Despite loving my new day job, the only real reason why I am so excited for Mondays these days is because of CBS's new screwball sitcom, Happy Together. Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West star as a homebody married couple, who take in Cooper James, a dashing Aussie popstar who needs a break from the fast life. Admittedly the premise in ridiculous (and sitcom-gold), but Happy Together is effortlessly funny, surprisingly witty show where the stellar cast (includes Stephanie Weir and Victor James) takes turns stealing scenes from each other.
Yet I wasn't shocked to learn the following: CBS has not ordered any additional episodes of Happy Together, and the series will mostly likely end with just a 13-episode run due to lackluster ratings (about 4 million with a .9 demo), THR.com reports. This unfortunate news only solidifies my theory that some shows, like Fox’s short-live Pitch, are just too good for broadcast television. Shoot your shot, Netflix!
What's impressive is that Together set itself apart from most of the brain-dead programming on CBS because of its fantastic cast and whip-smart writing. Unlike most sitcoms about a married couple in which the husband/father is the main source of the comedy, the Stephens West and Weir can hold their own against the talented Wayans Jr.'s schooled hilarity. In these dark political times, viewers deserve the whimsical silliness that is Happy Together that includes grandparents-in-waiting dancing a sexy cage. It is self-care with a laugh track. Especially when Wayan's Jake comes home from work on a Friday night, kicks off his dress pants and walks into his dress pants tossed to him by his wife who's already forearm deep into a bag of Cheetos.
There's something insanely endearing about a couple who want to spend time with each other during the mundane and routine moments in life, and not just the exciting ones. The ironic truth about it is that Cooper James (Felix Mallard), the popstar they've all but adopted is actually the straight man in this oddball comedy.
Granted, the audience has to suspend a great deal of reality to believe that a pop star could live in an LA suburb without being discovered. When everyone’s armed with digital cameras, it seems incredibly hard to believe. And yet, that's not entirely true. Happy Together is loosely based on the true story of One Direction's Harry Styles living with producer Ben Winston for a year to escape the pressures of fame. Even more, I have lived in a small town where Hall of Fame athletes, Oscar winners and others have resided peacefully for years. And no, I won't be name dropping.
These are all components of a great, long-running show, so why is it the only CBS series to not receive a full season order? To be blunt, Happy is actually too good and too niche for its older, more conservative audience. Broadcast networks generally try to appeal to a wide, more general audience with tamer tastes in programming. There's literally no other way to explain why NCIS is still airing. MediaPost.com estimates that the average CBS viewer is about in their late 50s.
Consider CBS' other programming: Bluebloods might seem like a good drama about a family of cops, but it’s inherently racist, which grossly appeals to their older white demographic. The Big Bang Theory hasn’t been at its funny best in years, but scores habitual viewers. The Neighborhood, starring Wayans' former New Girl co-star Max Greenfield, Cedric The Entertainer and always booked Tichina Arnold is another sitcom that mystifyingly garners better ratings despite the writing greatly underserves its talented cast and has yet to find a unique POV, and probably isn't a hurry to do so. The Thanksgiving episode found the Johnsons, a black couple, finding a common ground with Calvin's racist mother instead of reading her for filth as they should've done. This caters to the middle of the road viewers who want to watch TV that touches on current problems facing Americans, but don't actually want to be challenged or motivated to change.
This might be the second golden age of television, thanks to increasing number of streaming services offering a variety of programming that has never been seen before in the medium's history, but it’s a harsh truth that there’s only so much television that people can watch regularly. Some shows will fall through the cracks despite how great they are. With competition fiercer than ever, it’s also vital for TV shows to find the right network. The still deplorably conservative CBS just wasn’t the right place for a sitcom as lighthearted, fresh and diverse as Happy Together (Having another freshman show as a lead-in also didn’t give it the best chance), though CBS All Access might be a place where it can thrive.
It’s an entertainment tragedy that Happy Together isn't attracting more eyeballs. Here's hoping Netflix, Hulu or Amazon will scoop it up and put it on the network it truly deserves.
Happy Together will be cheering up Mondays until February 2019 at 8:30/7:30c.
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.