We have made it no secret that Happy Endings is one of our favorite comedies on television right now (actually, with Community still on hiatus, it is probably our *most* favorite comedy on television, literally right now). The underrated gem has won our hearts with its colorful cast of characters, ridiculously quotable original lexicon, crazy creative props, and yes, even if unintentional, callbacks to Friends.
"It’s mostly the nature of the genre, and the fact that I think all of us, to some degree, have that show in our DNA because that show was such a landmark show and on for so many years, they did just about everything," Happy Endings executive producer Jonathan Groff said to LA TV Insider Examiner about recent storyline similarities to that "little" sitcom about six friends that predated his own.
"There have been a few things where we said ‘If Friends did this, we have this new way of doing the story so we still can do it'."
The recent episode, "Fowl Play/Date," was one example, in which Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) each wanted to set up Max (Adam Pally) with a guy they thought was the perfect guy. A key season six episode of Friends saw a similar concept when Monica and Chandler and Phoebe got too competitive with each other trying to find a guy for Rachel. Happy Endings took a concept you've seen before and put its own specific, quirky twist on it: the guy each character chose for Max was a doppelganger of his or herself.
"Sometimes what happens is, we’ve got a great story that we like for some of the characters, like Penny, Brad, and Alex, which was the dead parrot thing. We hadn’t seen Dave and Jane work together on something; Max has a problem, which is that he hasn’t dated somebody in a while, and you just kind of end up there in a way that feeds into the natural narcissism of our characters," Groff said.
A key aspect to Happy Endings has been not dragging out the will they/won't they aspect of potential pairings within friendships that you could get away with for years, years earlier. Season three has seen Dave and Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) get back together and officially try their relationship again after she left him at the altar in the pilot, but it has also put seemingly perpetually single girl Penny (Casey Wilson) in a serious and healthy relationship with new guy Pete (Nick Zano).
"There's a pretty big proposal in the works," Groff said, though noting that he wasn't sure Penny was ready for the next big step that usually comes after a proposal (and a positive response) just yet.
"I’m not sure she’s built for a happy marriage. I’m not sure she’s built for any marriage quite yet. I think it would be pretty amazing to see how that would work, and I think we have enough episodes left this year to pay it off without rushing."
As with the previous two seasons, Happy Endings does plan to end this one with a wedding, though, and Wilson felt pretty confident it would be Penny's.
"It’s such a hard comedy that I think it’s nice to see a character growing and advancing in her life, and we know Megan [Mullally] is coming back for the finale, so..." she said.
What would a potential Penny Hartz (ding!) wedding look like? Per Wilson, it would be "so completely over-the-top with a spotlight on her, thirty bridesmaids—but all the bridesmaids are pregnant because all of her friends are older than her, so it would be kind of sad." And of course, she and her mother would have to sing again!
But where Penny has matured and evolved greatly this season, at times it has seemed like Max has taken a sad step backwards. Season two saw him finding love and willingness to settle down and even have a family with an old boyfriend, but when that ended, he fell into a dry spell.
"We want to declare this is the Year of Penny—of Max. Max is having a bad year romantically, and it looks like he’ll have a bad year right through to the end. Maybe we’ll give him a little glimmer of something in the finale," Groff said, pointing out that the guy Max met at Optimistic Red Velvet Walrus night was never intended to stay around for Max, despite everyone really liking Jon Barinholtz in the role.
"That’s very sweet of him to say. That to an actor is great news," Pally said about the impending bad dating experience and singledom for his character.
"I think it’s nice that they even think of me enough to write to me, but it's always more fun when things go wrong [for my character]. I think it’s totally realistic for people to feel one way for one relationship and feel differently about another, so I don’t think it’s crazy to see Max struggling again."
One of the ways in which Max struggled was with losing Penny's attention and time to Pete in the first place, though Pally pointed out that by now Max has truly gotten over that and "given [Pete] his stamp of approval."
"At the end of the day, Max loves Penny more than anybody in the world," Pally said. "So I think he'll make it okay. If she's happy, he's happy for her."
Penny and Max, at times, almost seem like two sides to the same coin, though, so it's interesting to see that so far in the show, only one of them has been able to have romance and happiness at a time (the most literal example was in their Halloween episode in season two, in which they shared an attached couples' costume and had to take turns flirting with the respective guys they met). Is it a windmill of the Gods type of thing where when one is on top, the other must be on the bottom? And what does that mean for Max if Penny really does end up marrying Pete!?
"I would like to explore that concept; that’s actually a really interesting thing; I may steal it!" Groff said.
Happy Endings airs on ABC on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. and Tuesday nights at 9 p.m.
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