Something interesting happened during last night’s episode of “Happy Endings,” the first since it took a few weeks off for the holidays: there might be a new romance brewing among the members of the chatty and funny gang.
By the end of the episode, there seemed to be some evidence that a never-would-have-thought-of-it pairing of Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Penny (Casey Wilson) might be in the offing. Here’s the problem, though: it feels like it comes not just from left field, but from left field of the field behind our field. And we hope it doesn’t ruin what we think has been a winning formula for the show in its second season.
The story involves Dave’s shrink, the hilariously named Rick Rickman (played by the always reliable Ken Marino), and his all-out efforts to go on a date with her after he ran into Dave and Penny “in the wild” (i.e. outside the office). Of course, this being TV, Marino pretty much breaks all manner of ethical rules in trying to get that date, from asking Dave for her phone number — outside the office door, just to be ethically “safe” — to asking him leading questions about her during a session in order to find out where to stalk her. Penny being the dysfunctional romantic she is, finds Rick’s ethical lapses endearing and agrees to go out with him.
Dave’s angry, of course, and fires Rick as his therapist. But not before bringing Penny’s shrink Roz (Faith Prince) to the restaurant as his “date.” In the process of sorting this out, both therapists tell their respective patients that they have unresolved feelings for each other. Only on TV would this kind of thing happen, but even worse is the look the Dave and Penny gave each other as they talked about the night on the way home. It was one of those classic “I’m seeing you in a whole different way!” looks that sitcoms are famous for, where a romance sparks where there was no evidence of one before.
Why are the producers doing this? The show has finally made us forget the awkwardness of the show’s original conceit, where Dave and Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) try to soldier on as friends in this group after Alex leaves Dave at the altar, and the show is in a pretty good groove. Why would it potentially ruin the chemistry of the group by exploring a romance between Alex and Penny? It just feels contrived, something the show would turn to in season five, not halfway through its second season.
There’s still enough to explore in the relationships between the members of the group — like Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Alex trying to find common ground, or Max (Adam Pally) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) and their insane competitiveness — that they don’t have to resort to intra-group romance just yet. Hopefully, David Caspe and his writers have a funny direction for this story, because if it backfires, it could be bad news for fans of what has been a pretty darn good show.
Watch last night’s episode: