Since a sextet of friends worked once before, producers and networks are to be forgiven for try, trying again. Enter “Happy Endings,” a fairly nondescript if inoffensive sitcom created by TV novice David Caspe that begins with an attention-grabbing moment — a bride leaves her would-be groom at the altar — but then descends into a familiar assortment of 30-ish types looking for love, and dealing with the strange characters passing through their orbit. An immature critic might make light of the show’s title, but to be fully satisfying, the whole thing could use a bit more massaging.
“None of us have made a new friend in like 11 years,” one member of the close-knit group says in the pilot, and hey, given how much time they spend together, who can blame them?
Still, the chummy band’s dynamics are threatened when Alex (“24’s” Elisha Cuthbert) backs out of her planned marriage to Dave (Zachary Knighton). For awhile, their friends worry they’ll be forced to choose sides.
As for those friends, there’s control-freak Jane (Eliza Coupe); her husband, Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.); the love-starved Penny (Casey Wilson); and the gay (and a little love-starved himself) Max (Adam Pally).
The initial premise, however, soon gives way to more conventional sitcom plots in the four episodes previewed: Jane and Brad’s attempt to befriend another couple, Max trying to conceal his sexuality from his parents, Dave trying to extricate himself from a clingy one-night-stand described as “chicksand.”
There are, admittedly, some amusing lines and moments peppered throughout, from Penny trying to pass herself off as being Jewish (among other things) to impress a date, to a sly what-if reference about Alex’s father being a secret agent. The level of sexual innuendo is also fairly crude, though a 10 p.m. timeslot (after a push-start behind “Modern Family”) ought to deflate any grumblings. And Wayans bears such an uncanny resemblance to his famous father that it takes a couple of episodes just to quit marveling that he wasn’t cloned.
Ultimately, though, “Endings” is less than the sum of its parts, and the potential serialized thread involving Alex and Dave and the evolving state of their relationship doesn’t provide much of a hook. The show also has the misfortune to arrive at the tail end of a slew of similar-looking sitcoms, placed in a let’s-try-comedy-at-10 o’clock gambit whose viability remains suspect at best.
“Happy Endings” isn’t unpleasant, certainly, but might face the same dilemma as its characters: An inability to make — or at least keep — enough new friends.