It seems like only yesterday's yesterday that we were delving into the finer points of Happy Endings' midseason premiere. Now that the ABC sitcom is airing twice a week, Sundays and Tuesdays, life seems a bit brighter, somewhat less like a metallic claw piercing its industrial-sized fire-nails into your soul at a glacial but all-the-more-torturous pace. Things are good now. Year of Penny.
Happy Endings' first episode of the week, "Fowl Play/Date," allowed us to examine the adroitness with which David Caspe's small screen wonder transforms sitcom staples into fresh magic. But this time around, we're presented with a question. The latest "Ordinary Extraordinary Love" breaks off into three independent stories, each contending for funniest element of the ep. We see Alex and Penny embark upon a quest to monopolize upon their contact with a pop celebrity; we see Jane drag Max along on a voyage of self-discovery; we see Brad and Dave set forth to prove themselves true "men." And with each one a comedic triumph, we're forced to ask: which is Happy Endings' greatest comic duo?
Alex and Penny
Their Story: Penny identifies Alex's clothing store's latest customer as pop music idol Winnie McCray (Laura Catalina Ortiz, who oddly enough has already guest starred on Happy Endings in the Season 2 episode "Baby Steps"), and immediately organizes a plan to take fiscal advantage of the situation. Deeming herself a PR genius (apparently, Penny works in PR, as she mentions numerous times throughout the episode), Penny machinates a plan to get the hordes of Chicago-based paparazzi to snag a picture of Winnie draped in Alex's dress... only to inadvertently destroy Winnie's relationship with her average joe boyfriend, who is fed up with the star treatment that follows the duo everywhere. Feeling guilty (and slightly threatened by a violent, enraged Winnie), Penny and Alex apologize to the wronged starlet and arrange a private date for her and her beau at the only venue in town where no paparazzo would dare venture: Dave's steak truck.
Why They Work: In the Penny and Alex formula, there is an infinite one-upsmanship in flightiness. On the one hand, there is the intelligent but desperate and emotionally ravaged Penny; beside her, the two-steps-behind, irreparably confident Alex. What the team-up results in is always an escalation of any ordinary situation into something ill-conceived, self-serving, and doomed to fail.
Jane and Max
Their Story: Jane decides to help Max, forlorn over his inability to meet a nice guy, in a romantic pursuit. With the help of recurring majesty Derrick (who could easily be an obnoxiously offensive facet of the show but is instead an affable and charming component to Happy Endings), Jane sets out to help perpetual outlier Max discover what "category" of the homosexual subculture best suits him. In a legitimately sad (yet funny, of course) montage, Max determines himself unfit for any self-defined collection, growing more and more uncomfortable with his very human sorrow of not fitting in. In the end, though, Max learns that his uniqueness is what strengthens him as a person of merit and character (thanks largely to an unusually earnest Derrick), and develops his own community... which, in turn, lands him to meet another misguided outlier. Hooray for the optimistic red velvet walruses!
Why They Work: Max and Jane are a classic formula: perfect foils to each other, Jane is an upbeat, driven A-type with her life so together it hurts. Max is a ganglion of self-destructive behaviors living in emotional (and literal) squalor. When the pair teams up, they often collide with such chaos that it transforms into unexpected treasure. Ah, the rules of sitcommery.
Brad and Dave
Their Story: Brad, feeling unmanly due to his wife's usurping of his breadwinner role in the relationship, sets out to prove himself a traditional "man" by doing handiwork around the apartment. Dave, having nothing else to do, joins him. Eventually, the two turn on one another, letting their own insecurities inspire inane competitions to determine who is, indeed, the "manlier man."
Why They Work: Brad and Dave are not as frequent a duo as Alex/Penny or Jane/Max, largely because their personalities don't allow them work off one another with the same explosive comedy. But flamboyant Brad and trying-too-hard Dave can deliver the goods, as seen here.
Who's your vote for best duo of the week?
[Photo Credit: ABC]