In its first season, Happy Endings did two quite successful parents episodes, first with Max finally coming out to his folks (which was the right amount of sweet) and then with Damon Wayans (really, the only choice for the role) showing up to play Brad’s dad. Megan Mullally as Penny’s mom makes total sense, but I found her character and plot a little underwhelming, even though Casey Wilson and Mullally were obviously having tons of fun singing at each other.
Dana Hartz just felt like a character I’ve seen a bunch of times before: a failed, but upbeat cabaret singer who swans around in robes and encourages everyone to act on their dreams and is obviously covering up some deeper, hidden pain that we’re gonna need to confront by the end of our 22 minutes. Mullally’s a total pro, and she might be more fun on return visits, but that closing performance of “Torn” really should have knocked it out of the park and instead it felt a bit obvious. They’re both good singers, though!
The rest of “Yesandwitch” was a lot better, though. Brad and Jane’s couples improv class is something that needs to be brought back, because it brings out their competitive spirit against each other and against everyone else, and it also motivates them to do really dumb things like fool people into going on Max’s limo tours of Chicago in which he says the Sears Tower has the nickname of the Beers Tower because everyone has to buy him a beer.
Plus, what did I say last week? Max and his limo are going to make for great plots all season. I still laugh at the sight of him in his driver’s cap. I also like episodes that crack his blustery surface, and Dana’s simple but effective put-down about him being single and alone at 50 was terrific in how rapidly despondent he got, quickly telling everyone to cancel the roast he wanted them to do. “It’s in the works,” Brad says, and I hope he’s not kidding.
Alex and Dave were very much secondary players in this one, both completely acting the fool. Alex’s neck is fixed in place all episode because she uses a dumb neck-exerciser; Dave gets into his 1/16th Navajo heritage by buying a fringe jacket and renaming his steak sandwich truck after an actual sand witch (“She who buries her victims in the many dunes”). Both characters have definitely been more cartoonish this year, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good to not have Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert shoulder the show so much, but it probably needs some grounding to keep it from getting too zany. As I write this, though, I am remembering that Alex was the voice of reason in last week’s episode, so I’m not too worried.
In other news, I’m happy to see Happy Endings keep up its roster of fun side-characters. There’s a brief, amusing glimpse of Scott (the amazing Seth Morris) on Max’s tour, freaking out the tourists with lines like, “I bet if you put your ear to the ground, you can still her the screams of victims who are begging God for death.” He was very funny as the guy in Max’s anti-coffee shop ring last season who was prone to excessive violence. I hear that other great guests from last season like Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer wil also be back this year, which is great. This show obviously has deep roots in the LA alt-comedy crowd, and tapping them as much as possible is a wise move.
In all, not quite as strong an effort as the first two but this show still feels like How I Met Your Mother’s early years to me. Even in the shakier episodes, there are enough laughs per minute to keep everything going. Now, just keep watching, youngsters! We don’t want ABC bumping these guys to a lesser timeslot.
- Megan Mullally almost seemed too young to be playing Casey Wilson’s mom, but I looked her up, and she’s 52 (Wilson’s 30). She looks pretty terrific for 52.
- Penny’s pitch for the neckerciser: “Bye-bye, muffin neck! You'll be thanking me come V-neck season.” Dave: “V-neck season is year-round.”
- Max hates that tourists crowd his breakfast joint. “Tourists ruin everything. This place, the Vatican…”
- Happy for the Gilmore Girls shout-out, especially Brad’s detailed knowledge about Lorelai working at the inn with Sookie St. James.
- “You can't have pork and steak in the same meal; you're not the king of England.”
- Max’s price scheme: “60 bucks a head, 80 if your head is larger.”
- Dave’s jacket comes with a story. “Each fringe is a tribe, each bead, a white man's broken promise. Plus, it's reversible.”
- Brad wants to call his boat the Yeah Buoy, or perhaps Buoys on the Side, or Let’s Hear it for the Buoys.
- Jane is Max’s Wayne Brady; Brad wants to be Ryan Stiles, not Greg Proops.
- Penny tells Max he’s an acquired taste, “Like goat cheese, or Mr. Bean.” “Mr. Bean?” “It's on the fly.”