While this week's episode of Happy Endings is, admittedly, a little light in the laugh department — they can't all be perfect half-hours of comedic television — but it does have some pretty interesting things to say about the Chicago-based group and its codependent members, specifically Max and Penny. We have a basic understanding of Dave, Alex, Jane, and Penny's friendship: they grew up together, dating back long prior to high school, and never severed ties. If you yourself have been fated with a childhood clique that survived past college graduation, you know that there's almost zero chance of ridding yourself of said social cyst.
With said back story, Happy Endings risks falling into a territory of "passionless" relationships. People sticking together just because they're used to each other. Just because, thinking beyond the confines of their fictional universe, they happen to be the stars of this show. The presentation of these people as actual friends who contribute something to one another's lives (be the relationships healthy or otherwise) is as such challenging, especially in the medium of comedy, where character examination often takes a backseat to jokes. But Happy Endings makes the two work hand-in-hand, explaining why exactly (in this instance) Max and Penny need each other — specifically each other, as nobody else could fill the role they mutually provide — via delivery of humor.
Max is overwhelmed with jealousy and insecurity when Penny's relationship with Pete (still Nick Zano) turns him into the group's fifth wheel. While the motif of only-single-guy has been played with in sitcoms before, there is something special about the way Happy Endings deals with it. In the opening tag, Max is shoved off the overcrowded barstaurant booth, laughed at uproariously by the mean-spirited (but so silly that you can't really hate them too much) collection of couples that make up his social circle. As the gang (a highly vociferous Brad at the head of the antic) mocks Max for his solitude, it is at once very funny and genuinely, bitingly sad, thanks entirely to a perfectly subtle delivery of pain by Max's Adam Pally.
Throughout the episode, Max focuses his energy on Penny, and her relationship with Pete. See, Penny is Max's emotional crutch, and not simply because she's the only other perpetually single (with Pete as an exception) individual in the group. She, like Max, is an emotional cripple, unable to hold healthy relationships, doused in her own self-loathing, constantly waging a highly comical war against the world. Max and Penny are fellow soldiers in said war, banding together against the turmoil that comes more often than not from within each of them. And although they can be seen as one another's enablers, they provide what everybody on this Earth needs and searches for: someone who gets them. Someone in the same boat. A soul mate of sorts.
But Penny is involved in a happy, healthy relationship with Pete, which loses Max his co-passenger. As such, he finds a "new Penny," a psychologically destitute young woman named Nickel (Kulap Vilaysack... and "it's pronounced Nicole") to fill his void of a needy, self-destructive friend, and to make Penny jealous. The short-lived plan goes awry when Max is abandoned by the nutty lass, but Max's wishes come true when Penny, in Penny form, inadvertently sabotages her own relationship with Pete: he happens upon a list of his faults that Penny wrote up, as she does with all suitors as a preparatory means of making herself feel better once their relationships end. But seeing how genuinely devastated she is over the breakup, Max employs his truculent nature to force Pete into giving Penny another chance, allowing for a happy ending (hey! That's the name of the show!) for Penny, and a bittersweet conclusion for Max.
This latest examination of the pair's relationship proves how much merit there exists within and between these characters. Max and Penny don't have the relationship you'd find between Monica and Rachel or Joey and Chandler (or Ross and Phoebe... were they friends? Did they ever do anything together?). Their friendship is often toxic and disruptive, but this is what makes it interesting and, sadly, realistic. The most important people in our lives are usually the ones who do the most damage. But as is Max with Penny, it's the ones who opt to prevent or rectify this damage whenever they can that makes these people worth said importance.
On the other side of the game, we have the final holdouts in the lineage circuit: we meet Alex and Jane's parents, played by Christopher MacDonald and Julie Hagerty. The "I've got to impress my dad/father-in-law!" shpiel, a sitcom favorite, is ordained for this episode, but played with strikingly low stakes: Jane, charged with making speeches at every one of her father's annual galas, wants this one to be funny as opposed to her usual heartfelt. There is clearly no lapse of love between Jane and her straight-faced father, she's just on a constant drive to prove herself the best at everything. And Brad is on the same journey, hoping to warm up to Mr. Kerkovich... even though it doesn't really seem like there's that great a distance between them. Brad makes claims of his own extended family's detest for Jane due to her race, but the only issue facing Brad and Mr. K is that they aren't good at making party small talk.
Meanwhile, Dave shows up to the party, uninvited, to reestablish himself in the Kerkovich family, not knowing that Alex has avoided telling her family that the two are dating again. But once more, the stakes are low. It is Alex who Mr. Kerkovich is angry at over the runaway bride situation that led to the pair's breakup (she did do the running away), not Dave. In fact, Mr. Kerkovich openly admits to always having liked Dave, and (once the cat is out of the bag) to be happy to have him back in the clan. Meanwhile, Julie Hagerty teaches her daughter how to appropriately handle a buffet. So, in direct opposition to every other parental situation we've seen thus far (Max's difficulty telling his parents that he's gay; Dave and Penny dealing with their parents dating; Brad's inability to connect with his father emotionally), the Kerkoviches seem like they're living on easy street. So how did both daughters end up so nuts?
[Photo Credit: Carol Kaelson/ABC (2)]
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Oh hey! You’re back? Nice. Let’s get straight to it. I’ve got a stellar line-up in this week’s Spoiler List for all you TV obsessers out there. And yes I am aware that “obsessers” is not an actual word, but I like it and I’ve already typed it out so I think I’m just gonna keep it. I’ve sweet talked my way into getting all the details on an epic Big Bang Theory showdown, what’s up next on Once Upon a Time now that magic has arrived, and when Glee fans can expect to see the cleanest wedding of the century! Plus, I’ve gift-wrapped some terrific tidbits from Happy Endings, 2 Broke Girls, and Go On. So buckle your seat belts, because I'm about to pour you a tall glass of "This is how it is." (Name that quote! No, seriously name it and I’ll probably send you a cookie.)
1. The Big Bang Theory: It’s the Ultimate Girls v. Boys battle!
At the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, I endured record-setting temperatures to chat with Johnny Galecki and bring you back some much-needed BBT scoop. (Please feel free to send thank you notes and popsicles to my apartment.) So what’s coming up for your favorite geeks next door? Galecki tells me about his new favorite upcoming episode in which things get “very, very competitive.” The actor reveals, “Leonard and Penny and Sheldon and Amy [are] playing board games. It’s boys against girls and it’s one of my favorites that we’ve ever done. It’s a simple idea but a really wonderful episode.” Anything involving my beloved Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) gets me giddy, but knowing that she’ll be teaming up with her “bestie” against her contractually obligated boyfriend is sure to cause all kinds of hilarity!
And as for shipper news, Galecki explains that Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are in more of “comfortable” relationship this season. “It’s not so hyper-sensitive as it’s been in previous seasons ... so it’s not the same anxiety of ‘Oh my God, how might she react to this?!’ We kind of tease each other and give each other a hard time as most people do when they’ve known each other for half a decade.” Thank goodness! Now we’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed that Leonard will pop the question again this year, but preferably not mid-coitus this time. Hey, it’s Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) word not mine…
2. 2 Broke Girls: Will the girls really stay broke forever?
My brother and I are particularly fond of this show, and particularly fond of Oleg (Jonathan Kite) the foul-mouthed fry cook who once admitted his fondness for models: “You are like someone super-sized a Victoria's Secret angel. I'd like to Gisele on your Bündchens.” I can't help but laugh. Oh-so-classy, I know. But the one thing that has always bothered me about the CBS comedy is that at the end of each episode we see how much money the girls have made (or usually lost) in those 22 minutes of cupcake-ing and cat-fighting. Come on now, girls, show me the money! Kat Dennings reveals that fans can expect to see their cupcake fund start to seriously increase this season. “I think we will definitely see a jump," she says. "There has to be a jump because [the girls] are so driven."
Max and Caroline may be short on cash, but last season they were never short on eye candy. But if you were hoping to see Max’s kinda-sorta relationship with Johnny (Nick Zano) return, keep on wishing. “No, I feel like that was it for her," Dennings says. "I feel like that broke her heart and she is done now. She will always have feelings for him and if he comes back into her life, it will be dramatic for her, but I do not see her having a serious thing for a long time.“ Oh, and in case you were wondering, Dennings says fans can expect to see more sexually charged diner outbursts form Oleg this season. “I’m almost 100 percent sure that will stay,” she says with a laugh.
3. Once Upon a Time: Emma is the new Alice In Wonderland!
Now that the oddly intimidating purple smoke has entered Storybrooke, the second season of the ABC hit drama will show us the problems that will arise now that magic is back. At Saturday’s Creative Arts Emmys, Jennifer Morrison (who was looking absolutely stunning in a red gown) says fans can look forward to a “complicated” family reunion this season. “Everything has changed and the world is upside-down for Emma … in a sense. she feels like Alice in Wonderland, who has gone the rabbit hole,” Morrison says. “She’s kind of born in a whole new way now and has to find a way to protect her son and protect her relationships with her family and develop them.” Yeah, something tells me that realizing you’re the daughter of fairy-tale royalty like Snow White and Prince Charming would be just a little bit daunting.
Though Emma will be in the middle of an identity crisis this season, many fans are campaigning to see the character nab a more consistent love interest this year. So is love in the air for Emma? The actress was quick to reveal, “Absolutely! There’s definitely some romance coming.” Hmm, perhaps that romance is with last season’s hunky Huntsman? Remember, just because someone has died in the real world doesn’t mean he/she can’t come back in the fairy-tale world. Morrison nods with a smile, “It’s so funny — our show seems to bring everyone back around and around and around, so that is something that I can’t say.” I don’t know about you, but I’m taking that last bit as a heck yes!
4. Go On: Can We Expect a Community Crossover?
I recently chatted with Tyler James Williams, who plays Owen on the new NBC comedy alongside sitcom super-veteran Matthew Perry. When asked who of his ensemble cast could benefit most from a real-life therapy sesh, Williams had an interesting answer: all of ‘em! The Everybody Hates Chris actor explains, “I think we could all use a little therapy, quite frankly. I think that anyone who decides to be an actor and decides they want to be other people on a regular basis could use some therapy.” Touché.
Community fans, however, have more than shard their feelings about network neighbor Go On, which they feel is unsettlingly similar in nature to Dan Harmon's (former) series. But Williams, a champion of Community, says that Perry and the rest of his cast are definitely not trying to steal any eyes away from those at Greendale Community College. “I’m hoping that some of the fan base will cross over, but they’ll also see us as our own project,” Williams says. “We’ve gotten that comparison quite a bit and as much as we love Community, we are hoping to also stand alone.” Bummer! I was hoping that we would see a relative of Star-Burns join the group because he just can’t face the fact that we’ll never see that top hat and quirky facial hair again.
5. Happy Endings: Meet the newest members of the group!
Let me start of saying that if I could physically hug this show, then I would never, ever, ever let it go. So imagine my delight when I was on their set Tuesday morning to chat with the cast about all the hilarious shenanigans set to debut in Season 3. Although I have plenty of scoop to share (to be continued!), I wanted to center this particular piece of news around Casey Wilson’s character, Penny. If you’re not familiar with her, then please watch this, and then come right back. I know! Amahzing, right?
Penny is finally getting a long-term love interest this season, played by that handsome guy who is seriously in everything (please see No. 2), Nick Zano. But when Penny’s new fella enters the group, her gubby (gay hubby, duh), Max (Adam Pally), is less than pleased. Pally explains, “Max is not psyched about it. Max is a little jealous … Although he’s gay, I think there’s a really strong love for Penny and he’s jealous of her attention to anyone else.”
So, naturally, Max does what any grown manboy would do: He gets a replacement Penny named Nicole. “But Max pronounces it ‘Nickles,'” Pally says with a laugh. “Because it’s five times as much as Penny.” And in true Happy Endings fashion, this replacement is also “five times as crazy” as Penny. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this new wannabe Penny will be played by Childrens Hospital actress Kulap Vilaysack.
6. Glee: When’s the Wemma Wedding?!