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Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Checking In with 'Happy Endings' Halfway Through Season 3

Season three of Happy Endings has been humming along quite nicely, even if it is flying a bit under the radar. With the recent news of Happy Endings and Apartment 23 replacing the slot left by 666 Park Avenue on Sundays at 10pm, it seems clear that ABC is looking to burn through its remaining episodes from this season. It's not certain death for the show, however — ABC needed to make room for other shows to premiere. But still, not great news. But on the bright side, with both comedies slated to be off the schedule by March, at least we won't have to wait until the summer for the entire third season.

The biggest change from last season to this one has been in its structure. In season two, we got to see a great comedy series that didn't care about multi-episode story arcs or recurring themes throughout the season — we just got fast-paced episodes filled with jokes and brilliant one-liners. This season, the series has started to lean more in the other direction. We're seeing some arcs and themes (Penny and Pete, Brad's manhood) show up across multiple episodes.

It's going in a direction similar to 30 Rock, trying to maintain a fast-paced comedy that still has characters viewers care about. 30 Rock had its lowest quality season in its fourth year, which was not as faced-paced and on point as the previous three, but it was when we truly began to care about the characters. This season of Happy Endings will do the same thing. If ABC is willing to give them a chance, Happy Endings can come back in season four and fill the hole 30 Rock will leave in our hearts.

This season's introduced several interesting story lines. The strangest of them all is Alex and Dave's relationship. Now that Alex and Dave are dating again, many episodes feature a B or C story revolving around them. If you ask me, these stories are always the weakest, and I don't really see the need for them to be back together at all. In the show's early stages, many drew quick comparisons to Friends, but stopped doing so once the show became more random in the latter half of the first season. This rekindling of Dave and Alex's relationship, however, is bringing the show back closer to the Ross/Rachel dynamic that we've all seen before. My hopes are that the show will figure out how to turn their relationship into something new and original, surprising viewers again.

Another story arc that doesn't quite sit right with me is Brad's quest to prove his manhood. Brad's femininity has always been a running gag and has proven to set up plenty of great jokes, but having whole episodes devoted to it seems like a bit much.

On the other hand, Penny has been a real highlight this season. From her injury in the premiere to her new found love with Pete, we're seeing a lot more of Penny than we had been in the past two seasons. This is probably my favorite thing about season three, which puts in starker relief that we haven't seen as much of Max. He seems to just be there to help out his friends and we never get any stories that are really about him. I miss the days when an absurd Max and Penny C story would happen, and I hope these situations become more prominent in the future.

All in all, this season has kind of gone by in a blur, maybe because it didn't have the fresh feeling we got from season two. We can see that the writers are trying to bring us closer to the characters, and with luck, we can expect a faster paced pattern in the near future. Perhaps this ratings dip will inspire the show to try something new once again. Sure, evidence points to ABC trying to get this low-rated comedy off the schedule, but on the plus side, they're finally airing “Kickball 2: The Kickening”, an episode which aired in the UK last May. You gotta appreciate the little things.

Clay Sublett is a professional writer, an Emmy-winning actor, and a liar.

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