Recommended: Happyish, which Showtime cancelled after one season. I’m sure it will soon make it to Netflix or i-Tunes or whatever you guys who watch teevee on your computers use.
Happyish skewers the zeitgeist till it bleeds. It includes esoteric cultural references, which appeals to snobs like us. It is mostly well-written, although occasionally it lapses into anatomical sophomorism. (Hollywood has decided that body parts humor is the most funny sort of humor in the eyes of its most lucrative target audience. Unfortunately, in a lapse of logic, some Hollywood writers seem to believe that, ergo, it is the most funny sort of humor, period, leading to its contamination of programs aimed at audiences other than millennials.)
The trope of Happyish: a married couple finds themselves facing a strange and frightening alien world. It is the same world we all inhabit when we turn on the teevee, click onto the web, or get into our cars (we don’t even have to go anywhere), and which inevitably vanquishes us to whatever extent we are dependent on it.
Admittedly, the lunacy of the real world is exaggerated on Happyish, but the program teases us with the nasty question: “exaggerated by how much?” The world of Happyish is bleaker, more hopeless, than that of The Wire or Breaking Bad. But all its bleakness, its portrayal of irreparable cultural destruction, is neutralized by...
If the word “love” had not been hijacked and placed in the vanguard of the advancing powers of darkness, I would use it here. Instead, I’ll just say “by affection.”
The interaction between Thom and Lee, the couple, is absolutely real, believable, possible – well, perhaps there would not be quite as many funny lines in real life. Their relationship is in perfect balance, there is never a spat, never an argument, never even a disagreement, yet – strange as it may seem – it is not some impossible perfect marriage of Hollywood’s febrile imagination; it is entirely authentic.
The way Thom and Lee deal with the world as they encounter its idiocies and its cruel random mischief is perfectly normal. What is not so normal, yet still is well within the realm of the possible, is their unwavering cooperation in confronting it. Their egos are as strong as anyone else’s in the Happyish universe, but for them it is their group of three (themselves and a kid) which takes precedence.
I don’t know to what degree its creator, Shalom Auslander, intended it, but Thom and Lee’s affectionate, cooperative relationship is the antithesis to the narcissism which is at the heart of the awful world that overwhelms them. It points to the way out – but we always have known that was the way out.
Things will change. They always do. Perhaps in my three year old grandson’s generation the adoration of I will finally wear thin. Let’s just hope that the group to which the needs of the ego are subsumed in this new zeitgeist is as inclusive as possible.