It had been three and a half years since we last received any new Happy Endings. Not that we’re counting or anything.
But when the cast of Happy Endings reunited at EW PopFest on Saturday evening in Los Angeles, it was time to reset that clock. And turn back the clocks.
ABC cancelled the cult comedy about a group of six friends living in Chicago in 2013 after a 57-episode run (not kewl, guys), but here were stars Eliza Coupe, Elisa Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Casey Wilson doing a read-through of a newly written script, courtesy of Happy creator David Caspe and his team of scribes. And it lit up the room with laughter.
[SPOILER ALERT: The next few paragraphs contain key plot details of the script, titled “Happy To Be Here.”]
After being welcomed to the stage by EW editor-in-chief (and Happy Endings obsessive) Henry Goldblatt, the jokes started coming fast and furiously. As fans may remember, the series finale ended with the sextet grooving happily on the dance floor to Stevie Wonder at a wedding, and on Saturday, the action resumed three years later, with Penny (Wilson) getting thrown in mall jail for co-opting a stranger’s children to play out her picture-perfect family scenarios in a Williams Sonoma kitchen. Max (Pally) arrived to bail her out — and deliver some bad news: Scotty, Sketchy Kickball Friend of Max (who was played by guest star Seth Morris), has died. “Our group of friends has drifted apart. Like Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood,” said Penny in response. “This could be our chance to get everyone back together again for the first time since… the fight.” (Watch the opening scene above.)
But as it turned out, reuniting the gang wasn’t easy. As we learn in flashbacks, one second after the credits rolled on the dance floor, Brad (Wayans, Jr.) and Jane (Coupe) got in a massive fight, which split up the group. The six of them haven’t spoken or been in a room together since then, some 939 days ago, “give or take zero days,” said Penny. (UPDATE: It was 1,275 days, if you want to use real-world calendar math.)
So Penny and Max round up attempt to round up the whole gang, and we discover what everyone’s been up to since the show’s finale. Oh, and they’ve been up to plenty.
• Penny has been married. Several times. Things happened on a Kid Rock cruise.
• Jane (Coupe) has been living in Japan, working as a top executive for Toyota. She’s now overseeing their sex doll vision.
• Brad (Wayans, Jr.) is living off the grid in the wilds of Wisconsin. He has a long, blonde beard, which is a result of his being Revenant-ed by some bears.
• Alex’s organic lifestyle brand — does the name Xela sound familiar? — is now a Fortune 500 company, and in other news, she is under the misguided assumption that Toyota is a Star Wars toy company called Toy Yoda.
• Max is now living in D.C. and no one is exactly sure what he does for a living. In an envelope-pushing joke, he announces to the group that he lost weight because he has aides — a pun he quickly clarified as meaning interns who helped with his work enough to give Max the time to workout.
• Dave was so bummed out after the implosion of the group that he pulled a Carl Casper in Jon Favreau’s Chef and took his food truck on the road. It didn’t work out so well.
In addition to catching up with the cast, the lost episode also featured a surprise drop-in guest — Draamaaaaaa! — as Stephen Guaruni belted out the longest Draaammaaa in history (like, over 10 seconds) and we learned the Hodor-y backstory of his catchphrase. (It involves being ordered to draw hundreds of portraits of his mean, aspiring-actress mother: Draw. Ma.)
What followed were a ton of twists — and more than a few f-bombs — but fans should know Brad and Jane did reunite, and it turned out Alex had ordered Scotty to fake his own death as a way to bring the group back together (but in faking it, he actually died). Then, in a super trippy, ultra-meta makes you kinda think, you know? ending, Dave woke up back in bed with Alex at 5:30 on the morning of their wedding (“Bitch, it’s 5:30!”) He proceeded to explain his bad dream: Alex left him at the altar and then, well, he basically rattles off events from the series.
“My dad was the tinfoil blanket brother from Better Call Saul and Penny’s assistant was Jane the Virgin. Brad was on New Girl, Max banged Schmidt from New Girl — man, I really gotta stop falling asleep to New Girl.”
“Wait, so people actually leave people at the altar?” Alex said in response. “Is that a thing you can do if you’re having second thoughts?” She then comforted Dave: “You’re still dreaming. The whole thing was a dream. A sweet, sweet dream…”
There were too many winning lines to mention (Max to Brad about his long, blonde beard: “You look like the photo negative of a rabbi”), but nothing was sacred, from the Galaxy 7 to Martin Shkreli to Jared Fogle to Joshy (starring Pally) and That’s My Boy (written by Caspe). And the Happy Endings crew showed they still like to put the fun in pun, such as Max wanting to read Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda “his Lin-Manuel Miranda rights” and that Vice Versa “still Reinholds-up.”
What else? More bizarro gems, including this callback from Max. “You know what I was thinking? What if George Wendt’s wife Bernadette left him for a throuple with Lucy Lu and Jamie King, then divorced them to marry NHL hall of famer Grant Fuhr, only to leave him for Everlast from House of Pain, then Sting, then Kevin Love, then Yoko Ono, then former ABC president Paul Lee, then Tuco from Breaking Bad, then Glenn Beck, then Harrison Ford, then Curious George, only to finally go back and rekindle things with George Wendt… would she go by Bernadette Wendt Lu-King Fuhr Everlast-Sting Love, Ono-Lee Tuco Beck Ford George Wendt?”
Let us also not forget this don’t-let-the-gag-go joke from Brad: “Look, listen, honestly… are all great transitions. But my point is… is also great. But here’s the thing… is my favorite. So, here’s the thing, I didn’t want you to go to Japan, but I thought I had to be supportive.”
Or this one from Alex, in which she once again gets a big head, only to reveal the massive amounts on air in it: ”I told you guys a long time ago… I’m not as dumb as I am.”
And then this exchange:
ALEX: Huh, I wonder why we all just suddenly stopped hanging out? It’s like one day we woke up and our friendship was just… cancelled.
DAVE : For no good reason.
PENNY : Who can remember the ABC’s of exactly what happened…
But now, after our drought has ended with a deluge of jokes, the question must be asked again: With every other cult show finding new life these days, is there any chance of an actual Happy Endings reboot?
“The state is the same as it’s always been,” Caspe tells EW. “All of us love it and would totally do it. But unfortunately nobody has stepped up to do it. Now there’s more problems obviously because Elisha’s on a show (Netflix’s The Ranch) and Pally is on a show (Fox’s Making History). You never know. Arrested Development was off the air for longer than this and all those people had shows. The key is the people involved wanting to do it, and that we have. But then sadly the lock that our key does not fit into is the lock on the money and someone wanting to air it. But I don’t know, I’m shocked that a major publication even wants us to come and read a script.”
The good news is that Caspe & cast sound open to even more unconventional methods to get Happy again. “There’s probably going to be original programming on those little gas station TVs where you pay,” says Caspe, who’s now penning a comedy for Showtime called Manhunt. “So it wouldn’t shock me if some new place was like, ‘Hey, we’d love to do Happy Endings, and I think in that case people will be down. Coming to you soon at a 76 station. As you pay, you’ll get a 90-second Happy Endings.”
The new Happy Endings script, which was written for PopFest, is dedicated to the memory of Tracy Scott. A donation in her name has been made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. To learn more and donate, click here.