A great thing about any “hangout” show like Happy Endings (other examples on TV right now would include How I Met Your Mother and Cougar Town) is when it introduces some made-up, totally specific fact or pattern about its gang, and it just feels right. Even better, though, is when it does that, and then within five minutes, subverts it, and you’re just along for the ride.
This week on Happy Endings, we had a bunch of weird stuff centered around the gang’s transition to spring. It all centered around Brad and Jane’s annual fight, the “Spring Smackdown,” which serves as a Groundhog Day for everyone and heralds balmy 22-degree Chicago weather. Max gets freed from a bear-like, non-verbal hibernation state, Dave gets to go eat steaks with Brad, and Penny puts on flowy pants (from the Angela Bassett collection, Bassett by Angela for Angela Bassett) and gets to dispense relationship advice.
So after that brief set-up, we’re all looking forward to the big smackdown and the fun that will result. Then it turns out Brad and Jane are so highly evolved, they have to fake their fight (in one of the episode’s best scenes) just to give everyone else their Groundhog Day. I guess that twist isn’t that surprising when you think about it, but I enjoyed the reversal, and the series of reversals that followed. It’s sitcom 101, but as long as the jokes are good, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Brad and Jane’s fake fight would have been boring if dragged out for the whole episode, but of course, they quickly find something real to fight about (who left the balcony door open/the fact that Brad attracts birds). I still think their fake fight was better, since Damon Wayans, Jr., is great at making “Thank you! I appreciate everything you do for me!” sound like an insult. But their real, pantsless fight was almost as good. The best burn came from Jane, calling Brad “tuppence a bag” for his pigeon-attracting skills.
But I mostly just liked the episode for how it portrayed the group’s dynamic, how everyone secretly enjoys the fighting and strife because it fucks with their roles a little bit before reverting back to normal. Everyone gets to roleplay and then go back to their comfort zone. While sometimes this show’s characters can get too nasty, Penny and Dave’s behavior was the right side of mean, I thought—there wasn’t much malice behind it, even if their behavior was objectively douchey.
Plus, we had Alex to point out how bad they were being and continue on her hot streak of having some of the funniest moments of the episode. It still feels strange to sing Elisha Cuthbert’s praises, but even her reaction shots and background work were funny to me. She’s very broad, but without seeming too forced—and that’s not intended as a burn on Adam Pally’s bear routine, which was of course completely ridiculous but still just within the plausible limits of this show’s reality.
It’s hard to know what else to say except to list things that were funny. So I’ll get one more joke in for every character. Max’s finest moment was undoubtedly his two stuffed bears signed by Mandy Patinkin. Alex and Jane’s sister language, focusing around the suffix “iggity,” was great. Brad wanted to “rage-chill,” aka get caught up on Downton Abbey. Penny and Dave… well, they were kinda bummers this week. But in the right way!
So let me use the final portion of my review to second the show’s fantasy suggestion of having Clueless be added to the Criterion Collection. Perhaps Alex’s best line of the night, certainly her best line reading, was a direct quote: “I hope not sporadically!” Indeed, Alex. Indeed.
- Last year’s smackdown was over Jane grating the parmesan rind. “Well, your hair looked way better long!”
- Brad gets bro-zillian waxes and apparently sports a scro-tee.
- Alex’s Renee Zellweger impression is very similar to her drunken chipmunk impression.
- Jane’s ex-boyfriends include Jamal, Malik, and Lawindian.
- Brad misses the show Hard Copy. “It was a viable alternative to A Current Affair!”
- I forgot: Dave does have a great moment, his thigh-high leather duster.
- Brad and Jane are great at staging fights. “We’re like Don King. Except for Thrilla in Manilla it’s Thrilla in Vanilla.” “I’m vanilla!"