This oddly-premised program gives a positive depiction of marriage…but has some negatives, too.
Jake and Claire are a happily-married couple in their thirties. But their placid lives are turned upside down when accountant Jake’s tax client, pop megastar Cooper James, shows up on his doorstep, asking the couple to shelter him from the paparazzi who are hounding him following his latest romantic breakup. Jake and Claire agree; but soon, Cooper’s high-flying, ultra-wealthy lifestyle and lack of familiarity with everyday life find the couple trying desperately to prove that “over 30” does not automatically equal “terminally uncool.”
With a bizarre premise improbably based on a real-life incident (the show’s co-creator and executive producer Ben Winston and his wife actually did put up One Direction singer Harry Styles in their attic for a year and a half), Happy Together is an entertaining show with both pluses and minuses.
On the plus side, it is refreshing to see marriage depicted in a positive light in prime time. Claire and Jack enjoy one another’s company, share a love of goofy fun (like recording silly answering machine messages), and, it is implied, share a fulfilling sex life. This is totally unlike the depiction of marriage typically found on TV. How many shows have depicted matrimony as fatal to fun, romance, and sex? The show’s positive portrayal of marriage is deliberate; at a Paley Center panel, Ben Winston elaborated: “So often on TV, the married couple doesn’t get along. I wanted to show what it’s like being in a happy marriage with your best friend, someone with whom you want to grow older together. I wanted to give one of the best portrayals of marriage ever seen on TV.”
Another plus is the show’s acting. Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West are convincing as the happily-married Jack and Claire, while Felix Mallard brings a convincing mix of charm and naievete to his part as an unbelievably wealthy and successful superstar who nevertheless has no experience with normal life, and who is impressed by everyday items like toaster strudel.
On the minus side, the first episode’s content was of dubious appropriateness for family audiences. After a night of partying with Cooper, Jake and Claire are hung over, and the paparazzi spread rumors that Claire is a “cougar” with whom Cooper is having a torrid affair. There are frequent (if not very explicit) references to sex, and Claire’s retired parents are depicted as alcoholics who have vodka smoothies for breakfast. And the program gives no signs of abating in this area; at the Paley Center pane, Damon Wayans boasted that an upcoming episode would be about Jack and Claire getting sick, “with lots of poop jokes. Because everybody loves poop jokes.” Also, it is unlikely that the program’s unusual premise will sustain a long run.
With its upbeat tone and positive portrayal of marriage, but with its often inappropriate other content, Happy Together is a mixed bag. Parents may wish to exercise caution in watching with their families.
Happy Together premieres Monday, October 1 on CBS.