Review by Kara Gheldof

Dave and Alex were supposed to be married. The ceremony had begun, all their friends and family were gathered around… and then Alex got cold feet and ran off with some guy on roller blades, leaving her would-be husband at the altar. As their friend Max would say, “This is a classic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl to guy on roller blades, boy becomes biggest YouTube sensation since kitten stuck in tuba.”

This was, of course, just the beginning of ABC’s sophomore comedy, Happy Endings, which finishes off the network’s Wednesday night sitcom block, just after the critically acclaimed Modern Family.

Flying just under the radar, Happy Endings managed—to everyone’s complete surprise—to secure a second season and subsequently earned a second chance to find an audience. Even main cast member Damon Wayans Jr., the breakout star with comedic acting in his blood (his father, Damon Wayans Sr., even guest starred in season one as his character’s father) joined Zooey Deschanel’s new show, New Girl, then had to drop out when his previous gig was unexpectedly renewed.

No one thought this Little Show That Could would get that much-deserved second chance, but audiences should be grateful that it did because it is, in every respect, a delightful romp. The premise may seem tired—six friends entering their thirties drink a lot, date nutjobs, and hate their actual jobs—and indeed it might be hard to pick it out from a lineup if you only glance at the surface (comparisons to NBC’s long-lived Friends are hard to ignore, especially given that both begin with a runaway bride and proceed from there), but if you dismiss it with all the other shows in its genre, that’s where your first mistake lies. Happy Endings is a show that is not to be ignored.

Its charm lies chiefly with the characters. Dave and Alex (played by FlashForward’s Zachary Knighton and 24’s Elisha Cuthbert, perhaps better known as Jack Bauer’s troubled daughter) might have parted ways after their failed nuptials, if not for their mutual friends, who can’t choose sides in the breakup. There’s controlling mother hen, Jane (Eliza Coupe, who was the only good thing to come out of the failed, reinvented final season of Scrubs), her dorky husband Brad, played by the aforementioned Wayans, Penny (Casey Wilson), an optimistic, high maintenance ray of sunshine, and sarcastic, non-stereotypical gay guy, Max (newcomer Adam Pally), whose misanthropic and hedonistic cynicism make him a chronic scene stealer.

The characters are what work best on this show, and the writers allow plenty of opportunities for these six people to intertwine. So far, there has yet to be a combination of characters that does not have chemistry together; try any pairing out and it magically works. This is clearly a project that the actors are having fun with, and that enthusiasm is infectious. It’s impossible to watch this show without smiling. If you don’t believe that, go ahead and see for yourself.

© Kara Gheldof, 2011