After a not-so-happy beginning, getting plopped onto the midseason schedule last year alongside a host of other “Friends” clones, ABC’s “Happy Endings” has improbably blossomed into one of TV’s funniest sitcoms, boasting a rock-solid cast with chemistry to spare. And now that they’ve been picked up for a third season, the cast can afford to sit back and laugh a little – which they did plenty of last night at a screening and panel discussion for Emmy voters.
Five of the six main cast members were in attendance (minus Elisha Cuthbert), along with creator David Caspe and executive producer Jonathan Groff. And if any show could use a little Emmys love to boost its profile, it’s this one. In fact, we’ll make it easy for all you Emmy voters out there: Write Adam Pally (Max) and Casey Wilson (Penny) on your ballot in pen for as long as the show is on the air; pencil in TV’s best married couple, Eliza Coupe (Jane) and Damon Wayans Jr. (Brad), when you can; and heck, if you have room, throw in Zachary Knighton (Dave) and Cuthbert (Alex), too. They’re all a-mah-zing, really.
As you might expect from a cast full of comedians, last night’s panel was a pretty riotous affair, with jokes flying back and forth in rapid-fire “Endings” style; frequent targets included Wayans’ peach-colored skinny jeans and Knighton’s new ‘70s-style mustache. Even the TV academy’s chairs didn’t escape unscathed; Pally cracked, “These chairs are enormous… are you doing a ‘Biggest Loser’ panel after this?”
It was tough to wade through all the punchlines, but here are some of the best nuggets we picked up last night:
- Though they’re riding a wave of critical buzz, the “Endings” crew still feels like an underdog, and they are stuck in a tough timeslot next season: Tuesdays at 9 PM, opposite Fox’s not-dissimilar hit “New Girl.” (When Pally noted that there were a lot of empty seats in the audience, he added, “I guess the other half of the academy is at a ‘New Girl’ panel.”) But Wilson thinks the rough road has only made the show stronger: “We’ve always had to try really hard, and that’s made us better, in a weird way.”
- With a show like this, chemistry is everything, and the “Endings” cast is blessed in that department; it really feels like these characters have been hanging out together for years. Some of that comes from experience; Pally and Wilson actually knew each other from comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade before the show started. But Groff thinks that chemistry is what’s kept the show alive: “ABC saw this cast and saw that there’s something going on here that’s really special, to have six people who are really gorgeous and super funny. It’s really rare. I think it’s what saved us.” (“Well, it’s not the writers,” Pally couldn’t help adding.)
See some of that vaunted chemistry in action in this "Happy Endings" clip:
- Some of the actors’ real-life traits do find their way into the “Endings” scripts; for example, Knighton is in fact a big fan of V-neck T-shirts, as is his character, Dave. But Pally makes a point of saying that the comparisons do stop at a certain point: “All six [of our characters] are terrible people. It would be bad if we were all really schemers and deadbeats.”
- When we left the “Endings” gang at the end of Season 2, it looked like the formerly engaged Dave and Alex might be headed for a romantic reunion. Groff says that plotline will definitely play itself out when Season 3 starts: “We’ll start out where we left off last season.” Knighton likes Single Dave, though; he thinks it’s “funny when Dave dates weirdo chicks.” But he also leaves the door open for Dave and Penny: “Friendships always have those ‘what if’s.” He even threw out that “Dave could be a polygamist,” with Caspe adding, “You keep pitching that.” (Nice try, Zach.)
- Groff revealed that there’s an unaired “Happy Endings” episode floating out there somewhere, one he refers to as “the hidden, phantom episode,” in which Penny has a romantic encounter with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (playing himself). Note to the good folks at Hulu: Get this thing up online, stat. It’s summer; we have nothing else to watch, anyway.
- Another Season 3 plotline to look for: Brad is now unemployed, after getting fired in the Season 2 finale. Groff says he’s interested in “seeing Brad rattled and off his game.” But don’t look for Brad and Jane to use all that free time to start procreating; when the idea of kids was brought up, Wayans shot it down. “Babies aren’t funny, and they get ugly around age 6.” That led to an extended “Cosby Show” riff by Pally: “Rudy got so ugly, they had to bring in Raven-Symone.” (Our apologies to Keshia Knight Pulliam, who is really quite lovely these days.)
- Pally’s least favorite episode? Season 2’s “The Butterfly Effect Effect,” which saw Max transform into a hibernating “Bear Max” to cope with a long, cold Chicago winter. “I hated that episode,” Pally confesses -- mostly because he didn’t have any lines. “I realized that a true actor doesn’t need words… and that I am not a true actor.” But Pally still says he’s up for reprising his silent role as Bear Max next season: “It’s my ‘Artist.’”