It doesn't top the ratings. It's never been nominated for an Emmy. Heck, it's not even the buzziest young-adult comedy in its own timeslot. (Curse you, Zooey Deschanel.) But ABC's hugely enjoyable "Happy Endings," entering its third season this week, deserves all of those accolades… and your attention. With an air-tight comedic ensemble and an onslaught of jokes that come so fast you'll need to rewind twice to catch them all, we're ready to call "Endings" the most underrated comedy anywhere on TV.
We admit it: We didn't even want to watch "Happy Endings" at first. Debuting in April 2011 amid a slew of similar "Friends" knockoffs, it looked to us like just another late-season burn-off destined for the TV scrap heap. But when we finally sat down to watch it, we couldn't stop laughing. And quoting it. And telling everyone we knew to watch it. The good news is, even if you've never seen "Endings" before, you can jump right into this week's Season 3 premiere and join the fun. In fact, we have five reasons why you should do just that… and help us get "Happy Endings" from "underrated" to "rated," at least.
The cast's chemistry is top-notch
Chemistry: It's what separates the great sitcoms ("Seinfeld," "Friends") from the not-so-great ones (all the shows that tried to imitate "Seinfeld" and "Friends"). And the six members of the "Happy Endings" crew have chemistry to burn; if you told us the cast all went to high school together and have known each other for years, we'd believe it. Adam Pally and former "SNL"-er Casey Wilson get all the best lines (and merit serious Emmy consideration) as sloppy gay slacker Max and his terminally single BFF Penny, respectively. But they don't run away with the show; the other four actors get plenty of opportunity to shine, too.
We'll get to Damon Wayans Jr. (Brad) and Eliza Coupe (Jane) in a minute, because they deserve their own mention, but let's talk about Elisha Cuthbert (Alex) and Zachary Knighton (Dave). "Endings" began with Alex leaving Dave at the altar, and at first, these two seemed destined to be the show's unfunny straight men. But even they've been allowed to let loose and get wacky as the series has developed, what with Dave's addiction to V-neck T-shirts and Alex's insatiable love of ribs. Now all six actors have their quippy banter down to a science… and it's a blast to watch every week.
Get a taste of that chemistry with this full episode of "Happy Endings":
It piles jokes on top of jokes on top of jokes
We've never seen an actual "Happy Endings" script, but we imagine it must be at least twice as long as other sitcom scripts. The "Endings" cast rattles off their lines in hyper-caffeinated "Gilmore Girls"-esque fashion, talking over each other and cramming multiple punchlines into each minute of screen time. (DVRing is an absolute must with this show; there's no way you'll catch all the laughs in a single viewing.)
This machine-gun spray of jokes recalls the heyday of "30 Rock" (back when it was still great) and "Arrested Development" (back when it was still on). But actually, now that we think about it, those shows never did all that great in the ratings, either. Are TV viewers just put off by rapid-fire dialogue like this? "These people talk too fast! And where's the laugh track? How am I supposed to know when to laugh?" Well, anyway, we appreciate it… even if America doesn't.
Jane and Brad: Our favorite TV marriage
Let's face it: Married couples on TV are usually a drag, either bickering incessantly or complaining about how boring and lame their lives have become. But "Happy Endings'" husband and wife, Jane and Brad, might actually be the weirdest two people in this bunch. Jane's the ultimate Type-A overachiever who can't stand to lose at anything, and Brad's a proud metrosexual who loves nothing more than tearing up at a good romantic comedy. Together, they're somehow a perfect match -- and unlike most TV married couples, they're still way hot for each other's bods. If they gave out an Emmy for Best Married Couple (aka The Coach and Tami Taylor Memorial Trophy), we'd be pulling for Coupe and Wayans to take it home this year.
They know how to coin a catchphrase
"Ah-mah-zing." "This sooks." Yes, the "Happy Endings" gang speaks a language all their own… and this montage of the show's best abbreviations and catchphrases illustrates this better than our words ever could:
We love all the pop-culture references
It's easy to imagine viewers in another country, or from another era, watching "Happy Endings" and being utterly confused by what these people are talking about. But for those of us living in America in 2012, it's a pleasure to pick out all the nods to our popular culture the gang peppers into their dialogue. Especially when they come in rapid succession, like when the gang made fun of Dave's perm by saying he looked like "Keri Russell after she ruined 'Felicity,'" "John McEnroe's sister," and "Temple Grandin." It's probably not humanly possible to catch every reference "Happy Endings" throws out each episode… but we look forward to another season of trying to keep up. (Or five more seasons. Please?)
Season 3 of "Happy Endings" premieres Tuesday, 10/23 at 9 PM on ABC.