TV Review: MTV’s ‘Happyland’

"Happyland" TV Review on MTV

“Happyland” is such a target-rich environment that it’s a shame the series feels so indifferently executed and cast. Built around employees of a massive amusement park — including a few who live in the company-owned town, Dazzle (sound like any kid-friendly media conglomerates you’ve heard of?) — the show saddles its mix of comedy and soap-like drama with tired, well-telegraphed twists and on-the-nose dialogue. An MTV audience might still find elements to like: foremost Bianca Santos as the ambitious girl aspiring to break away. But frankly, the few that work are put to better use on CW’s soon-to-premiere “Jane the Virgin.”

Santos’ Lucy has been raised in the theme park’s shadow by her single mom (Camille Guaty), who is young enough to play a princess and pass Lucy off as her sister when she’s busy picking up guys.

Lucy’s chance to work for a do-gooder organization, however, is threatened by mom’s immaturity — yes, we have another TV family situation where the kid is really the grown-up — as well as by Lucy’s sudden crush on Ian (Shane Harper), the handsome lad filling out that Ricky Raccoon costume, whose prince-like lineage is treated like a revelation but hardly comes as a shock.

Created by Ben Epstein, “Happyland” features a lot of knowing touches about the amusement-park biz, such as the mandate not to break character when in costume, the shenanigans that can happen backstage, and the run-down apartments in the ironically named company town. Most of that gets fumbled, though, with Lucy snapping stilted lines at her mom about “chasing boys around like a hormonal teenager,” or the not-terribly-suspenseful questions about which teen is going to wind up in a clinch with whom.

Produced by Storyline’s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the project was shot in part at a California amusement park called Scandia, but was clearly made on a shoestring budget (except, perhaps, whatever it cost to get Josh Groban to show up for unnecessary cameos).

The best decision was to present the show in a half-hour format — wispy as the material is — which offers the bonus of pairing it with the network’s modest hit “Awkward,” hoping to piggyback on its youthful audience.

Still, given “Happyland’s” shortcomings, there’s a long way between that potential fast-pass to success and happily ever after.

TV Review: MTV's 'Happyland'

(Series; MTV, Tues. Sept. 30, 11 p.m.)


Filmed in Southern California by Storyline Entertainment.


Executive producers, Neil Meron, Craig Zadan, Jill Cargerman; co-executive producers, Ben Epstein, Beatrice Springborn; producers, Robert West, Wileen Dragovan; director, Lee Toland Krieger; writer, Epstein. 30 MIN.


Bianca Santos, Camille Guaty, Shane Harper, Katherine McNamara, Cameron Moulene, Ryan Rottman

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is crazy happyland deserves a second season they only gave them 8 episodes and it’s a new show I wouldn’t expect 1.2 million viewers not yet. They should at least give them 8 or 10 more episodes and see where it goes from there. This show is so good especially the last episode they can’t just leaves us wondering what’s going to happen between Lucy and Ian. I mean c’mon give them a second chance.

  2. I really wish shows were reviewed by people who are actually in the target audience. I thought the first episode was light and frothy enough to be a decent bit of mindless fun. Not everything on television has to high concept drama. Thank goodness.

  3. Ed Vaira says:

    Just a heads-up…Calling Scandia a “Southern California Amusement Park” is a stretch! They are, basically, a series of semi-rundown mini-golf course/arcade/bumper boat joints that would barely qualify as carnival-quality, much less amusement park. There’s “shoestring” budget and then there’s, what, “threadbare”?

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