Happy Hour -- an early look

by Richard Keller, posted Sep 3rd 2006 11:30AM

happy hour

If you really sat down and looked at the numbers, you could probably count on one hand the number of successful live-action situation comedies FOX has had on its schedule over the last twenty years. Of course there were the three-camera, live audience sitcoms Married. . .with Children and That 70's Show as well as the single-camera comedies The Bernie Mac Show and Malcolm in the Middle. Also add the critically acclaimed Arrested Development to that mix, even though it was canceled after three seasons.

Yet, no matter how many unsuccessful comedies they have put on the air, the network brass still continues to try and find the right combination of talent and writing to give one of them a multiple season run. The brass is going to have to go back to the drawing board, because Happy Hour (premiering Thursday at 8:30 ET) does not have the right combination. In fact, I'm not too sure if it has a combination at all.

Here's a brief synopsis of the premise from our summer preview of upcoming FOX shows: Henry Beckman (John Sloan, Commander in Chief) moves to Chicago to live with his girlfriend, Heather (Brooke D'Orsay, Harold & Kumar go to White Castle), only to have her dump him. He finds a new place in the same apartment building with a roommate, Larry Cone (Lex Medlin, Still Standing). Larry sets out to teach Henry the beauty of living a single life, which includes a martini happy hour each day at 4 pm.

In the first few hours of arriving at the apartment Henry meets Larry's former roommate Brad (Nat Faxon, Joey), who is now living with his controlling fiancee Tina (Jamie Denbo), and Larry's best friend Amanda (Beth Lacke), whom Henry gets a job from and eventually sleeps with. And, that's pretty much the whole concept of the pilot episode, which doesn't bode well at all.

Happy Hour has plenty going against it. First, it's airing on Thursday nights at 8:30, right after the new Brad Garrett comedy 'Til Death. This is at the same time of Survivor on CBS, Smallville on The CW and The Office on NBC; three solid shows with dedicated audiences. This new sitcom will have to work very hard to pull audience away from these established series.

Next thing going against Happy Hour is the cast. Did you notice I tried to note where you may have previously seen these actors? That's because you either vaguely remember them in something else or never saw them in anything at all. So, viewers will have a hard time latching themselves onto one character or another. Sure, you could begin to warm up to them by the third or fourth episode, but it may be too late for the show by then. Even though it's a pilot episode someone on the show should catch the viewers' attention to keep them watching week after week.

The characters themselves are also a burden to the series. There is no dimension to any of them; they all fit into one stereotype or another. Henry is the straight-laced guy, Heather is the ditsy ex-girlfriend, Larry is the 60's throwback, Tina is the controlling type, Brad is the whipped fiancee, and Amanda is the over-eating best friend who thinks all men are idiots who want to date skinny supermodels. We've seen it all before in a dozen unsuccessful sitcoms of the past. It didn't work then and it doesn't work now.

Finally, the comic timing is way off. The writers try to cram as many laughs (canned or not, I couldn't determine) into the pilot as they can, throwing away any potential character development in the process (Yes, it is the pilot, but Friends crammed plenty of character development into its first episode. So, why can't this show?). In these days of one-camera comedies such as Scrubs or My Name is Earl the viewers aren't looking for a laugh every ten seconds. They're looking for story and content.

Will Happy Hour make it? Perhaps, if it is lucky enough to retain any audience of 'Til Death. However, if they keep everything the same as it is in the pilot I'll be surprised if it makes it to the Major League Baseball Playoffs break that FOX gives its shows in October.

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L. Golden

Adam, you obviously are of the "Martha" and "Seventh Heaven" genre..."Happy Hour" is exactly like every other Fox produced sitcom...a half hour of irreverent, light, rowdy & raw humor. You hate this show? Fine - turn the channel, dude. Leave it alone for the rest of us who loved "Married With Children" for YEARS and YEARS, and STILL love "The Simpsons" (may it go on in perpetua!) Love, love, love "Happy Hour"...

September 23 2006 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Happy Hour is the best new comedy I have seen this year. My whole family had a really good laugh, something we all need at this time. I had a great time watching this program. Keep me laughing.

September 14 2006 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was laughing almost non-stop throughout the episode. But every time Tina and Brad made an appearance I wanted to change the channel. Its too bad that they are a mainstay of the cast, but I'll definitely give the show another look - it was so funny, I love That 70s Show and the sense of humour from that show has carried through. Unfortunately the plots and the acting abilities havent. But despite that I cant believe you thought Til Death was better. Lucky if I smiled once during that show, and the newlyweds are terrible.

September 13 2006 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sam Condarco

I thought that Happy Hour was awsome. My wife and I were rolling on the floor laughing. It reminded me of all the times that I was watching friends! The hole that friends left was filled for a moment, thanks. I hope you guys run this one?

September 10 2006 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This show sucks out loud. Please don't watch it.

The main character is boring. Larry is as cookie-cutter as it gets. They called central casting and ordered one single guy, player-type. He's not funny, about as original as Louie Louie and not even close to believable as a ladies man.

Sadly, there is a ton of crappy shows like this on TV right now so it wouldn't surprise me if this one succeeded too. But if so it will have to move from it's current timeslot.

September 10 2006 at 3:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
L. Golden

I take offense at your trashing of this show and its actors - everyone starts somewhere in L.A., and this vehicle is a starting point for these actors. Why not give people a chance to see for themselves whether they will "attach" to these actors, instead of just slamming the show? And, I have seen both the pilot AND subsequent shows, and found them to be well acted, well written, and well worth my time - OK, so the line up against the other networks is tough - thank God for TIVO and tape, or I would miss "Survivor" and "The Office", both shows that have a definitely different audience - may "Happy Hour" find THEIR audience, one that likes swift & sofisticated humor over eating rats, a tired Superman saga, and bizarre office humor, which I would just as soon leave AT the office.

September 05 2006 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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