson, but that’s also not really a big deal because Max is the one pulling the pranks anyway.
It all ends in a food fight, which literally felt like the show just had no idea where to go at that moment but had to wrap up somehow. There’s a rather sweet kiss between Max and Wilson (I generally approve of such things on network TV, even if Adam Pally is beginning to shoulder an outsized load compared to say, Eric Stonestreet) but apart from that it feels nonsensical. I don’t know why I’m so grumpy about this! I love Happy Endings and am about to quote many hilarious jokes from these episodes! But plot-wise, neither seemed quite right, and this really fizzled out into nothing.
- Max defends Madea having to go back to jail in so many Tyler Perry movies. “Like I told them, mama got tax problems!”
- Some Max-with-Dave hair jokes: “You look like a keytar player in a Christian rock band.” “You look like Suze Ormond if she stopped shaving.” “You look like a retired air force lesbian.”
- The girls hate Dave’s new sandwich. Jane calls it “fart paper.” “Am I tasting a hard yogurt? Is that a thing?” “That is definitely no hard yogurt.”
- “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard Jane and Alex talk about the Civil War.”
- Max tries to shut down Jane and Alex fighting. “We get it. You’re ladies. Your brains are tiny and filled with eggs.”
- Penny incorporates sports metaphors. “We’re in the eighth quarter, boys. About to put some sports points on the score yard. Oops, I think I farmbled the barl. Turnunder!”
- “Dammit Chad, got me into trouble again! Chad’s what I call my underpants monster. I believe you two have met.”
- Max admits to sleeping with Wilson. “The volleyball from Cast Away that you stole from Houston’s Planet Hollywood?”