Tuesday was a night of big surprises in the network sitcomiverse. Aside from the doozy doled out by New Girl, Happy Endings played the unlikely benefactor to audiences’ communal jawdroppery. The two-episode evening introduced a new plotline that would be working its way into this Chicago ensemble’s day-to-day: the engagement of Penny Hartz.
Just as we saw on Happy Endings’ spiritual predecessor Friends when Phoebe took to exploring an extra-group romance with Paul Rudd’s Mike Whocanremember, Penny and Season 3 beau Pete (a newly goateed Nick Zano) pioneered for her show the first serious relationship to exist beyond the confines of the sextet. The question was popped in the first of Tuesday night’s two episodes — taking form as only a Happy Endings proposal could — and the pair explored the perils of wedding planning in the encore.
But as with Happy Endings, we’re not so affixed on the emotional resonance or the concerns about how things might change for the group as we are on the good ol’ fashioned comedy spat out by the double dose of Chicago glory. So, our only true question following the eventful eve (not “Will they stay together?”, not “Will Penny’s feelings for Dave return?”, not “Will Dave and Alex be next?”) is, “Which episode was funnier?”
Let’s find out — using this highly regimented, not at all arbitrary point system to judge the comedic value in each element thrust upon us by the ABC wonder’s two episodes this week.
The Marry Prankster
Premise: After ringmaster Dave and company prank Max with the ol’ yesterday’s lotto numbers trick, it sparks a rage so vile inside of Max that he vows to unleash a typhoon of vengeful fury upon each and every one of his friends.
[-1 point for lack of originality — The Fresh Prince of Bel Air did the same prank, with Geoffrey as the victim]
Execution: Max carries forth with his plan, glitter-in-the-lotion-ing Brad, pie-in-the-face-ing Jane, slime-from-the-cieling-ing Penny, and gluing poor Pete (an innocent bystander in the ordeal) to the toilet. Meanwhile, dumb-as-a-brick Alex puts herself through a series of tortures (lopping off her own hair, catapulting herself into a coffee table from a spring-loaded couch), just to avoid Max’s clutch.
[-2 points for the lackluster pranks against Brad and Jane, +7 points for Alex’s overeager stupidity]
Oh my God, Really?!: Amid all the chaos, Penny stumbles upon a walkway of red roses in her apartment, leading up to an engagement ring. She initially assumes this to be a prank laid out by Max, but eventually discovers that it is a genuine proposal from an absent Pete (absent, as he is glued to his toilet at the time).
[+5 points for Max and Penny’s temporary truce to ecstatically celebrate her engagement]
Conclusion: When Dave attempts to beat Max at his own game with the ol’ popcorn in the car trick (a la Real Genius), he accidentally explodes Max’s limo when the “professional” chauffeur starts the ignition. However, never underestimate Max’s pranking abilities: he sneaks out the hole in the vehicle floor (the thing is in shambles) just in time to evade the hellfire. Meanwhile, a recently freed Pete takes the opportunity of exploding limos and friends gathered to propose to Penny for real. And of course, she says yes.
[+6 points for a whole lot of sweetness]
Big Twist: Alex was behind everything, feigning injury and stupidity to trick her friends into messing with one another. Just for fun.
[+7 points for The Usual Suspects reference in the epilogue]
Meanwhile: After failing miserably at a series of job interviews, perpetual white collar businessman Brad takes employ at a children’s play gym, draped in a clown wig and diving into ball pits.
[+5 points for Damon Wayans, Jr.’s delightful enthusiasm when roughhousing with the giddy youngsters]
Score: 20 points
Our Best Friend’s Wedding
Premise: The gang goes to a wedding planning festival. You know, because of Penny’s impending wedding.
[+6 points for the elaborate universe of weddingdom as painted by this show]
Execution: Pete is turned off by the idea of a big wedding, hoping instead to elope. But he tags along to make Penny happy, while Jane obsessively grabs at the wedding planner role. Jane’s zealousness causes her to be taken down by sturdy security guards.
[+3 points for Pete in reggae garb, +10 for Jane’s “Take on Me” video]
After Alex accuses Dave of being a Bridezilla, he asserts himself as a zen master capable of maintaining a “chill” attitude throughout the wedding fest. Beige napkins eventually set him off.
[+2 points for Alex’s various alternative monikers for Bridezilla]
Brad and Max pretend to be a gay couple in order to get free stuff from fellow gay couples.
[-5 points for some surprisingly backwards depictions of homosexual culture, and Brad’s decreasingly latent homophobia]
Conclusion: After Penny succumbs to Pete’s desires to elope, he grants her her wish: he agrees to have a big wedding with all of her friends. Meanwhile, Dave and Alex consider the idea that they too might walk down the aisle someday. And Brad and Max eventually stop getting free stuff.
[+5 points for all around happy endings]
Score: 21 points (a winner!)