'Happy Endings': Friday Night's Alright for Laughing (We Hope)
Asking an actor how they feel about their TV show moving to Friday nights is a bit like asking a kid how he feels about the sweater Grandma knitted for his birthday: "No, it's great! Really! I love it!"
Sadly, ABC's criminally underrated comedy "Happy Endings" has been saddled with the TV equivalent of Grandma's sweater. Starting this week, it's been relegated to the Friday night graveyard, land of creaky procedurals and cheap reality fluff. It's the show's fourth night in less than a year, and ABC is promoting the move with a bizarre "Save 'Happy Endings'" campaign (no, ABC, you save "Happy Endings"!), meaning if ratings don't magically skyrocket on Fridays, this third season might be the last we see of the "Endings" gang.
But the cast is putting on a brave face. During a recent set visit, they did their best to be diplomatic about the move -- well, all except Adam Pally (Max), who didn't sugarcoat it: "I'm nervous about the move… Fridays at 8 is a hard place to score numbers for a show as edgy and funny as ours." (What, "Full House" wasn't edgy?)
Luckily, all that edginess and funniness has won "Endings" a very loyal following, and with good reason. The cast's chemistry is impeccable, a uniformly strong sextet that only gets funnier when they're all riffing off each other in the same room. "When you get us all in a scene together, it's like taking six rubber balls and throwing them in a box," Elisha Cuthbert (Alex) says. "It's just chaotic, and it's fun to watch."
Damon Wayans Jr. (Brad) is trying to embrace the new time slot, harkening back to the good old days of ABC's "TGIF": "We should dress up as all those old shows: 'Family Matters,' 'Full House'… I'll be the Olsen twins." But he adds with a smile, "The fans follow us everywhere." And the cast is extremely grateful for that die-hard fanbase. As Casey Wilson (Penny) puts it, "I just think if you're watching the show in any capacity, God bless you, God love you, and you're a visionary."
And that's the bottom line here: "Happy Endings" is still ah-mah-zing, and there's plenty of great stuff still to come this season. In fact, the cast teased out ten plotlines for us to look forward to, starting with tonight's back-to-back episodes. Here's the rundown… and if this truly is the end for "Endings," at least it's going out in a blaze of glory, right?
When Max can't stop himself from texting a guy he likes, Penny teaches him a little trick she picked up: Take a swig of a black-market cough suppressant called NocheTussin and pass out. That way, you don't text them and you gain the upper hand in the relationship. But the story turns a little dark, according to Wilson: "Max and Penny just become addicts and are sleeping all the time just in order to not text guys." Wait, you mean chugging cough syrup has a downside?
Alex, the scholar? Yes, our dimwitted Alex swears off any and all trash TV to get smarter… and it actually works! But Zachary Knighton (Dave) says her enlightenment isn't exactly well-received: "I think Dave has a view that he is a lot smarter than he is… so he gets upset when Alex tries to actually better herself and read more books." Even a single book would be a big improvement for Alex, don't you think?
Brace yourself: Max decides to bat for the other team and (gasp) date a girl. Yes, with lady parts and everything. But of course, he has an ulterior motive: He's dating her because she has season tickets to the Chicago Bulls. (We knew there had to be a self-serving reason.) As far as Max's love life in general this season, Pally says we'll see Max "screwing and getting screwed over… Max is versatile."
We're already quite familiar with Megan Mullally as Penny's mom, and later this season, we finally get to meet her dad, played by Conan sidekick Andy Richter. According to Wilson, "he's a sad version of a deadbeat dad… a failed musical-theater actor. I think Penny wishes at least if he had left her, he would've had more success." But the family resemblance is uncanny, she says: "We both have such round faces. We look exactly alike!" And since Dad is a theater junkie, don't be shocked to hear the reunited Hartz family belt out yet another musical number.
More family members coming to town this season: "Law & Order: SVU" veteran Stephanie March will guest star as Alex and Jane's older sister. (Yes, there's a third Kerkovich sister out there.) And if you can believe it, she's so Type A, she makes uptight Jane look like easy-going Alex -- a frightening thought indeed. Eliza Coupe (Jane) says once you meet the eldest Kerkovich sister, "it makes a lot of sense why Jane is the way she is."
Mark-Paul Gosselaar returns as Max's super-cool roommate Chase, but it's not a friendly reunion. If you recall, when last we saw Chase, he swore he was going to ruin Max’s life. Pally says the joke's on him, though: "It's hard to ruin someone's life who ruins their own life every day. There's nothing really to ruin." Meanwhile, Dave is still nursing a serious man-crush on Chase, and Knighton hints he might even betray his pals for him: "I think Dave is so enthralled by Chase, he would probably join Chase's side if it came down to it."
Would you like to see a musical written and performed by Penny about her epic tragedy of a love life? Of course you would! And the other guys pitch in on the production, too; Wilson hints, "Brad and Dave don't want her to do it at first, but end up somehow auditioning for it." And more good news: Stephen Guarino is back as Penny's extra-flamboyant gay friend, Derrick. "It felt like we were doing summer stock," Wilson says of the musical. "The sets were so sad, and Derrick was doing an old-timey accent."
Dave gets embroiled in a heated food-truck rivalry when Steak Me Home Tonight faces serious competition from a Brazilian food truck. And the plot thickens when Max gets swept up in a "Romeo and Juliet"-style forbidden romance with the son of the rival truck owner. Don't expect this to be a happily-ever-after for Max, though: "I don't see Max dating a Brazilian guy who doesn't know anything about baseball," Pally notes.
One more guest star to look for: The inimitable RuPaul takes a break from showing "Drag Racers" how to work it and guest stars as Jane and Alex's hairdresser, who Max turns to in a fit of desperation. "Max is having trouble finding a hairstyle that suits him. He's also too lazy and poor to afford a cut," Pally hints. "So he goes to Jane and Alex's stylist and they hit it off." Naturally. But the new friendship leads to a Kerkovich feud when the hairdresser tells Max about all the horrible things Jane and Alex say about each other at the salon. Sounds like the words "Oh no, she dinnit!" will be uttered at some point.
Finally, Max discovers his inner Miss America and enters a local gay beauty pageant -- in order to win a little prize money, of course. "There's a talent competition and a strength competition and a Q&A," Pally says. "And Max fails all of them miserably." And what is Max's talent, exactly? The cast isn't telling, but Wilson will say that his routine is "the most insane thing I've ever seen as a person on this earth. It was shocking, it made me angry, it made me excited… every emotion is felt when you see what Adam is wearing. It's very upsetting." Pally does give us a hint: "Remember the third 'Batman,' with Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face? Imagine Two-Face, but way gayer."
Watch highlights from Mark-Paul Gosselaar's first stop on "Happy Endings":
"Happy Endings" returns Friday, 3/29 at 8 PM on ABC.