“Happy Endings” – Fowl Play/Date episode review 2

Penny (Casey Wilson) and Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) try to hide the death of Alex's (Elisha Cuthbert) parrot.

Penny (Casey Wilson) and Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) try to hide the death of Alex’s (Elisha Cuthbert) parrot.

★★★★½

It’s the final countdown, but with less euphoric cheers and sing-a-longs. Instead it appears as if Happy Endings is heading into their final sprint and ABC is doing everything they can to disprove that.

How long has Two and a Half Men persistently poisoned the quality of television? How much longer will The Big Bang Theory be pushed until there are no longer any “nerd” jokes they can make at nerds’ expense? Why, and I recognize the bias in my statement, do some shows fair so much better with such weaker material? Is it because the laugh cues are provided? Is it because they appeal to a broader audience? Or maybe it’s because audiences simply enjoy easy laughs. Why do some shows succeed while shows such as Happy Endings and Community suffer? Because a heads up to those of you who haven’t caught on, they are.

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As of now Happy Endings will be releasing two episodes per week. One on Sundays at 10pm (a death slot) and the other at regular time on Tuesday nights at 9pm, and I’m assuming there are many fans who aren’t aware of this since ABC did very little to promote the fact. This isn’t a good thing. The ratings have dropped even after following a stellar second season and rather than rally around it and market their show, ABC is quite literally running them into the ground by rushing all of the episodes.

Don’t be surprised if by the end of season three you hear that showrunner David Caspe and crew won’t be retuning for a fourth. So is show business.

Moping aside, this was a very strong episode to return with and probably the one that has made me laugh the most this season.

Brad and Penny kill Alex’s racist parrot with glue fumes while she’s at a Rom Com Con, Dave and Jane set up Max with two different guys as a competition to see who has the better pick, and the script manages to inject so many sex jokes into the half-hour runtime that I’d have been surprised to see it at the regular time slot. Only this show, right?

My main concern is why we haven’t seen more of these pairings? Because they work perfectly. Brad and Penny are bird-sitting for Alex as she jets away to her Romantic Comedy convention dressed as Diane Keaton from Annie Hall. They’ve managed to break an old plate of hers that she made as a kid. While they’re fixing it the glue fumes get potent and just as they turn around, the parrot keels over dead. Penny and Brad must afterword deviate a plan that will explain the bird’s mysterious death.

It’s the duo’s physicality that nails their scenes. Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans Jr. both excel at physical humor and in Wilson’s case, as long as it’s dialed back, it’s perfect for the characters. They’re wonderfully in tune with the other’s motions and they manipulate their faces and voices for the greater comedic effect. Between the two, surprisingly, Brad manages to mellow Penny’s hysterics out despite him being a heightened personality as well.

They finally come to the conclusion that they must fake his death by setting it up to look like he fell out of his window and couldn’t save himself because of his clipped wings. They leave a trail of feathers to the window and knock the window out before throwing the parrot out as well. It’s absurd but they believe it should work, because it’s Alex.

Jane and Dave are dealing with something a little more problematic considering it’s Max. He’s been down lately and they decide that they will both pick out a guy for Max to date. What starts out as some sort of mark of friendship quickly derails into yet another competition involving Jane.

They tell Max their plans and realizing the sorry state of his life, he agrees. The next day, however, when they ask him to recount his night he tells them that the dates were terrible. We’re treated to a flashback first with Dave’s pick, a Dave lookalike holding a guitar and singing about John Mayer. The next flashback to Jane’s pick shows a man with shorts resembling Jane’s as he hands over a laminated menu. Not great picks, he says.

He does tell them though that afterwards he met a really great guy who bartends and shares so many things in common, such as their love for Ryan Reynolds but hate for Ryan Reynolds movies (well put Max.) Although they want Max to be happy, they also wanted to win, so Dave and Jane devise yet another plan to get Max to choose.

This is another example of odd pairings that work. Both characters have very particular character ticks, both are high maintenance, a little odd, and both actors have certain ways of embodying and portraying their characters. Poor Zachary Knighton is always good and often times funny but the boring character he’s typically has to work with does him no favors. In this episode though, his entire character worked perfectly. Knighton and Eliza Coupe share a surprising rapport, both characters high strung and both actors going full throttle into playing them.

They end up sabotaging Max’s date and Marcus the boy he was meeting leaves angrily. Max gets angry at the two and tells them that the guys they picked for him are essentially carbon copies of themselves and he would never be attracted to anyone like them.

After finding her parrot dead, Alex waits for a bird autopsy and throws a funeral, inviting the bird as well as her own friends to come.

It all comes to a head as only an episode of this show can.

Jane and Dave confront Max who tells them he wouldn’t have even shown if he didn’t like funeral food so much. They tell them that they’re really sorry and that they tried chasing down his date to explain what happened but it ended rather hostile. Still, the act remains and Max tells them that he didn’t mean to blow up at them the day before. It’s as close to a sincere moment that we’ll get on the show and it’s much appreciated.

Then, Alex gathers everyone around as she prepares to give a eulogy. Feeling guilty, Brad and Penny confess their indiscretions. Alex who believed it had been her fight with the bird that lead to his untimely end (she believed he’d committed suicide) is furious and begins to read the autopsy report. As she looks for any indicators for glue fumes she reads about organs shutting down, liver failure. Apparently, the bird died from alcohol poisoning and this knowledge comes to them just as a picture of the two sharing margaritas pops up onto the memorial projector.

And everything is wrapped up nicely.

There are many reasons this episode worked so well.

There was the pop culture reference to Annie Hall that I know I appreciated. There was the wonderful mixing of character pairings which many shows are nervous to do. Once a show finds a pairing, a chemistry that works they’re typically hesitant at leaving the comfort of said pairing. Why this show works is because every grouping shares an interesting quality. Penny and Brad are similar in the way they move and act due to Wilson and Wayans’ demeanors, Dave and Jane work because their characters are both high strung and the writers use those personality traits as ways to make jokes about them, Max and Alex are both ditzy in their own right and yet super intelligent about what they find fascinating. It’s an interesting group of characters with strong personalities that as a unit just work.

It also helps that this episode was just plain funny. As I mentioned before there were the countless sex jokes that they managed to squeeze past censorship. There was Brad being slapped by Penny repeatedly for failing to follow instruction. There was the cartoonish bird cutout in the window that Brad believes would be sufficient in fooling Alex.

Dave got to be the hipster bro character who loves Jack Johnson and John Mayer un-ironically while Jane got to be the Type A personality.

This is simply put, a very good episode and in noting that, how sad is it once again that it might not be around for too much longer. This is an intelligent show. It doesn’t simply pander to a wide reaching audience, but rather treats their viewers like intelligent ones. It isn’t mindless entertainment because they don’t want it to be, but neither is it super dramatic and thought-provoking. It has a very particular audience of whom all appreciate the high quality work that the show continues to provide week after week and will now be two times a week.

We’ll have to see what happens in the following episodes. Will the ratings begin to grow as fans rally behind their show? Or since it doesn’t have the cult following of shows such as Fringe or Community will it fall by the wayside with barely a last hurrah?

We’ll have to wait and seem but for now, at least it’s still providing some greatly hilarious episodes.