TV Review: ‘Happy Together’ Doesn’t Find Laughs or Originality

Everyone knows what they’re getting with a CBS sitcom. The mutli-camera laugh track comedy reigns supreme. “Happy Together” abides by all of the typical tropes one expects from these types of shows. This includes the groans that accompany almost all the punchlines. The show is rarely funny, but remains oddly charming. Going into the show, one can make a pretty fair assessment five minutes in whether it is for them or not. However, for those that love a fairly pedestrian CBS sitcom, “Happy Together” breezes by and puts a nice, small smile on.

Jake (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Claire (Amber Stevens West) are a comfortably married couple who can barely interrupt their Netflix binge to have sex. Their comfortable life gets put in a tailspin when super star Cooper James (Felix Mallard) asks to stay over at Jake and Claire’s house. Cooper is in the midst of a high profile break up with another celebrity and wants to lay low. However, this mega star lives life quite a bit differently than Jake, his accountant.

The pilot episode throws us head-first into one of the most familiar plot lines out there. Cooper takes Jake and Claire out for a night partying and the older couple can’t hang like they used to. It’s a tale as old as time, and it hasn’t gotten more fresh. The only thing more stale than the situation are the jokes. Every laugh line resembles a B-side of jokes your Uncle would tell you. They might elicit a chuckle or two. However, “Happy Together” will rarely work harder than this.

The primary draw of the show are the co-leads. Damon Wayans Jr. continues to have a winning presence on TV. As Jake, he conveys a confidently dorky affable nature. It recalls a much less interesting version of the role he played on the short lived sitcom “Happy Endings,” which was miles better than this. Wayans exudes a natural chemistry that even the lamest punchlines can’t fully dull. It helps that he shares great, lived-in chemistry with Amber Stevens West as his wife, Claire. The show uses their comfortable marriage as a punch line for being boring quite often. However, their pairing makes for the most fun in the show. I’d rather be binging a Netflix show with them at home than going out with the celebrity at the center of the show any day.

This brings us to the central conceit. The show places mega star Cooper as a potential “wrench” in this couple’s life. However, for better or worse, there’s little conflict between Cooper and this couple he moves in with. This speaks somewhat for Mallard’s performance, which is as nice and non-threatening as the show itself. While hardly groundbreaking, he does fit in with the shockingly low stakes world the show has set up. The show wants to badly to be fun and genial that it doesn’t bother to stir up tensions between the characters. This makes for a breezy half hour of TV but doesn’t give us much to look forward to over the course of a TV season.

“Happy Together” airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m./7:30 p.m. Central on CBS.

GRADE: (★★)

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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman

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