Whenever an on-the-bubble show airs a finale, especially a sitcom like Happy Endings, the question isn’t really if they wrapped everything in a satisfying bow. We don’t know that this is the end for the show—ABC could renew it, or it could get picked up by some other network thanks to the might of Sony and the promise of syndication bucks. But what these episodes, particularly “Brothas And Sisters,” did very nicely, was encapsulate the fun spirit of the show, ending with a wedding (as every season has) and dancing, a nice send-off no matter what happens over the summer.
First, “Deuce Babylove 2: Electric Babydeuce” (quite a title) brought back Michael McKean and Megan Mullally as Dave’s dad and Penny’s mom, but as lovely as it was to have them, they didn’t get to do much except announce that they were planning on adopting a child, sending Dave and Penny into a tizzy that leads them to steal a baby. There are some clever moments (Dave’s obsession with providing a meze plate was a winner) but we probably should have spent more time with the parents and less time with baby-jacking hijinks since the outcome of the plot was never in doubt—Big Dave and Dana are reminded of the horrors of child-rearing by their own overgrown children.
Better was Max and Alex’s attempts to sabotage Jane and Brad at a hoity-toity tennis club, although that plot played out as pure slapstick. I always enjoy when buddy comedies poke at the status differences between their ensembles; there was that one great episode of Friends about money (okay, it wasn’t a masterpiece, because it revolved around a Hootie and the Blowfish concert, but it was interesting), but it’s usually a rare topic of conversation on shows like these.
Well, it wasn’t really explored in any depth here, but at least Max got to dress up in ridiculous 80s tennis clothes (“You look like John McEnroe’s fat cousin, John Mac & Cheese,” Jane snipes) and challenge Jane and Brad to a tennis duel for recognition. What proceeded was perhaps the obvious joke (Brad and Jane completely demolish them) but it was the right one, and that slow-motion montage of failure, which then cut to a wider, harsher shot of Jane and Brad gloating like monsters, was the biggest laugh-out-loud moment of a mostly forgettable episode.
“Brothas And Sisters” was a very satisfying finale, though, dropping a bomb in the opening minutes: Dave and Alex have broken up, having confronted the fact that they were each other’s rebound relationships. This definitely seems like the right call if the show is going to continue. Dave and Alex only made sense as a bizarre, jokey couple who fed on each other’s idiocy—they’ve never really had the spark that Brad and Jane have, more of an understanding of each other’s many ridiculous foibles.
I worried that this would be the launchpad for a truly soapy episode that revived the mostly-dormant storyline of Penny’s potential crush on Dave, but wisely, that didn’t even get a mention. Dave and Penny are ridiculous folk, of course, but for them it would make no sense to embark on such a thing immediately. Whether that gets revived in a hypothetical fourth season is really no biggie for me—if the writers think they can mine comedy from it, then sure, but if not, I’m not going to be writing columns crying about how Dave and Penny are OTP.
Perhaps Dave and Alex were doomed for a similar reason—plotlines are always going to take a back-seat to jokes on this series. Brad and Jane are married, of course, but that’s the fundamental thing about them. Dave and Alex breaking up and getting back together and breaking up…there was never much foreshadowing, it just made sense as a sitcom convention every time, and it was backed up by fun storylines and plenty of jokes. But Alex and Dave apart doesn’t seem much different from Alex and Dave together. Everyone will get entangled in silly situations, wear crazy costumes, run around like headless chickens and so on. There’s never going to be a plot twist on Happy Endings that I gasp about, because that stuff just ain’t that important.
Oh, so the wedding episode was really fun, right? Stephanie March was an inspired casting choice as Jane and Alex’s terrifying older sister, who had all of Jane’s type-A intensity, but in a much colder, less hysterical way. Brad’s jealousy of her black fiancée (played by James Lesure) let Damon Wayans Jr. make as many ridiculous noises as possible, always a treat (although I wish he’d had an even bigger reaction to the news that Elliott knew Blair Underwood). The concept of a wedding going spectacularly wrong is the hoariest of sitcom tropes, but this went very nicely—the disaster progressed very logically, beginning with little things and ending in chaos without it seeming forced.
And then everyone gets down to happily dance over the closing credits. For a show like Happy Endings, there’s no better way to sign off. The cornerstones of this show are its cast’s chemistry and its ridiculous energy, and both were on beautiful display there. I don’t know if I’ll ever be writing about this sucker again, but after watching that episode, I know there’ll be passionate campaigns mounted to make sure that I can.
Deuce Babylove 2: Electric Babydeuce: B
Brothas And Sisters: A-
- Max looked at Jane’s gynecological chart to give his second opinion. “And it is: gross.” “Yeah it is. BUT IT FEELS SO GOOD!” Brad cries.
- Brad and Jane want tennis to be their thing. “Like how being terrified of the dunk contest is LeBron's thing.”
- Penny bemoans the adoption plan. “This is now officially my worst nightmare. That's right, Jason Giambi sex dream, you're out!”
- Brad’s freakout about being called “Arthur Ashy” was an Emmy clip moment for Damon Wayans Jr.
- Max worried Brad and Jane would leave him behind. “Cause you'd be going to Eyes Wide Shut parties or hunting people for sport with Tommy Hilfiger or whatever rich people supposedly do.”
- Alex wants the wedding to be Pearl Harbor. “We want this wedding to be da bomb! Like that Michael Bay movie Armageddon?”
- “Alex just lets it rage with the bathroom door open? Baller move!”
- Dave educates Brad on some stereotypes. “Actually, the true legacy of Jackie Robinson is that he shouldn't have to go through what you did. I believe Medgar Evers once said…” “We get it, dude, you minored in black history.” “Afro-American studies, and I object to your use of the term minor!”
- Alex is called very French. “Ooh la la, Pepe Le Pew, French Stewart!” she replies, scrunching up her face appropriately.