In a time of year where everyone is dragging out their spooky — or silly — finest for their Halloween episodes, ABC’s “Happy Endings” stepped things up, not only with the creativeness of the costumes, but with the quality of the show’s writing. It’s not a stretch to say that the combination gave viewers the best episode of the series so far. What was fun about the costumes? Well take your pick:
Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) as a sexy Marilyn Monroe who gets mistaken for a guy because her cold-ridden voice is husky,
Dave (Zachary Knighton) going as Austin Powers, a costume so out-of-date that everyone thinks he’s going as Elton John,
Jane (Eliza Coupe) dressed as a slab of bacon, even though her husband Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) doesn’t play along by donning his egg costume,
A weird guy named A.J. (Will Greenberg) who hits on Max (Adam Pally), dressed in a flight suit and long white beard, because he was going as “ZZ Top Gun.”
A kid in the neighborhood where Jane and Brad were housesitting who carried a door around because he was going as a member of the band The Doors.
But the topper out of all the costumes was Penny (Casey Wilson) going as a new mom with Max inserted into a BabyBjörn. It was funny and genius all at once, and not just because of the “How are they doing that?” factor. Pally, who’s becoming the breakout star of this “Little Show That Could,” did everything he could to sell the Max-as-angry-gay-baby part of that costume, working his little toy baby arms to match the gestures he would make outside the costume. It was so funny that we missed Baby Max whenever he was off the screen. The sight of Matt Besser as a Lincoln baby just made us wish Max was back in that carrier.
What we saw this week is a show coming into its own in its second season, a phenomenon that is pretty common in any sitcom that gets a chance to figure itself out. Even though the writers have smartly figured out how to best use its cast members — mostly by using Cuthbert and Knighton as straight men to the other four in the cast — all six actors were in comedic comfort zones last night. That’s a big reason why this is the first episode in the show’s brief run that didn’t have any dead spots or leaden jokes.
Because the actors — especially Wayans, Pally and Wilson — are good at off-the-cuff riffing, there always has been comedic potential in the unscripted asides that are heard in every episode. But most of the time, they’re little more than noise. This week, some of that improvisational energy was channeled less into words and more into characterization, which helped bring out the funny in everyone. If this is an indication of where “Happy Endings” is going, count us as folks who will be along for the ride, and if last night’s high-water mark of 8.3 million viewers is any indication, a lot of people are jumping on the “Happy Endings” bandwagon.
Besides, how can you hate a show that has the line “Oh come on! Who bacons somebody?”
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