For the second-to-last of its Friday night doubleheaders, even more likely to be ignored because it had to skip a week because of ongoing events in Watertown, Happy Endings busted out two big returning guests and did a nice job with both of them for a really fun hour of TV. At this point, I just have to hope all those rumors about TBS or USA or whoever it is picking up this show are true. Because It’s miserable to watch these terrific episodes at 8pm on a Friday night, when next to no one wants to be watching sitcom episodes back to back.
The return of Rob Corddry in “The Ballad Of Lon Sarofsky” kept pretty close to his first appearance as the Car Czar, and his general comic persona—he’s a boorish, loud fool of a man, and it’s ridiculous that anyone would want to sleep with him, so of course Penny does. She’s on the lookout for a rebound post-Pete, and almost makes it happen with some nice boring normal man, but Penny just spent most of the season with a nice boring normal man. Who needs that when she could be having disturbing sex with the Car Czar?
I liked how far the show went with Penny’s fugue state. She’s staying at Brad and Jane’s for some contrived reason, and Brad can’t stop inviting the Czar to functions out of some weird politeness, and one thing leads to another. The Czar and Penny are equally horrified by each other (she hates him because he’s a pig, he hates her because she’s a Democrat), but also find each other irresistible in the sack. Anytime a sitcom goes for this kind of plot, the ridiculousness has to be dialed up to 100, and Happy Endings specializes in that kind of brutality. My favorite moment was Jane and Brad discussing a spoon exhibit while Penny and the Czar make animal noises in the background. No one suddenly snaps better than Damon Wayans Jr.
Meanwhile, Max decides to earn money by winning a gay pageant and Alex and Dave turn into his pageant parents, warring over what silly thing he should be doing/wearing on stage. The gag is obvious—they basically morph into characters from Toddlers & Tiaras making crazy demands of their “child”—but it doesn’t gel as well as the similar gag of Jane and Brad acting like Penny’s disapproving parents. That may just be because Wayans and Coupe are really, really funny, because that joke is just as well-worn. But watching Wayans bellow at Penny was worth a lot more laughs.
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The denouement of the pageant is a little forced (I don’t know why Max had to win, he already won one gay talent show last year) but it’s still cute to see Max in any kind of crazy get-up. The Car Czar denouement is equally forced (he realizes his love for Penny, but luckily gets taken back by his wife thanks to Jane) but I don’t come to Happy Endings expecting a reinvention of sitcom plotting, I come for the jokes, and this episode had ‘em.
Although I gotta say, “Un-sabotagable” made “The Ballad Of Lon Sarofsky” look like a grounded, searing drama. Mark-Paul Gosselaar returned as the scarily perfect Chase, who was briefly his roommate in “The Ex-Factor” earlier this year and then swore revenge on Max when his meddling ruined Chase’s life. But, as Chase points out to Max, what is there to ruin in return? His apartment is horrifying, he has no job or prospects, he looks more ridiculous than ever, and all he can say in his defense is “I recently bought a ladle for soups.”
Once again, Gosselaar is largely kept off-screen throughout the episode, a surprising choice but perhaps necessitated by scheduling and shooting around that lawyer show he’s in. But I liked his scenes; he’s very over-the-top, but it’s always quickly deflated by how impressed everyone is by him, even when he’s essentially threatening Max’s life. There’s also room for him to return again one day, and I’d be interested to see if Happy Endings can build on such a nonsensical premise every time he appears. That is, if there is a fourth season. Sob.
Anyway, Jane succeeds at making over Max’s life, getting him a job, nice clothes and some personal grooming, so that Chase will have something to wreck. Max is convinced that he and Jane have nothing to do with his success and that it’s all a big setup by Chase, and the whole thing gets a little bogged down in that detail, but I found that forgivable. There were enough fun details about the horror of Max’s everyday life, and Adam Pally and Eliza Coupe are always a fun pair.
I really enjoyed the Dave/Alex plot revolving around her love of ridiculous Groupons and Dave’s hatred of her impulsive nature. The over-arching joke, which the episode was wise to acknowledge, is that Dave is just as ridiculous as Alex, and his scheming to put a stop to her Grouponing was as insane as whatever she was doing in the first place. It was a nice, weird, roundabout way to point out their compatibility and how much their characters have evolved since the beginning of this show. I also enjoy it every time Zack Knighton is mocked as a bizarre choice for a leading man. “You have the facial hair that you have!”
Sigh, guys. One more week and then that’s it for season three. I hope you’re all ready for the gnashing of teeth and furious campaigning that will follow.
“The Ballad Of Lon Sarofsky:” A-
Penny has had a crazy month. “Broken engage, infested condo, Glenn Beck put his fingers in my mouth.” “That's the last time we go to one of his book signings ironically,” Max says. “Yeah. Ironically,” Jane counters.
Laughed every time Max paid for something with a bucket of pennies. “Because it's the only currency I still trust.”
Max appears in Alex and Dave's apartment. “How'd you get in here?” “And why are you wearing my robe?” “I have keys and I refuse to explain the robe.”
The Czar has a standing order at his local strip club. “Eggs!”
“Do you want to be Russell Brand or Russell Bland?” ‘Are those my only two options?”
“That's literally the worst thing I've ever seen, and I follow Madeline Albright on Instagram.”
Penny stands up to Jane and Brad. “You're not the boss of me. Pradesh Singh, the head of PR, is.”
Nice dig at Tampa, a city I recently visited. “You bought us a time-share in Tampa.” “The lady in the kiosk said it was the Sacramento of the east!” “But now we gotta go to Tampa every week! Tampa's not a place that you go, Tampa's a place that you end up!”
Brad tries to hawk his QVC purchases. “Let's talk shoes. How are you heating yours?”
Jane lays it out for Max. “You've got lots of bad areas, you're the Oakland of gay guys.”
Things look up for him almost immediately. “This morning, I flossed my mouth and my gums only bled a lot, as opposed to the normal an alarming amount.”
“I have a paralyzing fear of dolphins. As in, when I'm near them, I lose my poop.”
For some reason, the talking cotton candy machine was the joke of the night for me. “I lied. I did spent the extra $200. And it was $300.”