January 15, 2013

Episode Review: HAPPY ENDINGS, "The Ex Factor"

The one characteristic that I appreciate the most from a comedy is self-awareness. I just think that a show's at its best when it knows exactly what it brings to the table and is able to mock itself. "The Ex List" was the perfect example of a great show being able to just that.

Over the last couple of years, it seems like television has wandered into an era where it's elevated unlikable people for doing horrible things to one another. Some programs make this formula work, and some don't. Thankfully, Happy Endings has been able to use this trend to its benefit because at the end of the day these six people are not the nicest human beings, but the show knows that and has been able to use them to hilarious ends, just like it did this week.

Jane's ex-girlfriend was coming into Chicago for a visit, and Brad wasn't bothered by the fact that she was a woman, but he did not react well when he learned that Jane had loved someone before him. Instead of being an adult, Brad sabotaged dinner by inviting over one of his exes. Of course, drama ensued but Jane was able to reassure Brad by telling him that he was the one she loved the most.

Elsewhere, Max got a new roommate named Chase (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Max, Dave and Alex got attached to Chase after he classed up the apartment, and they started to worry when he didn't come home after he left for the gym. They hunted him down to a restaurant where he was with a beautiful woman, and they confronted him just to find out that Chase was renting the place because he needed somewhere to take his mistresses. On top of that, the woman he was with was his wife and his cover was blown. After she left him and he lost his job, Chase vowed to make Max suffer for what he did.

While all of this craziness was going on, Penny was forced to hang out with Pete's friends who turned out to be normal people and thus totally mundane to her. When it was clear that she was not going to fit in, Pete agreed to hang out with her friends. He even admitted that they were more fun because of their crazy antics, which Penny took as they'd only hang out with Pete's friends if the gang was busy.

The common thread throughout the episode was how these six people are so clueless and self-involved that they cannot help but ruin the lives of those who get caught in their wake or even care about how their actions effect others. This approach to comedy can be tricky to pull of though because they could be extremely off-putting if not calibrated right (like they were in last season's "Everybody Loves Grant" or like everyone on Girls), but they could also be sources of comedic gold if everything comes together. Thankfully, "The Ex List" was more the latter than the former. While Jane and Brad's fight was childish, it was just another excuse for them to show how much they love each other. Even the debacle with Chase was somewhat redeemed by the fact that there was a seed of care buried in the dirt that was their selfishness.

The only aspect of the episode that didn't quite work for me was Penny's co-dependence and inability to allow Pete to enjoy time with his friends. Now, I'll give her credit for even trying, and I'll even admit to being amused by her failing miserably, but that final scene where she pretty much told her boyfriend that the people in his life are not important to her and shouldn't be to him either was over the line and made me dislike her for the first time in a long time. I'm sure some will say that it was only a throwaway joke, but it was a telling glimpse into her character, and I didn't care for what I saw.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I don't even want to know why Max owes Brad and Jane three cats.
  • Nice Uncle Jerry callback.
  • Max and Alex rattling off random cop-related acronyms was brilliant.
  • Hopefully, we will be seeing more of MPG in the future.
  • Speaking of Zack Attack, it's a shame that Franklin & Bash is doing so well because he could totally have his own low-rated sitcom on ABC that the network screws over for multiple seasons. He could even get pointers from James Van Der Beek.
  • "Shups for life!"
  • "Someone's scoring our life!"
  • "OK, a real gentleman saves someone from a well and never mentions it again."
  • "So, nothing else happened? No obstacles you had to hijinks your way out of? No one brought a minature pig to a car dealership to prove a point about gender roles?"
  • "You know I'm not good at dramatic swivels."
  • "Oh, c'mon! Is everybody a lesbian now?"
  • "Thank you, nice ladies."
While watching "The Ex Factor," I wondered if it was too presumptuous to crown it Happy Endings' best episode ever. After over-thinking it while putting this recap together, I've fallen on the side of yes because the Penny stuff dragged everything down a bit, but it was still one of the strongest Season 3 episodes to date which is still pretty impressive.


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