The Happy Ending Conundrum

4 Mar

Don Roos’s film Happy Endings is an unseen masterpiece. The film is one of my favorite films, but this isn’t about that film. Well, not really; it’s about TV versus movies, again, as well as examining the new landscape of creativity, kind of.

Diptic

I’ve been urged for over a year to watch the television show Happy Endings. I gave it a chance, and watched an episode where Rob Riggle played a very loud, very Rob Riggle character who died at the end of the episode. To borrow a phrase from Dowager Countess of Grantham, I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t like it. Which is quite different.  There were some alright jokes in, but I didn’t think the situations were all that interesting or explored in a unique way. I gave it a chance, albeit not a very good one, but Happy Endings (the TV show) wasn’t going to replace Happy Endings (the movie.)

However, I was called out about not giving it enough of a chance to grow on me. The situation was compared to my viewing of The Wire, and if I’d given up on that show after one episode or even one season. I have no illusions that The Wire and Happy Endings (the television show) are in the same league, but I do see the point. There’s something appealing about the comfort of familiarity.  Getting used to characters on a show makes the show more enjoyable for sure, but I wonder if it isn’t cheating a bit. I remember back when buying music wasn’t as easy as a click of a mouse, and was much more expensive too, when I bought a new CD I was determined to like it. Even if that meant building false admiration out of familiarity.  I listened to post-grunge (my stomach turned a little typing that) band Oleander on repeat long enough to trick my brain into thinking that knowing all of the lyrics meant that I liked it. It was a cruel trick to play on my brain.

And now I’m being asked to do the same thing with Happy Endings, a show that was pitched to me as “a good nineties fun, like Friends.” The characters in Happy Endings (the TV show) or The Wire or any premium cable television show are better than the characters in the any of this years Best picture nominations simply because they’ve had more time to develop. The idea of putting an important character in the background of a gay bar and then never mentioning that again, only works on TV shows. That would be laughably stupid for any movie to do something like that.  For a television show it’s brilliant because it’s a similar method to finding out information in real life. Things that seem important may be, or they may have nothing  to do with anything. I love watching character driven dramas, and television excels there because it allows a real familiarity with the characters to develop. Quality TV shows feel more like life, or the relationships we want to have in life, because of their structure and their scope.

If TV shows mirror real life, movies mirror listening to a friend tell a story. Movies are better suited to telling specific stories. They are the perfect way to tell  what happened. That is why it is so special when a film like Happy Endings comes along where not only is the story an interesting story, but it’s jammed packed with memorable characters. That’s why filmmakers like Roos are so special. It’s harder to make a feature film do all the things that a TV show can do, than it is to make a TV show do all the things that a movie can do. So, even if the episode I watched of Happy Endings wasn’t the best, it was enough for me. Sorry.

C. Charles

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One Response to “The Happy Ending Conundrum”

  1. Carl Wells March 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    The comparison of TV to real life and movies to listening to a friend is spot on.

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