‘Happy Endings’ Gets Canceled, We Can’t Have Nice Things

In the end, despite all the streaming and all the passionate pleas of a small but fiercely loyal fanbase (as it often goes with these kinds of things), ABC went ahead with what was probably their plan all along and announced the cancellation of ensemble comedy Happy Endings. This whole thing is dumb and a little infuriating for a lot of reasons. For one, it was easily the best traditional sitcom on TV right now (come on now, How I Met Your Mother hasn’t been good in years and you know it, you sad, sad person). Two, the poorly-publicized switching of timeslots certainly didn’t help and suggested this was a long time coming, which is a total bummer, and the ominous, hostage-y “Save Happy Endings” campaign from ABC was weird and kind of insulting to fans.

Also, Happy Endings got canceled and the gag-inducing Tim Allen vehicle Last Man Standing and the what-is-this-I-don’t-even-know The Neighbors survived to live another day, which is evidence that, as a TV-watching public, we can’t have nice things. At least ABC still has Scandal? And Nashville is coming back. It’s not all bad news?

On the bright side, the show may get picked up by USA and be reborn as a cable comedy, similar to what happened to the similarly beloved but poor-ratings-generating Courteney Cox vehicle Cougar Town, which found its way to TBS after getting the network axe. And although that might be a bummer for many Americans who don’t have cable, it does offer a glimmer of hope for a show that met its end too soon. Ideally, Happy Endings would run a couple more seasons, long enough for syndication, so that years from now, when we’ve watched the entire series of Friends in reruns for the 38th time in a row, we can settle in at night and be lulled to sleep by an old adventure of Penny, Max and the gang. Wouldn’t that be nice? If not, someone please start a Kickstarter for a Happy Endings movie or something. That’s one I’d actually back. 

Do We Even Really Need Another Season of ‘Friends’?

Friends is the grilled cheese and tomato soup of TV shows. It’s easy to digest, great in mass quantities when you’re sick or having a crappy day and it takes you back to happier times of the Clinton administration and Fruitopia. The series finale, nearly a decade ago, left a hole in many viewers’ hearts that they have been trying to fill by gorging on reruns. And oh, how there are reruns. And if you live in a country that isn’t America, you have even more Friends reruns! For eons, British television would air Friends for what felt like at least 22 hours a day. 

Now, perhaps as the final strike of #rememberthe90s, new reports are surfacing (none that look super reliable yet though, so take them with a grain of salt) that Friends will return for a new one-off season in 2014, reportedly with NBC at the helm but the original cast’s commitment level still undetermined. And it’s unclear as to whether they would commit to this, here and now. Matthew Perry’s got top billing on another NBC sitcom, albeit one that may not be long for this world, Jennifer Aniston’s getting steady work and remember the last time Friends tried to limp along with only one cast member in spinoff form? Not good.

And what would the episodes even be about? Would its attempts at sliding into modernity and relevance feel as smooth as Modern Seinfeld or as forced as most of the writing on 2 Broke Girls? Would they have aged with the show? And they have kids now! Emma would be 10 and Ben would be, like, in college or something. What would that be like? Maybe this future is so frightening that we’d be better off with just reruns. 

You know what, though? In a way, as a TV-viewing public, we sort of deserve a sad mutant version of our beloved ’90s mainstay. If the American network sitcom-loving audience really wanted new episodes of a funny, comforting sitcom about urban thirtysomethings just hanging out and trying to make it in this crazy world of ours, y’all would be trying harder to save Happy Endings

Seriously, You Guys, Please Save ‘Happy Endings’

So you’ve probably been reading a lot about how Happy Endings is amazing and hilarious and the funniest show on TV, but due to its low ratings, it has been hit with the unfortunate schedule shuffling (including a move to the Friday night death-spot), episode-burning-off and possible cancellation. ABC has responded to fan pleas with a weird ad campaign, imploring fans to put the work in and save the show. Judging by the current schedule change, it looks like their minds are made up, but to dangle another season in front of fans like a carrot on a string, to sound almost as if the show is being held hostage and only you can save it—and even if views are really the only thing that can keep the show from going off the air, y’all, that’s just mean. Maybe, ABC, if you didn’t keep shuffling it around, casual fans of the show would, like, actually know when it’s on and be able to watch it and keep it from getting canceled.

And Happy Endings getting canceled, as it seems more and more likely, would still really be a bummer, you guys. But maybe we should put the extra effort in to watch it, and to convince our friends and contemporaries and people on the subway to as well. Use whatever selling point works best: the plotlines about dueling bar mitzvah emcees, the "it’s like Friends, but…," the delightful Adam Pally and Casey Wilson, the backstory that they all met as cast members on The Real World, which is sort of weird and amazing in and out of universe. Whatever cards work best in your deck, you know?

Is this what you want, America? Do you really want probably the best sitcom on television right now to get the axe while Two and a Half Men continues to drag its bloated swamp-creature corpse across your living room? Of course not! At least, we hope not. So here’s what we’re going to do: I’m going to end this post with an episode of Happy Endings. You are (hopefully—I can’t tell you how to live your life) going to watch it. You will hopefully find it hilarious, and you will continue to watch this show and end this sitcom hostage crisis. Because this show deserves at least one more season of bringing us joy, lest the cast somehow launch a Kickstarter campaign to try to resurrect it as a movie or something a few years later. 

‘Happy Endings’ Producers Join ‘Assistance’ Pilot as Part of Two-Year Deal With NBC/Universal

What is going on over at ABC? First of all, I have no idea if I will ever see another episode of Happy Endings. The show was moved to Fridays after lots of schedule shuffling, although none of the remaining episodes have aired yet. And today we learn that two of the show’s producers, Josh Bycel and Jonathan Fener, have signed a two-year deal with NBC/Universal, which involves their involvement in the pilot for Assistance, which is based on the play by Leslye Headland. Headland, you may remember, wrote and directed the bitingly funny Bachelorette, which she also adapted from her play. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 (R.I.P.) star Krysten Ritter is attached as the lead. Let’s cross our fingers that this show, which has some great talent behind it, gets picked up to series. But also, WHERE IS HAPPY ENDINGS? I miss my Happy Endings, which is a sentence I never thought I’d say—at least not in this context.

[via THR]

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‘Happy Endings’ Continues to Shuffle Around ABC Schedule

Happy Endings is my favorite show on television and I never know when it’s on. First, it was on Tuesday nights. Then ABC announced that the show would air on both Sundays and Tuesdays. And then they cancelled Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, which followed Happy Endings, and then there were two episodes of Happy Endings on Tuesdays. Good lord, people, just tell me when I can watch this show on Hulu! It is my favorite! And now the show is moving yet again, this time to Friday nights. 

The news comes via Entertainment Weekly:

ABC announced today back-to-back episodes of Happy Endings will air Fridays starting March 29 at 8 p.m. ET. The move comes after Endings has bounced around ABC’s schedule for a few months, first relinquishing its Tuesday nights and then being pulled from Sundays, where it took up a brief residence.

In a release announcing the midseason shuffle, ABC said the switch will not affect Last Man Standing or Malibu Country because both will have concluded their seasons by then.

Well, thank goodness that Malibu Country isn’t affected. I was really worried. (I was not worried; that show looks like garbage.) And if you’re not too familiar with Last Man Standing, because WHO IS, it’s the show with David Spade. I know, David Spade has his own sitcom! Apparently this has been the case for years!

In all seriousness, this is not a good sign for us Happy Endings fans, who I’m willing to bet are also the kinds of people who don’t stay in on Friday nights to watch ABC. I’m seriously crossing my fingers that the show is renewed. Network TV is turning into a wasteland, you guys. Stop watching Homeland! There are sitcoms to save! 

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NPR Claims It’s All Sunshine and Roses Now That There Are Gay Men on TV

Any article that starts with, "The pop culture gay flavor of the minute? White gay dads," will likely have me digging my fingernails into my palms by the time I scroll down to the bottom of the page. Ta da! Congrats, NPR, because you managed to incite my first internet-based rage of 2013!

In an article accompanying a story that ran this morning on the air, NPR writer Neda Ulaby discovers that our television sets are blowin’ up with friendly, proud, and out gay men who are showing the world how it can get better, or something. Yes, on Modern Family and The New Normal, there are white dudes who have sex with each other (but not onscreen, because ewwwww) and procreating with the help of, I dunno, white women and Asian adoption agencies. Breaking news, gang!

It’s a mini-boomlet, says real-life white gay dad and sociology professor Joshua Gamson. Not too long ago, he says, pop culture once mainly defined gay men as promiscuous and deviant, rather than monogamous and devoted to their families.

"It does seem like a strong counterstereotype of how gay men have been portrayed over the past, whatever, 50 years," he said.

A boomlet! Cute! The article also mentions, obviously, Will & Grace, whose creator, Max Mutchnik, also created the similarly gay-themed (and immediately cancelled) Partners. And, obviously, there’s the king of Gay TV, Ryan Murphy, who is responsible for Glee (gay teenagers!), The New Normal (gays who love NeNe Leakes!), and American Horror Story (murdered lesbians! a male ghost in a pleather body suit who rapes and kills a gay couple!). Sure, there’s also Max on Happy Endings, the lovably sarcastic and dumpy gay guy, but even his romantic prospects are hardly ever the focus of an episode (I say that regretfully, because I do love that show).

To give some balance to this piece, After Ellen‘s Trish Bendix gives some solid points about the representation of queer women on television: 

"Well, actually, there have been a lot of women of color, which has been great," said Trish Bendix, who runs a website called After Ellen that tracks lesbian representation on television. She rattled off at least a half-dozen shows with nonwhite queer female characters: White CollarThe Good WifeUnderemployedPretty Little LiarsGrey’s AnatomyGlee.

But too often, says Bendix, these are small roles played by exoticized, slinky femmes. "Like, ‘the other’ is always going to be the other," she observed ruefully. "So we’ll just pile all that otherness on the one person."

It’s true, though. After we’re done compiling lists of all the gay men on TV, can we narrow down which ones are not white? Because, let’s be honest, the modern definition of "gay" seems to be "white man who lives in the city and shops with all of his disposable income." And on top of that, do any of those men have personalities that don’t fit into a masculine-feminine binary? Because, you see, all gay men are either super queeny or straight acting, if The New Normal is to be believed. Or, perhaps even worse, any gay man who does not seem to be floating on Cloud Nine is, in turn, doomed, or perhaps evil, as one can see from any queer character on American Horror Story or Thomas from Downton Abbey, who is brought up at the end of the NPR article as a "character [who] once might have been seen as a homophobic stereotype [but now] blends into an ever-expanding universe." (Lemme know if that universe ever expands to include some queers who aren’t trying to screw over everyone they encounter.)

The point is this: we’ve come a long way in terms of the way gay men are represented on television. But we’ve only made it half way. Should we have congratulated the people behind Soap for creating the first regular gay character on a sitcom, or do you think we’re allowed to acknowledge the borderline homophobic humor surrounding the man’s (played by a straight guy, naturally) decision to "become straight" by pursuing a sex-change? Looking back on it, that was kind of screwed up, huh?

Hopefully in another twenty years or so we’ll have progressed to a place where we’re not just patting ourselves on the back for putting gay men on TV and saying, "Good work, everyone! Now, to collect the checks!" Because there’s a larger world of queer people out there who are still not represented, and its clear that there’s little to no interest in those who don’t fit into the whitewashed gay world that’s being packaged for middle America, just slightly and cheekily enough not to rock any boats. 

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What We Watched Instead Of ‘Liz & Dick’

I had every intention of avoiding Liz & Dick last night. First of all, I don’t particularly enjoy watching people crash and burn as much as the next guy—even when that person in Lindsay Lohan. Also, I was fully prepared to be annoyed by everyone on Twitter live-tweeting it. As far as I’m concerned, last night’s presentation of Liz & Dick was amateur hour on Twitter (now I know how actual alcoholics feel on St. Patrick’s Day). Anyway, I went to see Silver Linings Playbook instead, which didn’t last very long. (Congrats, David O. Russell, for directing the first movie I’ve ever walked out of.) I got back in time to see enough of Liz & Dick to turn it off, and here’s what I watched instead:

1. Last week’s episode of Happy Endings

2. This Lord of the Rings spoof from French and Saunders.

3. This Cold Mountain spoof from French and Saunders.

4. The French trailer for Rust and Bone.

5. The international trailer for Rust and Bone (which is better, I think).

6. The trailer for Les Miserables.

7. The trailer for Les Miserables.

8. The trailer for Les Miserables.

9.This supercut of Julianne Moore crying.

10. The trailer for Les Miserables.

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‘Happy Endings’ Star Zachary Knighton On The Long Road To Success

With the third season of Happy Endings premiering tonight, Zachary Knighton has finally struck gold. After a decade of looking for the right roles in theater and drama, the actor discovered his natural comedic ability—as well as a supportive family—in the hilarious ensemble comedy. I chatted with Knighton about his life before Happy Endings, the collaborative nature of the sitcom, and how grateful he is for the show’s success. 

Did you start acting right after college?
I went to an acting high school in Virginia—the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk. I kept thinking, “NYU, NYU, NYU,” but my family wasn’t really in a place where NYU was a reality. I decided to go to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. It turned out to be a great decision because I was in a smaller market and got to really work a lot professionally. There were a couple of equity theaters in town and a lot of productions in Virginia, so I got the chance to do some film and television work and finished college with an agent in New York. I spent some time bartending in New York—I actually bartended a BlackBook issue release party! I remember Benicio Del Toro was on the cover, and I met him that night, and I thought maybe one day I would get interviewed by BlackBook. It’s kind of funny to come full-circle like this!

How did you get attached to Happy Endings?
I sort of had this relationship going with ABC for quite some time. After college I went to New York for about five years, and then I came to L.A. with a short-lived series on FOX called Life on a Stick. I had been bouncing around doing pilot after pilot and never having anything picked up and I auditioned and ended up doing that show Flash Forward that was on ABC. Happy Endings was all the way down the road. They had everybody in place except their Dave; I know they tested a lot of people and didn’t find the right guy, and I guess they just thought I was the right guy because I’d done a comedy and they knew internally that Flash Forward was going to get cancelled. And so I did the pilot and the rest is history.

Did you know immediately that it was something special and stood out compared to other sitcoms that were being produced around the same time?
I sort of had the luxury of not really having a choice! I had a few friends that had moved on from Flash Forward—I think I was the first—but there was a group of people that were off doing a lot of other comedies. I wasn’t really aware of a lot those shows and pilot season had already passed, and they came to me with this offer and I just thought it was so cool. I loved the cast, and I just decided to go with this because it was the job that was in front of me at the time. I just really lucked out in terms of the quality of the writing and what it evolved into.

What I love about the show is that it’s a very classic sitcom about a group of friends, which is of course shot in a single-camera setting. Had you done any multi-camera shows before?
Yeah, the first show that brought me to L.A., Life on a Stick, was multi-camera. It was one of those things that was a great experience because working in front of an audience was something I’d done in theater, and it was really a great educational transition into television work. But it did feel a bit dated, and it wasn’t the kind of stuff that I was watching at that time. It was a job for sure. I think that television has changed, especially comedy. Some of my best friends are the guys that created It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I think they’re hugely responsible for the way a lot of comedy television is done today. Them, Arrested Development, The Office… I feel like a lot of shows have really changed the face of comedy, and I think Happy Endings has sort of come in at the right time. I think we’ve played perfectly right in between the lines of an It’s Always Sunny and a How I Met Your Mother. I think we can ride that line pretty well. 

Something I love about the show is that the episodes work on their own as single episodes. But I watched the second season on DVD, so being able to watch it all in one sitting like that allows you to pick up on a lot of those recurring jokes that are very character-specific. It seems so natural the way that you and the cast play those characters and those jokes; have there ever been any contributions on your end of what you think is funny and the writers pick up on that?
Yeah, this job has been the most collaborative job I’ve ever had. Every actor—and this is no bullshit—really, really, genuinely wants everybody else to have a great performance, every writer wants everyone to have a great performance, and we want the writers to have great scripts. So it really is the sort of environment that, if I have a funnier joke in my mind than what’s on the page, these guys are so receptive to it as well as me being completely receptive to them saying, “You know, it’s not really coming across reading the line or the way you’re doing the line.” I’m always open to any performance notes from them, and I’ve just never been a part of a show like that. In terms of bringing our own thing in, it happens all the time. The V-neck thing with Dave is actually me: I don’t wear any shirts that aren’t V-necks—anything that’s cut in the front I will wear. The writers picked up on that and started writing it into the script. I thought it would be really funny if Dave was really bad on camera. I can’t write the jokes, but I can sort of think of something that might be funny and those guys come up with jokes. It’s just a great environment to work in and I think it really lends itself to the comedy of the show.

I saw that you have a new movie coming out next year? Teddy Bears?
Yeah, I just did this movie this summer. It’s just this tiny little indie but really great writers, directors, and the cast in incredible—it’s me, David Krumholtz, Jason Ritter, Gillian Jacobs, Melanie Lynskey, and Ahna O’ Reilly and it’s just a really wonderful little movie. It’s sort of  like a little indie Big Chill. The premise of the story is that David Krumholtz’s character’s mother dies of cancer, and the movie is about this group of friends taking him to this house in Joshua Tree as part of the healing process. It’s three couples, and we get there and David Krumholtz’s character kind of sits up at a toast in the beginning of the movie and says, “I love all of you, thank you for helping me through this, and I just wanted to say that the only way I really feel like I could heal is if I sleep with all the women in our group.” The whole movie is about his character wanting/needing this sort of level of comfort and asking this huge thing of his his best friends. It’s funny and dark, and I’m just really proud of it. I just saw it for the first time two weeks ago. I do these kinds of movies all the time, and I just can’t wait until one of them gets seen. I think this movie and the cast was so great, and I just hope people get to see it.

Did you always kind of have the feeling that you would do comedy more than drama, or film/TV more than theater?
I had that idealistic thing in the beginning of my career that I only wanted to do theater. And then I went to New York and got the reality of what it’s like to do that. It was a stressful and strange time and totally valuable in my evolution as an actor, but then I didn’t want to have to say yes to every job. I just thought that L.A. was a better place for me, and I sort of always rode the line. I would do a really heavy movie or something, and then the next job would be some goofball comedy. I never quite settled into one world or the other. I’d say now is the first time I’ve really settled into the comedy world. All my shows have been cancelled, or the pilots haven’t been picked up, or no one saw the movie. This is the first time that something I’ve been in has been so successful, and I can say that without being embarrassed because it’s the truth. I was getting to a point where I was like, “Man, people they don’t see the shit that I’m doing,” and it was really disheartening. It’s just really nice to be in something that people respond to and like, and it’s a great feeling from someone who has been doing it for ten years to finally have people watch your stuff. So I feel like I’ll be living in this comedy world for a little while.
 

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Before Basking in the Joy of the ‘Happy Endings’ Premiere, Watch The Cast Perform at UCB

Happy Endings‘ third season premieres tonight, but if that’s just too long of a wait for you, the cast’s live special filmed at UCB over the weekend is now on YouTube. Adam Pally and Casey Wilson host the hour-long sketch show, and it goes pretty much as you’d imagine it, complete with Wilson’s goofy, vaguely Carlton Banks-esque dancing. 

A number of special guests appear, including fellow castmates Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans Jr. (who gets asked some very uncomfortable questions), Fred Savage (!) and Kat Dennings. Brian Gallivan, one of the show’s writers who you may know as the star of Second City’s "Sassy Gay Friend," discusses writing the show ("I relate to Max because I have about one boyfriend a season," he jokes.) and sings an amusing and terrifying song about running into one of his former students at the club, with some cardboard cutouts cheering him on in the background. But perhaps the most memorable moment of the show is Eliza Coupe’s rendition of Claire Danes as Temple Grandin as Carrie Mathison. Watch.