HAPPY TOGETHER REVIEW

Just in time to occupy us during the lengthening autumn nights, new sitcom HAPPY TOGETHER has migrated from US shores to UK TV screens.

With a number of long running half hour sitcoms reaching the end of their shelf life - New Girl, The Middle and The Big Bang Theory are just some of the shows drawing to a close this year - there’s a looming gap in TV schedules on both sides of the Atlantic.

HAPPY TOGETHER E4

Happy Together’s eyebrow furrowing premise sees happily married couple Jake (Damon Wayans Jr) and Claire (Amber Stevens West) play host to Aussie popstar Cooper James (Felix Mallard) as he flees the paparazzi in search of a taste of the ordinary following a high profile break-up.

Like most pilot episodes, the show’s first 20 minutes are odd and slightly formulaic as it tries to find its feet.

Mallard, a boyband-faced Neighbours alumni, is pure, twinkly-eyed teenage-girl bait as sweet natured Cooper. Meanwhile Jake and Claire are stable adults with jobs, Netflix accounts and regularly scheduled, ahem, ‘adult time’.

Conveniently shoehorning them into the same suburban house sets the scene for some sly culture clash humour in a first episode that covers celebrity on-again-off-again dating, partying on a school night and parental alcoholism (don’t worry, the funny kind, not the Leaving Las Vegas kind…)

The upshot is that it’s not 100% clear who the show is aimed at. It’s a little bit Disney - Mallard’s wholesome demeanour screams Nickleodeon rather than prime time E4. While Wayans and Stevens West are clearly playing out a story of not-so-smug marrieds that will feel familiar to anyone occupying that tricky age between achieving adulthood and avoiding parenthood.

CBS, the US network responsible for the show, aren’t known for their sitcoms - their biggest current hits are Big Bang Theory and Life in Pieces. In truth, Happy Together feels more like ABC Family fare (the network responsible for popular but empty-headed shows like Melissa & Joey and Young & Hungry) albeit a little bit smarter.

It’s also odd to have the effortlessly charming and charismatic Wayans cast as straight-laced accountant Jake - if anything, he struggles to play ordinary. Luckily, Cooper’s straight guy allows Wayans and Stevens West free reign as goofy, big-hearted wannabes being pulled into the orbit of their celebrity lodger.

There are also plenty of cute sight gags and one liners. The overall vibe is pleasantly homely and sweet. It’s enjoyably easy going and does wring a fair amount of comedy from its generation gap premise, with a number of promising oddball supporting characters that could be fleshed out to good effect. Fans of candy floss comedies like Baby Daddy will probably enjoy Happy Together but even so, a second season is unlikely unless the show can figure out who its audience is.

- Watched on E4. 18/10/2018

Natalie Golding

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