If someone had told me a year ago that I’d feel conflicted about watching anything over New Girl, I would’ve chuckled heartily and said, “Oh, so you must be the last hipster on earth who doesn’t know that we’re all supposed to hate Zooey Deschanel now!” When it premiered last fall, the knee-jerk reaction toward the Fox comedy was that having to watch the doe-eyed indie princess act quirky and awkward for 30 minutes every week would be torture on the level of being forced to listen to nothing but She and Him for longer than the length of a J.C. Penney commercial. Then everyone actually watched the show, and not only did Deschanel’s deadpan “adorkableness” not come across completely and utterly grating but, played off the rest of the wonderful cast, it helped make the show into one of the more charming and hilarious new sitcoms on network television.
The point is, never judge a show by its stars or its premise.
So, with that in mind, if I told you the most underrated comedy on TV is basically Friends updated for the single-camera era, would you believe me? Or would you chuckle heartily and say, “Friends? Oh, now you’re going to tell me the most underrated band in the country sounds like Better Than Ezra! The ’90s are over, old man!”
Welp, it’s true. ABC’s Happy Endings really has no premise beyond centering on a group of five 30-ish friends living in Chicago. But the jokes come faster and more furiously than practically any other program out right now, and with an unparalleled zaniness tailor-made for the ensemble cast. Its gags-per-scene ratio is monumentally high, but so is its hits-to-miss rating.
Both of these shows I stumbled upon last year, primarily because they aired in what, for me anyway, is the weekday TV dead zone of Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively. But then, this season, ABC decided to move Happy Endings to 9 p.m., where it directly competes against New Girl. Now, I’m in the agonizing position of every week having to choose between 2011’s Most Improved Sitcom and its Most Underrated.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Between DVR and Hulu, does making such a “choice” in the TV realm actually exist anymore? You can see everything whenever you want. But that’s bullshit. I prefer to live in a world where what you watch actually has meaning — where what you choose to view live, versus as a digital recording, says something about you as a person. And that’s why I choose Happy Endings. Because apparently, it’s not just underrated by the public (I’ve yet to meet anyone other than my girlfriend who even knows it exists) but by its own network, which would put it up against the eminently popular New Girl, seemingly in an attempt to force it into failure. So, as we’re all still buzzing from our election highs, I’d implore you all to make another decision that matters and, please, watch Happy Endings at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, and make sure it stays on the air. I’m Matt Singer, and I approve this message.
I Need Media is a biweekly media column. Matthew Singer watches everything from PBS documentaries to Community and Showtime’s Gigolos, but mostly he’s just happy Breaking Bad is back. Follow him on Twitter@mpsinger.