Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ABC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Happy Endings - Premieres April 13; CMT Cancels Working Class

Breaking In

Happy Endings - Wednesdays 10:00PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, April 13, 2010 at a special time of 9:30PM ET/PT

Forget who gets to keep the ring - when a couple splits, the real question is, who gets to keep the friends? Alex and Dave's wedding was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, for them and their long-time friends... until Alex leaves groom-to-be Dave at the altar. The breakup, in the words of one pal, is a "huge game changer" that will complicate everyone's lives and make everyone question their own choices.

Until the unhappy event, perfect couple Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton) were the glue that kept their social circle together: Alex's sister, Jane (Eliza Coupe), a suburban housewife, and her buttoned-up husband, Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), who are trying to start a family but who are so shocked by what happened they can't maintain their pre-pregnancy no-meat, no alcohol cleanse; Max (Adam Pally), their gay friend; and Penny (Casey Wilson), who worries about never finding the right guy. After the wedding fiasco, the group rallies around good guy Dave.

Alex returns, alone, and tries to explain why she broke up with Dave. Bo, the guy Dave assumes she left him for, isn't the reason for her running away. She'd been questioning her feelings for Dave for some time (probably his "romantic" gift of $40 cash for Valentine's Day didn't help), but just couldn't bring herself to hurt him. Dave points out that this is the sort of thing you discuss before the wedding.

They strike a truce, but it's not going to be easy. Now that they've split, does this group have the stuff to stay together? Or do Max, Brad, Jane and Penny have to choose sides? Suddenly every event is a negotiation. There are a lot of big questions to be answered, but these friends will eventually figure it out. Happy Endings offers a fresh and funny take on modern friendship and what one urban family will do to stay together.


Cast Details:

* Elisha Cuthbert as Alex
* Eliza Coupe as Jane
* Zachary Knighton as Dave
* Adam Pally as Max
* Damon Wayans Jr. as Brad
* Casey Wilson as Penny

Elisha Cuthbert (Alex) burst onto the American scene as Kiefer Sutherland's daughter, Kimberly Bauer, in the critically acclaimed series 24. Her portrayal earned her a nomination for a 2002 Teen Choice Award for Breakout TV Actress. She also received a 2005 SAG nomination as part of the 24 cast in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Cuthbert starred as Maxine Denver in ABC's series the forgotten, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The Canadian Cuthbert began her career in entertainment as a model at the age of seven. Soon after, she was cast as a regular in the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark? She also traveled the globe as a correspondent for the award-winning series, Popular Mechanics for Kids. On the big screen Cuthbert starred in The Six Wives of Henry LeFay, opposite Tim Allen and Jenna Elfman. Other film credits include My Sassy Girl, House of Wax, The Girl Next Door, Old School, and more.

Eliza Coupe (Jane) first got industry notice in 2006, when her hilarious and irreverent one-woman show, which she performed at UCB/NYC, was chosen to be presented at HBO's prestigious U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Soon after the festival, Coupe was cast in the feature I Think I Love My Wife, directed by and starring Chris Rock. In 2008, after a meeting with Bill Lawrence, the creator of [scrubs] she was given an 11-episode arc on the show. In 2009, when [scrubs] was renewed for a ninth season, she was added to the show as a series regular set in a med school. She will also be featured in the upcoming movie What's Your Number?, starring Anna Faris. Coupe has also guest starred on HBO's Flight of the Conchords, ABC's Samantha Who?, Fox's Unhitched and the USA Network's Royal Pains.

Zachary Knighton (Dave) starred as Dr. Bryce Varley in ABC's FLASHFORWARD last season. He also starred in the short-lived comedy Life on a Stick and has guest starred on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Law & Order, Ed and Related. In addition, he has appeared in the TV movie Sally Hemmings: An American Scandal. Knighton's feature film credits include Surfer Dude, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, The Prince and Me, opposite Julia Stiles and Miranda Richardson and directed by Martha Coolidge, Cherry Falls, with Brittany Murphy and Jay Mohr. He recently completed production on Tug, opposite Yeardley Smith.

Adam Pally (Max) has written and performed in two long running sketch comedy shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre with his sketch comedy group, Hot Sauce. Hot Sauce was an official selection and performer for the Montreal Just for Laugh's Comedy Festival in 2007. Pally has appeared in the feature films Monogamy, The Sophomore, Taking Woodstock and Solitary Man.

Damon Wayans Jr. (Brad) starred in his first major film, Dance Flick, in May 2009, a Paramount spoof that was produced, written and directed by fellow Wayans funny men. In 2005 Wayans followed in his father's (Damon Wayans Sr.) comedic footsteps and braved the world of stand-up under the pseudonym Kyle Green. He appeared alongside his father in the Showtime television series The Underground (2006) and served as a writer on that sketch comedy series. He performed in a few bit roles on his dad's ABC comedy My Wife and Kids, and later landed a job as staff writer on the series at the age of only 20. In January 2008, Wayans was featured on HBO's Def Comedy Jam. Other recent roles include voicing the character of Thunder in the action digital animation film, Marmaduke, as well as the comedy/action film The Other Guys, co-starring Will Farrell, Eva Mendez and Mark Wahlberg.

Casey Wilson (Penny) was a featured player on Saturday Night Live. Her film credits include Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration, Nora Ephron's Julie and Julia, and the Lionsgate comedy Killers, starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, directed by Robert Luketic. Her other TV credits include the Fox sketch comedy pilot, The Right Now Show, by Comedy Death Ray creators Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter, and MTV's Human Giant, as well as voice work on the animated series Glenn Martin, DDS for Nick at Nite and guest starring on Retired at 35 pilot for TV Land.


Pilot Plot:

We were given three of the first four episodes that are airing for review--the pilot and the third and fourth episodes airing.

#1 "Pilot" (#100, Airs April 13, 2011)
Forget who gets to keep the ring - when a couple splits, the real question is, who gets to keep the friends? Alex and Dave's wedding was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, for them and their long-time friends... until Alex leaves groom-to-be Dave at the altar. The breakup, in the words of one pal, is a "huge game changer" that will complicate everyone's lives and make everyone question their own choices.

Guest starring are Mikaela Hoover as Jackie, Ryan Sypek as Todd and Travis Van Winkle as Bo.
"Pilot" was written by David Caspe and directed by Anthony & Joe Russo.

#3 "Your Couples Friends & Neighbor" (#108, Airs April 20, 2011)
Jane insists that she and Brad befriend a sophisticated couple, Dianne and Carl (guest stars Danielle Schneider, Brett Gelman), but Brad resists the idea. Max and Dave can't figure out why food and other things are disappearing from their apartment. Alex confides to Max that Dave walks and eats in his sleep, but the truth is far stranger. Meanwhile, Alex starts dating a cute artist (Michael Mosley) she just happens to meet hanging around Max and Dave's place.

Guest starring are Brett Gelman as Carl, Jim Hazelton as Clark, Danielle Schneider as Dianne and Michael Mosley as Malcolm.
"Your Couples Friends & Neighbor" was written by Josh Bycel and directed by Fred Savage.

#4 "Mein Coming Out" (#107, Airs April 27, 2011)
The gang tries to convince Max to come out to his parents (guest stars Alan Rachins and Caroline Aaron) when the two visit Chicago and Max has to scramble yet again to get one of the ladies to pose as his girlfriend. Meanwhile Penny meets the man of her dreams, Doug. He's good looking, funny, successful... and he's got a rather "infamous" last name.

Guest starring are Caroline Aaron as Pauline Blum, Greg Cromer as Doug Hitler, and Alan Rachins as Howard Blum. Co-starring are Nathan Barnatt as Roger, Jonathan Emerson as Preston and Matthew Rocheleau as waiter.
"Mein Coming Out" was written by Gail Lerner and directed by Jeff Melman.


Analysis:

This comedy has an interesting premise. It starts off with a wedding and a runaway bride, but that's not funny as you know. The funny comes what happens after that. In this comedy, we have a group of six friends that consists of two sisters, an interracial couple, a gay man, and a heart-broken man who was going to marry one of the sisters. That's not your ordinary style of friends, but who said there are rules on who should be your friends? This comedy is in the vein of some past short-lived ABC sitcoms like Notes from the Underbelly, Big Day, but also very comparable to the hit comedy Cougar Town and even [scrubs]. This show so far is clearly better than Notes from the Underbelly & Big Day, and will be very compatible with Cougar Town, which will be leading into the show in its regular time.

Anyway, on to some analysis of the three episodes I saw. They are all good! The pilot sets it up well and we get to know the characters very well. Elisha Cuthbert plays the lead role of Alex, who is the runaway bride leaving Zachary Knighton's Dave character at the altar. What happens after that changes everything for this group of six friends. Will things ever be the same again? Alex and Dave's friends try to get things back to normal during Penny's "30th" (or should we say, 26th?) birthday party. Alex and Penny are sisters, but there isn't much mention of it. Things don't go too well at the party, but a lot of funny comes up and the pilot ends on a sweet note. Damon Wayans, Jr. plays the role of Brad, who is married to Jane, played by Eliza Coupe. Wayans is the spitting image of his father and is very funny here. Eliza Coupe who played Dr. Denise "Jo from Facts of Life" Mahoney during the final years of [scrubs] has great lines and plays off well with Wayans. The sixth friend is Max, played by Adam Pally, and he is gay and delivers hilarious smart lines.

The second episode airing was not available for review, but it airs immediately after the pilot at 10pm at its normal time. I'll be sitting in front of my TV waiting for it! We did get episodes three and four which air the next two weeks (April 20 and 27). Both episodes expand on the pilot and bring out the funny! In episode three, Jane wants Brad to be friends with a sophisticated couple, but Brad resists the idea. But the better plot in the episode is someone is staying in Max and Dave's apartment (in the ceiling!) because food and other things go missing and they can't figure out why they are disappearing. Michael Mosley guest stars playing a mysterious person that Alex goes out with...until Dave and Max find out. Mosley starred with Coupe on [scrubs], but they don't have many scenes on this together after playing a couple on [scrubs]. The fourth episode airing is probably the best one (but I really like the third one a lot too). In this episode, everyone tries to convince Max to come out to his parents but he gets one of the ladies to pose as his girlfriend. Oh boy do we get funny stuff here. And the second storyline is about Penny meeting a man with an "infamous" last name. I won't give much away, but this show is just smartly written. It has the silly factor like Cougar Town and [scrubs] and heck even similar to Friends. It could probably be the new single camera Friends, but this show has a lot of heart, too, and that is always a good thing in comedy.


Conclusion:

The story lines are fresh, smart, and funny! All six characters are unique and in terms of quality, is the best friendship-Friends-like comedy since that show. The cast is all young, so it should fit well with the young-skewing Cougar Town. Elisha Cuthbert is not only attractive with nice beach blonde hair, but I never knew her voice was so intriguing. You can listen to it all day and not be tired of it. I can't explain it, but it's enduring, innocent and sexy at the same time. Penny and Max are probably the funniest on the show and steal all the scenes they are in! But all six actors are exceptional here and are great in their roles. Each character gets to shine in these three episodes that I see, so don't just base it on the pilot and don't come back. Sampling is more than just one episode, and the reward for watching at least three or four episodes will be fulfilling because it is REALLY funny.

After a special preview airing after Modern Family, the series will air at 10pm following Cougar Town. It will get sampled tomorrow for the premiere and should do well. I hope viewers stick after that, but having the compatible Cougar Town as a lead-in is a plus. Happy Endings should win its 10pm half-hour each week in adults 18-49 (opposite crime dramas). 13 episodes have been produced, but seven are scheduled to air this season. Should the show do well, you'll see the remaining six likely added on to the second season order. I think ABC made the right move putting this in the 10pm slot...it should do better than The Whole Truth or Off the Map and fits like a glove with Cougar Town. More comedy is always a good thing! Should it hit, ABC could possibly pair those comedies in the 10pm hour next fall...but that's thinking way too ahead. For now watch these six friends figure out what to do when a big change happens. It's the best Friends-like comedy since Friends and it goes even beyond Friends with even smarter dialogue (wow, that sentence had three Friends mentions). Let's hope it can find an audience, because it won't disappoint.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Pavan on 04/12/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, April 13 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Happy Endings Photo Gallery

    Preview:



    In some sad news, CMT has canceled original sitcom Working Class after just one season. The sitcom aired on Friday nights at 8pm on CMT for 10 weeks of 12 episodes. Unfortunately the ratings were not too good, but we really liked the sitcom and will miss it. The series' first episode did decent but from there it seemed to have gone down. Melissa Peterman and the legendary Ed Asner were great in it. CMT released the following statement on Facebook: "Unfortunately, CMT will not be pursuing a second season of Working Class. We're sad to see it go, but you can still catch Melissa Peterman in new episodes of The Singing Bee" (which premieres this Friday).
    The series followed Carli Mitchell (Melissa Peterman), a single mom from a rough and tumble background, trying to give her three kids a better life by moving them to an upscale suburb. She quickly finds that making the transition to "the good life" is harder than she thought. She's unwittingly befriended by her cranky neighbor, Hank (Ed Asner), her only "career" prospect is a glorified deli job at the local grocery store, and the man she falls for not only already has a girlfriend - but he's also her boss, Rob (Patrick Fabian). With her ladies-man brother, Nick (Steve Kazee), to help her out (when he's not acting like one of the kids himself), Carli faces the challenges of parenting, dating, and making friends in her new community by doing more with less, staying true to herself and approaching each day with a touch of working class.

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