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Happyish - 1.01 - Pilot - Advanced Preview

Happyish premieres Sunday, April 26 on Showtime at 9:30 pm

Happyish is the brainchild of American essayist Shalom Auslander, whose latest absurdist novel is about a Jewish man finding an old, cranky Anne Frank hiding in his attic. It originally starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, but after his untimely death from drugs, Steve Coogan stepped in to play the lead, Thomas Payne. Opening with an F-bomb laden tirade against Thomas Jefferson and his inclusion of "the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence, Payne is a Prozac-taking marketing executive with a bleak attitude about everything and a serious generation gap issue looming. His firm just hired two 20-something social media gurus to revamp his department and as his friend Jonathan reminds him, he's "still on AOL." Things at home are a little better with a supportive wife and adoring kid. At a small party for Thom's 44th birthday, the two couples lament getting old, discuss whether it's better for kids to be bullies or wimps (in much stronger language), gossip about a friend's recent genital surgery, and diligently hide from their kids that they are smoking weed outside. The biggest problem at home is that Thom is afraid that Viagra will interfere with his Prozac so he can't get it up even while watching a porno with his wife. He's a middle aged man fighting for survival in a hipster world and even the presence of newly bought skinny jeans can't disguise how uncomfortable his world has gotten.

In all fairness, this is not my kind of comedy so other viewers may like it far more than I did. It does have a winning cast, especially Ellen Barkin, who portrays a headhunter whose potty mouth and bleak attitude match Thom's. Kathryn Hahn, who plays Thom's wife, also shines. The problem is that the writing's tendency towards monologuing overwhelm them. Happyish has a pretentious air to it, complete with references to Samuel Beckett and Camus, that is likely to get it labeled a thinking man's comedy but comes off more like being impressed with its own intelligence. Combined with dropping f-bombs and other obscenities for no reason, the show definitely strives for edgy but lands on cranky instead. Perhaps part of the problem is that everyone under the grand age of 40 (which I passed a few years ago) is portrayed as an idiotic Philistine who must be groveled to in order to keep paying the bills. Younger, another comedy about the generation gap on TV Land, at least attempts to flesh out both sides. Happyish is too busy listening to the sound of its own internal rant to treat them as anything but a cliché.

Episode Awards:

Best Reason to Watch - some topnotch actors
Best Reason to Fast Forward - sex with a cartoon character
Best Aww Scene - Thom reading to Julius and telling him goodnight
Best Character - Ellen Barkin as Dani, the headhunter that encourages Thom to keep his job
Biggest Sign We're All Screwed - skinny jeans are required to succeed
The "Say What?" Award - Did someone on this show just applaud Al-Qaeda and Isis for being good marketers? Okay then.
Best Visual - Western Civilization holding its hands up like its being taken hostage by the males, 18-24 demo
Most Depressing - a joy ceiling
Most Surprising Statistics - If this show is correct, the average employee age at Facebook is 26, at Google it's 31, and at Apple it's 33. That's scary.
Worst Plan - downing bottles of stuff you got at the health store right before meeting your new bosses and without reading the side effects first
Most Bizarre - homicidal / suicidal Keebler elves
The "Welcome Back" Award - Bradley Whitford of the superior Trophy Wife and West Wing / Ellen Barkin of a bazillion movies / Nils Lawton, most recently playing a dead douche on Eye Candy / Kathryn Hahn from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Crossing Jordan / Andre Royo of Fringe
Best Reference - Lord of the Flies


"Abs don't tell the world you're healthy. They tell the world you're one Twinkie away from killing yourself."
"Because you have heart and that's why you have no power."
"I can barely watch porn anymore." "That is the real tragedy of chemical warfare."
"I just think I'd be…I don't know, happier someplace else." "That's a myth, Thom. You're as happy right now as you can ever be. We each have our own joy ceiling."
"If you ask me Julius is just too happy." "Too happy?" "You make your kid happy in this world, you're setting them up. It's child abuse. Trust me Thom, the only shot at happiness in this world is a miserable childhood, the sh** the better."
"In a couple of months, I expect to be replaced by a f** app."
"Look, I love you Thom but if you want to survive this, you've got to play the game. So marketer, rebrand thyself."
My name is Thomas Payne and I…I work for Satan. I've worked for the Dark Lord for 20 years now and so I say this with a fair degree of authority. F** Mad Men. There's nothing cool about advertising. There's nothing interesting. We do the same thing that everyone else in the world does these days. We kiss the zit-covered a** of arrogant, know nothing teenagers. It's Lord of the Flies out there folks and everyone over the age of 18 is Piggy."
"Things have changed, Thom. Thinking is not as important as tweeting."
"Thom Payne, low joy ceiling. It's not the pursuit of happiness that's our problem. It's our inability to accept when we have maxed out. You think you're not happy? Trust me, Thom. You couldn't possibly be happier."

Happyish premieres Sunday, April 26 on Showtime at 9:30 pm

Screencaps by SpoilerTV and TV Line.

About the Author - Dahne
One part teacher librarian - one part avid TV fan, Dahne is a contributing writer for SpoilerTV, where she recaps, reviews, and creates polls for The 100, Grimm, Teen Wolf, and others. She's addicted to Twitter, live tweets a multitude of shows each week, and co-hosts the Sleepy Hollow "Headless" and Teen Wolf "Welcome to Beacon Hills" podcasts for Southgate Media Group. Currently she writes a Last Week in TV column for her blog and SpoilerTV. ~ "I speak TV."
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