Happy Endings follows the lives, loves and misadventures of a dysfunctional group of friends in their late 20s/early 30s living in Chicago. As the series opens, aspiring restaurateur Dave (Zachary Knighton) is about to get married to ditsy Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), a boutique owner, after many years of dating. However, Alex leaves Dave at the alter when a man wearing rollerblades glides into the church and professes his love for her. The rest of the group—Alex’s older sister, neurotic, type-A perfectionist Jane (Eliza Coupe), her overachiever husband Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.), slacker, gay manchild Max (Adam Pally), and perpetually-dating single girl Penny (Casey Wilson)—aren’t completely surprised by this turn of events, as there always seems to be something crazy or unusual happening in their lives.
The single-camera comedy series ran for three seasons on ABC, from 2011-2013. As I binged through all 57 episodes of the series on this box set, I was quickly reminded of why I had been so disappointed when this series was originally canceled. The ensemble cast has amahzing chemistry, and work so well together, right from the pilot. Over the course of the series, pretty much every combination of these six characters are put together in some unusual situation, and it always works. Each of the characters has his or her own personality, and it is fun to explore all of the various dynamics of them coming together. One can’t help but compare the series to Friends. When this group of long-time friends isn’t hanging out at a booth in their favorite local restaurant, we usually find them in one of their apartments. Even some of the Friends characters’ personality traits can be mapped to these characters—Jane likes things well planned and organized, like Monica; Alex is a bit spacey like Phoebe; Max is disorganized like Joey; and so on. As the series goes on, the writers find what really works with each of these characters and emphasize these strengths. For example, Alex seems to get stupider and stupider as the seasons progress, because the writers realized that this is a source of comedy gold. As you get to know the characters and their eccentricities, you really love this group of friends. Yes, they will pile-on whoever is the butt of a joke, but in the end, they all love and care about each other and want the best for one another.
This series is so fast-paced and well-written. Each episode has several storylines going, which often intersect or mirror one another in fun ways. There are multiple layers to the comedy, which lends the series to repeat viewings. Whether it’s the witty dialogue, physical humor, or fun pop culture references (though some felt slightly dated upon my re-watch), there is so much going on in every scene. The series also makes use of flashbacks and quick cutaways to enhance the comedic punchlines.
The first season primarily focuses on the fallout of Alex and Dave’s breakup. Dave moves in with Max, tries to get back into the dating game, and in his struggle to find new meaning in his life, decides to buy a food truck. Meanwhile, Alex struggles with being alone for the first time in a long time; Jane and Brad get paranoid that they might fall into the same rut that ruined Alex & Dave’s relationship; Penny continues to have a string of bad relationships, including a date with a guy with the last name Hitler. In the first season, we meet Brad’s father (Damon Wayans), Max’s parents (Alan Rachins & Caroline Aaron), and recurring DRAMA queen Derrick (Stephen Guarino).
The second season opens at the one year anniversary of the wedding walk-out. Penny is a new homeowner and declares 2012 The Year of Penny, when she will turn her life around. Meanwhile, Alex moves in with Penny and buys a racist parrot; Max buys an old limo, starts his own business, and gets a serious boyfriend Grant (James Wolk). Dave and Alex’s relationship seems to be improving; and Brad and Jane always seem to have something crazy going on. In the second season, we meet Penny’s mother (Megan Mullally), and Dave’s father (Michael McKean).
In the final season, Dave and Alex are back together in a casual relationship; both Brad and Jane find themselves in new jobs; Penny finally finds herself in a serious relationship with Pete (Nick Zano); and Max finds his love life has dried up. In the third season, we meet Jane & Alex’s parents (Christopher McDonald & Julie Hagerty), and Penny’s father (Andy Richter).
The series had previously been released on DVD, with the first two seasons receiving standard DVD releases, and the third/final season getting a bare-bones Manufacture-on-Demand DVD-R release. This week Mill Creek Entertainment has given the series a proper box set release, offering the series on HD Blu-ray for the first time, as well as in a new DVD box set. When the series originally aired, the first season episodes were aired completely out of order. However, one great thing Mill Creek has done is to put these episodes back in the correct order. While the episodes generally have some standalone adventure of the week, there is also an overarching serialized storyline and character development that happens over the course of the season, so first time viewers can now enjoy the series without running into callbacks to episodes they haven’t seen yet, or odd character behaviors that seem to disappear and return randomly. Even Sony’s previously-released DVDs included the episodes in the aired order instead of the correct production order, so it’s great to see this finally corrected on this new release.
Mill Creek has put together a great Bu-ray release for the series. I was a little worried at first when I saw the number of episodes that were being placed on each disc. However, I thought the video quality looked quite good, with picture that looks pretty much clean, and detailed throughout. There were a couple scenes in the later episodes that looked slightly grainy, but it wasn’t anything that took away from the overall enjoyment of the series. The audio track provides clear dialogue throughout the series, but I never really noticed any kind of immersive use of the surround or stereo channels. Mill Creek has included all of the same bonus material that was on the previous DVD releases, which primarily consists of deleted scenes and gag reels for the first two seasons. While this is great, I was a little disappointed that no new material was included—such as the Happy Rides web series that aired during the end of the second season, or any deleted scenes/gag reels for the third season.
Each season resides in its own HD keepcase, and these three cases are placed inside an outer slipbox. Each pair of discs includes both that season’s episodes as well as any related bonus material for that season.
- All 57 episodes of the series:
- Season 1: (4:36:30)
Disc 1: “Pilot”, “Bo Fight”, “Barefoot Pedaler”, “Dave of the Dead”, “Quicksand Girlfriend”, “Why Can’t You Read Me”, “Of Mice & Jazz-Kwon-Do”
Disc 2: “Mein Coming Out”, “Your Couples Friends and Neighbors”, “You’ve Got Male”, “The Girl with the David Tattoo”, “Like Father, Like Gun”, “The Shershow Redemption”
- Season 2: (7:29:59)
Disc 1: “Blax, Snake, Home”, “Baby Steps”, “Yesandwitch”, “Secrets and Limos”, “Spooky Endings”, “Lying Around”, “The Code War”, “Full Court Dress”, “Grinches Be Crazy”, “The Shrink, The Dare, Her Date and Her Brother”, “Meet The Parrots”
Disc 2: “Makin’ Changes!”, “The St. Valentine’s Day Maxssacre”,”Everybody Loves Grant”, “The Butterfly Effect Effect”, “Cocktails & Dreams”, “The Kerkovich Way”, “Party of Six”, “You Snooze, You Bruise”, “Big White Lies”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral)”
- Season 3: (8:13:35)
Disc 1: “Cazsh Dummy Spillionaires”, “Sabado Free-Gante”, “Boys II Menorah”, “More Like Stanksgiving”, “P&P Romance Factory”, “To Serb with Love”, “No-Ho-Ho”, “Fowl Play/Date”, “Ordinary Extraordinary Love”, “KickBall 2: The Kickening”, “The Ex Factor”, “The Marry Prankster”
Disc 2: “Our Best Friend’s Wedding”, “In the Heat of the Noche”, “The Straight Dope”, “The Incident”, “Bros Before Bros”, “She Got Game Night”, “The Storm Before the Calm”, “The Ballad of Lon Sarofsky”, “Unsabotagable”, “Deuce Babylove 2: Electric Babydeuce”, “Brothas & Sisters”
- Season 1: (4:36:30)
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
- Subtitles: English SDH
The bonus features for each season are included on the discs containing that season’s episodes. Material is the same as what was included on the original DVD releases for the series.
- Season 1:
- Banana Republic Style Previews
- The Girls of Happy Endings (2:18)
Costume designer Keri Smith talks about creating the looks for the female characters for a particular scene, and shows off a sample outfit for each using clothes from Banana Republic.
- The Guys of Happy Endings (2:10)
Costume designer Keri Smith talks about creating the looks for the male characters for a particular scene, and shows off a sample outfit for each using clothes from Banana Republic.
- The Girls of Happy Endings (2:18)
- Deleted Scenes (7:26)
Collection of 7 deleted scenes. Play All, or select from “The Wedding Prep Scene” (1:53), “Fired From Love” (1:23), “Not Awkward At All” (:48), “I’m in a Great Place Right Now” (:30), “Business Man to Business Man” (1:11), “We’re All Animals” (:41), and “Tough Crowd” (:50).
- Outtakes (4:13)
A fun gag reel with the cast flubbing lines, cracking each other up, and having lots of fun on set.
- Mike Relm Remix (1:28)
Musical remix created from scenes from the season.
- Mark Douglas Interview with Adam Pally and Casey Wilson (5:02)
As Mark Douglas prepares to interview the cast members, Mike Relm does his remix thing. Once the interview begins, Mark Douglas constantly pulls out his guitar and sings ditties, to the annoyance of his interview subjects.
- Mark Douglas Parody Theme Song (1:17)
Mark Douglas sings his full parody theme song for the series.
- Deleted Scenes (5:49)
Collection of 6 more deleted scenes. Play All, or select from “We Don’t Pay For Popcorn” (:33), “Apology” (:58), “Open the Windows” (:46), “Rehearsal Dinner” (1:27), “Cake Arrives Early” (1:18) and “Renewed Vows” (:47).
- Banana Republic Style Previews
- Season 2:
- Deleted Scenes (5:45)
Collection of 5 deleted scenes. Play All, or select from “Penny’s Dream” (2:12), “Show Day Breakfast” (1:01), “40-50 Kids Showed Up” (:24), “37 Takes” (1:22), and “I Want Keith Back” (:46).
- Outtakes (4:36)
A fun second season gag reel with the cast flubbing lines, cracking each other up, and having lots of fun on set.
- Deleted Scenes (5:28)
Collection of 7 more deleted scenes. Play All, or select from “I’m Not Having Mood Swings” (:54), “I’m Not a Prostitute” (:37), “Candle Lighting” (:31), “Pie – Director’s Cut” (1:11), “Pie” (1:12), “Going Drinking Tonight?” (:45), and “N.S.F.W.” (:18).
- Outtakes (4:16)
Another fun second season gag reel with the cast flubbing lines, cracking each other up, and having lots of fun on set.
- Deleted Scenes (5:45)
- Season 3:
No bonus material
Happy Endings was a hilarious sitcom, a modern version of Friends, that was taken off the air too soon. The series has an amahzing ensemble cast, and some fantastic writing. As I binged my way through this box set, I found myself laughing and enjoying my time with these characters all over again. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great—it’s wonderful to see this series finally get an HD disc release! The bonus features are all ported from the previous DVD releases, and unfortunately nothing new has been added. However, the material that is included is a lot of fun. This release is a must own for any fan of the series, and comes highly recommended for anyone looking for a fun hangout sitcom.