Monday, April 06, 2015

Happy to Be Here

So I believe in giving things a fair shot. Even things that at first may seem like things that I won’t, you know, like. Sometimes my first impression is reaffirmed, sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. When I first heard about “One Big Happy” I was, duh, happy. Liz Feldman and Ellen DeGeneres teaming up to make a sitcom with a lesbian lead? So much happy. Sure, it was about a lesbian and her straight male best friend. Sure, the lesbian was pregnant. But, you know, still – she was a lesbian. Sometimes that can be enough.

Then I saw the previews which were…a little weak. First, it is a multi-camera show with a laugh track which makes it feel a little dated. Second, there was too much of the straight male dude making boobie-grabbing hand gestures. Third, have I mentioned how much I dislike laugh tracks?

But I was determined to give it a chance because I think Liz is incredibly talented and very funny and also who doesn’t want to support an out lesbian show creator? Also there’s the Ellen component and I believe they take away your toaster oven if you don’t support The Great Panted One.

So I watched the pilot. And it was…a pilot. Pilots, particularly comedy pilots, have a very tough job. They have to introduce the characters and set a tone and bring some laughs and make us want more all in 22 very short minutes. I can’t say “One Big Happy” won me over with its first episode. I thought it was sort of meh. Not great, but also not the worst thing I’ve watched. Though, to be honest, if I didn’t know Liz was behind it and I didn’t want a sitcom with a lesbian lead to succeed on network TV, I might have stopped watching right there and then.

But I stuck with it. And the second episode was better. The characters felt more real and less like words on a page repeated enthusiastically. The comedy, while still broad, hit with more consistency. And then last week, I watched again and I laughed, like I really laughed. It brought a couple genuine belly laughs and they felt good. It’s not perfect yet, obviously. But I can see a rhythm developing that is encouraging and I am happy I get to watch it again.

The stars are likeable – particularly the always comically winsome Elisha Cuthbert and the very bubbly Kelly Brook. Granted, I always feel like Nick Zano is struggling to enunciate with a glob of peanut butter stuck to the root of his mouth, but it doesn’t take away from the emerging chemistry between the three (no, not like that, quit it, you).

Here’s the thing, “One Big Happy” is extraordinary for its ordinariness. It’s not edgy even though it has that most rare of television unicorns, a lesbian protagonist. It’s aimed right down the center, down to its CBS-worthy multi-camera format. It’s saying, “Hey, you on the couch, you like big, friendly comedies that make you feel comfortable and smile and maybe even do a little of the laughing for you? Come, sit, enjoy.”

This is not an insult; this is an observation. “The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and A Half Men,” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” are/were all shows that basically follow that formula and are/were hugely, hugely popular. That a show about a single pregnant lesbian and her male best friend/baby daddy who has unexpectedly married a large-bosomed English woman he just met is following that path is in a way very encouraging. This is not niche programming, this is as mainstream as comedies get. It’s basically “Three’s Company” but with more interesting – and honest – sexual politics.

And that’s where, and how, “One Big Happy” could do so much good. It’s not trying to be one of those shows critics adore with a teeny-tiny viewership. It’s trying to be a show a lot of people love and watch every week. Gee, imagine that, a show with a lesbian lead that millions of Americans tune in to watch each week just because it makes them laugh and feel good. Hey, nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.


Helena said...

Yep , nothing wrong with making us laugh :)

Carmen SanDiego said...

I felt the same way about the pilot. Watched the second episode because I felt it was my civic duty and was surprised. The 3rd episode was better and now I like the show. Really hope it makes it, even if I think babies ruin TV shows...

JF said...

I DETEST the laugh track. If the show isn't shot in front of a live audience have it screened to a live audience and tape their reaction.

egghead said...

I liked the lead's ex gf. But I guess she is bad news. Oh well.

Meike said...

Exactly my thoughts and feelings about this show. I was skeptical when I first read about it, but hey, if it's written by Liz and produced by Ellen, I'm going to watch it, so I did. I thought the pilot was okay, but that the second episode was better. I haven't seen the third episode yet, but I certainly will now. :)

Catelynn said...

I think it actually is filmed in front of an audience.

Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD, the sub/dude said...

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PS “It is impossible that anyone should NOT receive all that they have believed and hoped to obtain; it gives Me great pleasure when men hope great things from Me and I will always give them more than they expect”
-Our Lord to Saint Gertrude