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Low ratings despite good quality episodes

By Joe O'Leary
On November 25, 2012


Though its ratings don't exactly show it, ABC's "Happy Endings," now in its third season, has skyrocketed into the comedy stratosphere. With inventive writing and an insanely talented ensemble cast, it's one of the best sitcoms on television right now, even holding up against its ABC stablemate "Modern Family."

Focusing on the antics of six friends in Chicago, "Happy Endings" began last April as Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) stranded her fiancé Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar, much to the shock of their close circle of friends: power-couple Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe), also Alex's sister, Dave's college roommate and best friend Max (Adam Pally) and Alex's best friend Penny (Casey Wilson).

Once the show fell away from the wedding by the end of Season 1, it truly began to blossom with some great sitcom plots in Season 2. This season, however, the writing has truly stood out as an indicator of the show's quality, subverting and commenting on the various clichés television shows create while also pulling off somewhat generic plots.

While Alex and Dave moved back in together at the beginning of the season, for instance, their relationship isn't a "Ross-and-Rachel" plot-driver that could overshadow the rest of the cast. Instead, their hyper-fast progression, moving in together and being tired of another in only two episodes' time, has been played for laughs while simultaneously showing the immaturity of the two characters.

Other common sitcom plots, such as the "getting a weird job" or "small marital problems" situations, get twisted by the writers into hilarious vigenettes that help the cast shine. In "Boys II Menorah," the unemployed Max becomes a "bar mitzvah hypeman," getting the party started for 13-year-old Jewish kids coming of age; while this is a typical "job of the week" episode, the unique premise is changed hilariously when Brad becomes involved. The chemistry between Pally and Wayans Jr. is infectious, and it's easy to believe that the two of them are as tight in real life as their characters are in the episode. Not only do Brad and Max hit all the generic beats of such a situation with well-crafted jokes, the situation builds to a hilarious climax where the writers believably let the duo, along with Penny, somehow get away with a punchline that's essentially a hate crime. 

Speaking of getting away with things, this season has been laughably filthy, and it's obvious ABC's censors have pretty much given up. In "Cazsh Dummy Spillionaires," the season premiere, not only does Coupe pull off barely-printable lines like "I'm going to come so hard home to meet you," but gets completely naked in a completely-believable way. The whip-smart writing gets away with half-a-dozen jokes ten times filthier than any of the blunt stuff on CBS multi-cam sitcoms weekly, and does it with aplomb.

Unfortunately, "Happy Endings" hasn't had the best ratings this season, but that's more because of its timeslot than its quality. It airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday; unfortunately, the same slot's shared by Fox's hit comedy "New Girl" and NBC's freshman success "Go On," making it the schedule's odd man out. Will ABC come to its senses and find the show a salvageable timeslot? Only time will tell. In the meantime, seek it out; don't let it become another classic "gone too soon" sitcom.


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