Written by / 4/05/2015 / No comments / ,

SHOWTIME PILOT OF HAPPYISH RECAST WITH STEVE COOGAN

2015 Grade: B+
Difficult to separate the ghost of Philip Seymour Hoffman from HAPPYISH since he had filmed the Showtime pilot before his death, but as a complaining, pontificating, neurotic Steve Coogan fills the late actor’s shoes, it’s now like imagining Chris Farley voicing SHREK.

It's all Coogan's ride, other than the fact the usually thin British comic actor gained some contrived Kevin Spacey in the first half of AMERICAN BEAUTY weight, and his foreign background, mentioned while questioning President Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of Happiness: thus connecting to the title and the show – the frantic Woody Allenesque pursuit into not becoming a typical cookie-cutter smiley-face.

The pilot episode, SNEAK PREVIEW, is just that: an extremely quick glimpse into the just-turned-44 Thom Payne’s existence as an ad man… And he points out how it’s nothing glamorous like MAD MEN.

The best moment has Bradley Whitford, playing the kind of weenie he's covered since REVENGE OF THE NERDS 2 and SCENT OF A WOMAN, mentioning that the people who admit they’re sell outs (himself) and those who deny being one (Payne) are all in the same boat... so just live with it! He's an antagonist, sure, but like JoBeth William's conservative husband in THE BIG CHILL (Richard), he makes complete sense.

Meanwhile, home life scenes with Payne and his kid, and his wife and his friends, border on contrived and intellectually cliche and that’s not such a bad thing – the main character doesn’t seem comfortable in his own comfortable shoes, going through the motions of everyday life, and therein lies a premise that’s more basic and mellow than one would imagine within a potentially edgy mainline. No big belly laughs here; only subtle smiles upon key observations: like who would follow a laxative on Twitter? Mentally stalked by more successfully artistic authors and philosophers, Payne knows he can do better and delve much deeper... the guilty yuppie concept never dies. So if the success of a pilot episode relies on wanting to see more, then HAPPYISH worked just fine.
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