This week’s Happy Endings reminded me a lot of How I Met Your Mother, and I mean that in a good way—I’m thinking more of the earlier seasons of the show, which could take on soapy twists like two main characters sleeping together and keep it from sinking into Friends-like melodrama. I was a little worried about how seriously the show would take Dave and Alex backsliding on their first-episode breakup and sleeping together, and was pleasantly surprised when it was used as the launchpad for a fun, silly story mostly focusing on Jane and Brad’s relationship.
Alex was nominally involved, too, but the real master of “The Kerkovich Way” (referring to the Serbian Kerkovich siblings) was her sister Jane, who engineers a vast cover-up to convince Dave and Brad that the whole sexcapade never happened. This is actually where I got the biggest How I Met Your Mother vibe, with Jane filling the devious Lily role of the person in the committed relationship who pulls the strings on her friends’ romantic lives. The main difference being that Jane and Alex are sisters and this is some long-running family method to keep husbands in line.
The main thing is, it was funny to watch Jane work her magic and succeed in convincing Brad that nothing had happened, down to putting a kernel of popcorn in his teeth. “My forgettums have been getting worse,” he confides to a baffled Dave. It was a nice way of meshing a long-term couple story (Jane is worried her elaborate series of lies will soon be discovered) with the fallout from Dave and Alex’s rendezvous.
But what I really liked was how it all wrapped up, with Alex telling Dave she was afraid of confronting the truth simply because they’re at a good place with themselves. Now, I’m not saying that means this whole romantic arc is done and dusted—the writers may well want to return to this well sometime soon. But Alex and Dave falling back into bed one time is a perfectly plausible twist, and them deciding it was just a thing that happened was even more plausible.
The real hurrah for me was that it wasn’t boring. I really have no interest in Dave and Alex as a couple—their relationship drama is what hampered Happy Endings at the start (and ABC, realizing this, shunted most of the early episodes to the end of its run to give the show more time to find an audience). I was worried there’d be vibes of those early-season jitters, but Alex and Dave (particularly Alex) are better-developed as characters now, and it showed.
Our B-plot this week was a bit of Max and Penny madcappery as they took part in a Chicago movie-themed scavenger hunt against an evil perfect couple that represents everything Penny hates (and desires). Max, still in the throes of post-breakup depression, gets melancholy at the sight of things reminding him of Grant, like bacon, or the movie Risky Business (because Grant owns his own business, which is risky).
The John Hughes jokes wore thin pretty quickly (I’m not the biggest John Hughes fan, so maybe that’s part of my reaction) but Penny and Max have the easiest chemistry in the universe, and any story pairing them is going to be a pretty good time. Plus, we had a few creepy choice lines from my favorite recurring character, Scotty (played by Seth Morris to disturbing perfection as always). I liked the fake-out of Max catching the crystal egg in slow motion, and appreciated that his and Penny’s ultimate victory was tied to his phantasmal knowledge of shopping cart souls.
So, like Todd said (when he called this show “the most purely funny” on television and I guess caused some sort of big comment-storm), ABC is basically burning off this show, new Modern Family lead-in or not, for the next few weeks. On the plus side, lots of new Happy Endings in a row. Downside? Its chances for renewal are still up in the air, I guess. But I’m pretty optimistic, especially if it can maintain the quality of last week and this week.
- “When I went out with that male nurse, I realized I still had a soft spot for dating gay guys. And an actual soft spot. My plates never grew together.”
- Dave had a good piece of physical humor, trying to take the mannequin’s bra off in Alex’s store.
- Penny proclaims “Year of Penny!” despite it being 2012. “Fiscal year of Penny! Suck it, taxpayers!”
- “Karen’s been chinchillaed.” “You named your sweatpants Karen?” “I name what I name, man.”
- Brad pretends not to like Mamma Mia! “I’m partial to things like karate and brief nudity.”