Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of Happy Endings.
Series: Happy Endings Premiere Date: Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 9 PM ET on ABC. In short: this. Number of Seasons: Entering Season 3. Cast: A veritable wealth of previously untapped comedy gold. While Damon Wayans, Jr.. has a recognizable name thanks to his long-running Hollywood heritage, this has been his big comedy breakout. Same goes for his costars, such as character actor Zachary Knighton, UCB alums Adam Pally, Eliza Coupe, and Casey Wilson (who was also an SNL vet), and Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert, formerly typecast as the hot girl (The Girl Next Door and Love, Actually), but also known for playing Kiefer Sutherland's daughter in 24. How all six of these actors weren't major sitcom stars before this is baffling, but hey, they don't call it Happy Endings for nothing. Synopsis: Imagine if Friends had moved to the Midwest, had a gay guy (well, an out gay guy... sorry Chandler) and a black guy, and the whole gang was entirely self-aware and talked at a rate that would make the Micro Machines announcer's head spin. You might get something close to Happy Endings. In the simplest terms, it's about a group of six pals living in Chicago and coping with the complications that come with your early thirties, but takes that standard sitcom pedigree and flips it on its head. I mean, really, would Friends have ever had sex dreams about the mom on Dinosaurs? (Okay, maybe Ross). The team consists of the perpetually turned-on married couple — the flashy Brad and type-A kook Jane (Wayans and Coupe) — Jane's flighty sister Alex (Cuthbert) and her regular joe ex-fiance Dave (Knighton), single girl Penny (Wilson), and the man beyond any explanation: Max (Pally).
Where We Left Off Last Season: Brad lost his job; Jane remained, thankfully, a type-A kook, but promised her husband they'd get through the rough patch. Penny finally met a suitable gentleman caller (played by none other than Brian Austin Green). Max reunited with his all-male Madonna cover band Mandonna. And Alex and Dave may have possibly rekindled their romance. What Might Happen This Season: Aside from what looks to be a Dave and Alex reunion (sorry Penny, I sure hope Brian Austin Green works out for you), there's the hilarious/terrifying prospect of Jane helping Brad get on a new career path, and Max might behave like a functional member of society. Might. Also, Mark-Paul Gosselaar will apparently be shaking things up in Dave and Max's apartment! (Perhaps Dave and Alex move back in together for a spell?) You'll Like It If: You enjoy lightning-fast, pop-culture infused humor that is somehow neither pretentious nor too low brow. You Won't Like It If: You like your sitcom dialogue to move at a glacial pace so that you don't have to keep rewinding your DVR to hear what you missed/laughed over.
Ratings: ABC must have had some serious faith in the series (and rightfully so) because Happy Endings' ratings hover dangerously in the cancellation zone. In its first year, the comedy averaged a dismal 4.3 million viewers, despite having ratings giant Modern Family as a lead-in. Thankfully, word of mouth caught up with the show and its second season saw much better ratings, averaging 6.64 million and jumping up from the low 100s to no. 83 on Nielsen. A Tale of Two Coaches: When Nick (Jake Johnson) and the New Girl crew weren't nice enough to Coach (Wayans), he simply took off and lived with a different group of white people. Just kidding. In reality, Wayans hit the rare sitcom holy grail and wound up in two different pilots that were both picked up. Wayans was set to play the part of Coach on Fox's hit comedy, but after Happy Endings was picked up for more seasons by ABC, he departed New Girl and they replaced him with a new character named Winston (played by Lamorne Morris). Key Soundbites: "Ah-mah-zing!", "Whisker baskets", "So caaaa-yute", "Them thiiiiiiiiiings", "JAVAAAAA", "Bitch, it is 5:30!", "Year of Penny!", and, of course, "Women. Be. Stoppin'."
The Tao of Max: "Denial, the first step in not wanting to admit things", "Halloween is the Arbor Day of urinating", "TV is nature's babysitter".
Relevant YouTube Clip: The Happy Endings cast (along with the help of special guests like Fred Savage and Kat Dennings) recently visited their old stomping grounds, the Upright Citizens Brigade, to put on a live improv show. If you've got an hour to spare, it's worth your while:
What to Wear While Watching It: Not pants, that's for damn sure. Food/Drink Pairing to Enjoy: Steak-tanic with one of Brad's lunchtime smoothies. "Splash!" Inspired Halloween Costume: Anything the gang wore during their Halloween episode last season would work (except for, of course, Dave's wildly outdated Austin Powers costume), but there's also Bear Max, Temple Grandin Dave, and Ellen Alex Who to Watch it With: Your group of whacky, multicultural, fast-talking, entertainment-loving pals. Or anyone who understands the power of a Vision Board. Who Not to Watch It With: Anyone with a deep-v-neck addiction. It might hit a little too close to home. If You Like This, You'll Love: Cougar Town, It's Always Sunny in Phildelphia, Parks and Recreation, Community, and — damn you conflicting DVR schedules! — New Girl.
[Photo credit: ABC/Adam Taylor]
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If animals could indeed view their surroundings intellectually and talk to each other it’s entirely possible they’d discuss how screwed up human beings are especially in the ridiculous way we waste food. But hey to RJ (Bruce Willis) a wily raccoon what we throw away today becomes lunch tomorrow. He tries to impart some of this wisdom to his newfound friends--a motley crew lead by Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling)--after they wake up after a long winter’s nap and discover most of their natural habitat has been turned into a housing development separated by a very tall hedge. Yep these woodsy folk are sure in for an eye-opening adventure as the manipulative RJ convinces the gang to start collecting boxes of cheese doodles Girl Scout cookies and marshmallows telling them there is little to fear and everything to gain from their over-indulgent new neighbors. Now if they can only get rid of that cat... If you’re an actor these days the chances to play a serious Oscar-worthy role are just as great as playing a squirrel. Or a hedgehog. Or a guy called the Verminator. Over the Hedge has a fine slate of voices starting with Willis as RJ the raconteur raccoon whose pretty savvy to the ways of the paved and pre-packaged world of suburbia. Shandling is the heart of the film as the mild-mannered Verne who just wants to take care of his little woodland family. They include a couple of married-with-kids hedgehogs (pitch perfect Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara); a hyperactive but tender-hearted squirrel (a hilarious Steve Carell); an overdramatic possum (William Shatner playing it to the hilt) and his embarrassed teenage daughter (pop star Avril Lavigne); and a snarky skunk with attitude (Wanda Sykes who else?). As far as the humans Allison Janney voices a shrieking but vindictive homeowner while the Thomas Haden Church is said Verminator a fat balding but ruthless pest exterminator. What fun! Over the Hedge keeps to the spirit of the popular comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis on which the film is based. The strip focuses on the travails of friends RJ and Verne as they exploit the human world for their own personal gain while sardonically commenting on how messed up it is. Hedge sort of shows how these two might have met and is just a hoot from beginning to end. The images of woodland animal-meets-modern-day people are spot on: RJ’s spiel on how humans get food (“That’s the receptacle to get the food [a phone]...and that’s the tone when the food comes [the doorbell]”); SUVs (“Humans are slowly phasing out walking all together”); the skunk seducing the stupid cat (“I like your smell.”). The best is when Hammy the squirrel getting so hopped up on caffeinated soda the whole world comes to a stand still for him. Side-splitting stuff. Again success in animation comes when you stick with a simple story and create characters everyone can relate to. Plus hilarious dialogue. It’ll work every time.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.