On paper, Happy Endings was just another sitcom about a group of young adults navigating this messy thing we call life.
There were breakups and hook-ups and racist parrots — okay, that last one feels unique — but the basic premise wasn’t anything revolutionary. And yet, nearly a decade after it introduced a bizarre gang of Chicago-based weirdos named Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), Jane (Eliza Coupe), Max (Adam Pally), Penny (Casey Wilson), Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), and Dave (Zachary Knighton), we still feel the anger rising at its too-soon cancellation. Anger even a rage-chill rewatch of Downton Abbey can’t cure.
So instead, to survive the wait before the cast’s planned reunion (and to distract us from the fact that Penny’s break-up play, Black Plague: A Love Story, is our current reality) we’re rounding up some of the best episodes of Happy Endings in case you need a re-watch.
10. “Dave of the Dead” (Season 1, Episode 7)
The Story: Dave mulls a job change after believing he may slowly be transforming into a zombie while Penny channels her inner hipster to impress a guy.
Why It’s On This List: Hipsters were millennial scum when Happy Endings first aired and they’ve only gotten worse with age so watching Penny don oversized spectacles, flea market duds, and practice her “Over it” catchall just hits different – and by different we mean funnier – the second time around. Of course, Max is there to guide her through the world of fashion scarves and bike locks as belts and hating froyo before she wises up to how dumb this whole vibe is, and while she’s doing that, Dave is gestating an idea that will soon become his signature food truck, Steak Me Home Tonight.
9. “Like Father, Like Gun” (Season 1, Episode 12)
The Story: Brad’s overly-strict dad pays a visit, and Penny learns she can only speak Italian when plastered.
Why It’s On This List: Damon Wayans. We’ll say it again: Damon, Wayans. Watching Wayans Jr. act against his dad is a special kind of treat for comedy fans, but the two actually craft an uncharacteristically emotional storyline from the pair’s strained relationship that offers a deeper glimpse into Brad’s psyche. Oh, and Alex teaches us all how to take BBQ ribs like a champ while Penny perfects her drunken Italian.
8. “Spooky Endings” (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Story: A Halloween party at a warehouse goes horribly wrong when Penny and Max choose the wrong couple’s costume, Alex gets mistaken for a man in drag, and Dave’s Austin Power’s getup doesn’t land the way he hoped.
Why It’s On This List: Adam Pally strapped to Casey Wilson in a Baby Bjorn. Need we say more? Fine, Quiche Zones, Elton John, ZZ Top Gun, and weird gay turkey parties. There, you’re welcome.
7. “You Snooze, You Bruise” (Season 2, Episode 19)
The Story: Dave gets bullied at the gym, which prompts Alex to recall her early years as a schoolyard tyrant and Jane takes Penny’s advice to relax her standards a bit too far.
Why It’s On This List: One word: Slo-mo-homo. Dave and Max get some quality gym time that really plays to both character’s strengths: Max, the reluctant gay, and Dave, the lovable goof. The gym subplot also means the return of D-Rock (Stephen Guarino), which is always a good thing, and an appearance from SNL alumn, Bobby Moynihan. Really, there are just too many funny people in this episode to praise each one but one of the highlights belongs to the Kerkovich sisters. Tough love takes on a new meaning when you have to talk your sibling out of some Gaucho sweatpants.
6. “The Butterfly Effect Effect” (Season 2, Episode 15)
The Story: Penny and Dave anticipate the annual Jane and Brad Spring Smackdown while Max hibernates through his seasonal depression.
Why It’s On This List: It’s the philosophical quandary of our time– which is funnier: Watching Adam Pally mumble his way to becoming a human-version of Winnie The Pooh or watching the rest of the gang hype up our favorite couple’s yearly fight like it’s some Pay-Per-View event? We don’t have a good answer but what we do know is this: “The Butterfly Effect Effect” is real, and it’s already impacted Ashton Kutcher’s movie career.
5. “The Kerkovich Way” (Season 2, Episode 17)
The Story: Penny and Max pull out all the stops to top an annoyingly perfect couple in the neighborhood’s annual scavenger hunt, and Alex enlists Jane’s help in “Inceptioning” Dave with an ancient Serbian-wiping memory technique passed down in the Kerkovich family for generations.
Why It’s On This List: Jane always had a particular kind of crazy about her, and Eliza Coupe chewed up every bit of comedic screentime she was given, but there’s something deliciously dark (and funny, obviously) about watching the more maniacal Kerkovich mindf*ck her friends, her husband, and her sister with the energy of a campy Bond villain. There are other gems here, like Penny’s patenting of “floor pie,” sadness crumping, and Brad’s love of Meryl Streep, but this episode really belongs to Jane and she does the most with it.
4. “Blax, Snake, Home” (Season 2, Episode 1)
The Story: Penny moves into a haunted apartment and begins morphing into a cat-friendly spinster, much to her horror. Max and Brad have a tiff over Brad’s networking commitments. And Jane’s plan to bring Dave and Alex together again as friends goes sideways.
Why It’s On This List: Where to start? Maybe with Penny, who’s elation over becoming a new homeowner is darkened by random cats popping up in her home, DVR recording of The View, and the fact that her hookups are too intimated by her Italian marble countertops? Or maybe we should focus on Dave and Alex’s budding rivalry? They’re each competing for worst pet-peeve this episode, and it’s between Dave’s running socks and sh*tty taste in music vs. Alex’s inedible jambalaya and insistence on feeding her pet snake Tyler Peeps for breakfast. Or maybe it’s the two-minute opening melee that begins with Max stabbing Brad with an oyster knife and ends with Penny administering an EpiPen when a shrimp cocktail tower falls on an allergic Jane? Really, take your pick.
3. “Baby Steps” (Season 2, Episode 2)
The Story: Alex’s boutique becomes a hot spot for teenagers with a fetish for baby tees, which sparks a desire in Penny to return to her high school days. Meanwhile, Max struggles to pay rent, and Jane stalks her egg-donation, which has now become a full-fledged preteen.
Why It’s On This List: This episode perfectly channels the soul-crushing realization that every 30-something has at some point in their tenure as an adult: you’re just not cool anymore. For Penny, that just doesn’t fly, so when a group of mean girls start repping Alex’s baby onesies as makeshift crop-tops, she chases that hollow-high of popularity to the mall’s food court. And while she’s going through a mini-mid-life-crisis, Max is operating a German sex hostel and bemoaning the millions he lost when the Beanie Baby bubble burst. Aren’t we all?
2. “Cocktails & Dreams” (Season 2, Episode 16)
The Story: The group stars having sex dreams about Dave after imbibing at his food truck when his liquor license comes through while Max worries that he might be getting a bit too domestic with Grant (James Wolk).
Why It’s On This List: Besides giving us the heavenly vision of Wolk cooking a whole-ass frittata, the show nails the cringe-inducing awkwardness of sleep-lusting over your best friend. It happens to everyone eventually, though Brad’s reactions are by far the funniest, and while his friends are trying to control their nighttime urges, Dave gets to pal around with Colin Hanks and his coke-loving intern, Beans. But the greatest gift of this episode is Penny’s defiant speech when she thinks Dave is slut-shaming her for taking a “Whore’s Bath” (really, it’s just the name of his new drink). Did you know you were pronouncing Au Bon Pain wrong? Well, now you do.
1. “The Marry Prankster” (Season 3, Episode 12)
The Story: Fed up with years of Max pulling pranks on them, the group decides to dole out some ice-cold revenge by tricking their old buddy into thinking he’s won the lottery. When he finds out he’s still the poorest one of the group, Max vows to exact slow, torturous payback on them all.
Why It’s On This List: Look, do we condone psychologically terrorizing your friend group as a healthy method for managing feelings of betrayal and loss? Well, if it’s this funny then yes, yes we do. Adam Pally has a hell of a time taking his character to the brink of insanity as his “gotcha”s become increasingly disturbing — paintball rigged muffins is something only a true psychopath could think up. What’s even more funny than watching Penny get slimed and Dave breakdown over his friend’s faked death is Alex’s rising panic that she too will be pranked. She just can’t handle the truth — that they’re all just little prawns in this twisted game, swimming around, waiting to be eaten by Max Broom… we mean Mark Bloom. Oh damnit, you get the picture.