Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy Endings - "Fowl Play/Date"

Season 3, Episode 8

Welcome to the special Sunday Night Burn Off edition of Happy Endings, where everything is the same, except with an increase sense of dread over the show’s fate.

If one were to be optimistic, they might guess that ABC was doubling up on Happy Endings episodes (and Don’t Trust the B---- episodes as well) over the next few weeks as way to increase awareness about the show. After all, these Sunday night episodes are following Revenge, which is one of the network’s buzziest shows. However, given that these two comedies are taking the slot of the recently cancelled 666 Park Avenue, and that ABC has already announced that they will be off the air by mid-March to make room for Dancing With the Stars, it seems much more likely that the network is just trying to burning off episodes wherever they can.

Not that “Fowl Play/Date” was necessarily the best introductory note to Happy Endings for whoever decided to leave the TV on after Revenge was over (which, let face it, is the most likely option for any new viewers the show get tonight). I’ve talked before in this space about how the show, which started off with that terrible “left at the altar” premise has evolved past such clichéd storytelling, and is always better when it tells original stories, or at least subverts the clichés that it uses to start off an episode. “Fowl Play/Date”, however starts off with two hoary clichés, and though it manages to add to them and end up in new places from these familiar starts, doesn’t really do much to subvert them.

Cliché #1: The Competing Blind Dates: Dave and Jane, seeing what a sad sack Max has become in his singledom, decide to set him up with somebody, except for wait, they both have someone in mind that they is perfect, and they set up Max with both of them in a competition to see which one he chooses, and which of one of them is thus right.

It’s a familiar premise, and it’s to the show’s credit that we don’t see Dave and Jane follow Max on each of his dates in an attempt to save and/or sabotage them to their favor – at least not right away. Instead, what we get is another familiar ending, wherein Max picks a third, previously unknown party as his object of interest over what Dave and Jane have suggested to him. The one nice twist here is that Dave and Jane’s respective dates act just like them, but the episode doesn’t really do much with this, except for when Max and Jane both interfere with Max’s third date, thus completing the trope that was sidestepped earlier in the episode.

Cliché #2 The Broken/Dead Whatever: When Alex goes away* to the Rom-Com Con**, Brad and Penny end up killing Alex’s racist parrot after gluing back together a piece of childhood art they had broken earlier. They then try to stage it so that it looks like the bird died by more natural means.

The usual motion of this trope were there, from Penny and Brad concocting a ridiculous scheme to make it seem as if the parrot had died falling out the window, to their nervousness in trying to hide it from Alex, and even there last minute efforts to keep her from finding it. But it was the stuff around this – the actually riffing of the two of them creating the plan, Brad’s imagining of the bird’s voice as his own from of guilt, the bird funeral, Tyler’s death being Alex’s fault for feeding him margaritas – was all funny and well-execute, and helped make this rote plot a lot more enjoyable.

This isn’t to say that this episode isn’t funny; in fact, one of the strength of Happy Endings is that it is usually consistently funny regardless of the quality of storytelling going one within any given episode. There were plenty of funny lines tonight, and that might be enough to hook a few viewers who were unaware of the show before this. However, for those who have heard about the show before – say, from one of the show’s rabid fans – maybe they saw this episode, and all of its familiar trappings, and didn’t get just what all the fuss was about.

*Strangely, Alex felt mostly relegated from the episode, only showing in the beginning and ending of the plot involving her parrot, with her exit and return really serving to shuffle the story along. I think it would have been cool to see Alex actually at the Rom-Com Con, but I get that there exist both story and financial limitations that kept that from happening.

**The putting of “Con” at the end of everything to denote a ridiculous fan convention is sort of an old joke, but the cold open to this episode used that joke brilliantly by having the group riff on the idea and make up ridiculously sounding “cons” themselves. It was fast-paced section that saw joke piled on top of joke, and it was in a nutshell what the show does best. So not a bad way to try to hook viewers in immediately following Revenge, even though I know it wasn’t conceived for that purpose.

Quotes and Other Thoughts:

“Why would you bring your parrot to the dinner. Wait, who am I talking to? I once saw you put sunscreen on a grape so it didn’t turn into a raisin.”

“It’s like my friend Prison Johnny says to me – through the glass….”

“I have brokered three marriages, once against their will, but you now what? Sanjay will learn to love Padma.”

“Max, Dave and I couldn’t help but notice that you were acting like a lonely little bitch last night.”

“Well, I don’t have bird defibrillators, do I Penny? I could have gotten them from the Sky Mall catalogue, but noooooo, I just had to get my marshmallow gun. Damn you Brad, damn you to hell!”

“We have all the same interests: love Ryan Reynolds, hate Ryan Reynolds’ movies…so we’re seeing each other tonight.”

“I plan on winin’ him, dinin’ him, and seventy-ninin’ him. And if you’re wondering, yes, that’s ten better.”

“Up is down, acoustic guitars are lame, Mayer is bad. When did we all turn on Mayer?”

“All I can hear in Tyler: ‘BWAAAAAK! You killed me! BWAAAAAK! A white guy would have killed me better!’”

“Max, are you dating this guy?” “Who? Neil Patrick Niles? No.”

“Plus, fruit garnishes hold more bacteria than Kevin Smith’s refrigerator handle.”

“I’ve got Jack Johnson One and Jack Johnson Two over here.” “Nice.” “Thank you.”

“What if it’s a PDF? How do you destroy a PDF? It’s in the cloud. How do I reach the cloud? I’m not Thor!”

“We’re all here to remember Tyler, a huge racist, and an even huger friend.”

“I had to give Tyler ‘ritas, it was Taco Tuesday! He hated Mexicans, but he loved their food.” 

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