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A Different Fairy Tale

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Fish out of water: Happy Endings’ Max (Adam Pally) finds himself in uncharacteristically feminine apparel for a Halloween contest gone wrong.

‘Happy Endings’ signals new beginnings for TV LGBTs
by Nancy Ford

Remember when it was a huge deal in 1994 when Roseanne Connor and Sharon (Mariel Hemingway) shared a quick kiss on ABC’s hit sitcom Roseanne? Despite critics’ and fans acclaim of the episode, sponsors balked and conservative Christian groups organized boycotts of advertisers. Some stations in smaller markets even pulled the plug on the episode.

Eighteen years later, post Will & Grace and Ellen, ABC has broken new ground, yet again, with the stereotype-shattering portrayal of a gay man and his family of pals.

Featuring dialogue as brisk as we’d find in any given Capra movie, ABC television’s Happy Endings follows the daily lives of six 20-or-30something Chicagoans. We have the newly broken-up white couple trying to untangle myriad unresolved issues while they try to downplay their enduring love for one another. We have Jane and Brad (Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans Jr.), the kinky interracial couple. We have the amazing Penny (former Saturday Night Live player Casey Wilson), who plays the single Jewish girl intent upon introducing new words to the English-ish vernacular. Penny’s best friend is Max (Adam Pally), the fag to Penny’s hag.

Yes, Max is gay, but not in that fey Jack McFarland or queeny Will Truman way. Max is his own gay man: sloppy, burping, irresponsible—a reversal of the gay stereotype that America is more comfortable embracing. Max is more Oscar than Felix, but is indeed capable of depth. For example, in an episode entitled “Everybody Loves Grant,” the normally overly self-confident Max examines whether or not he’s up to dating his dream guy.

But the “The Butterfly Effect Effect” episode, with Max coming out of his winter hibernation is perhaps the cleverest allusions to the “gay bear” phenomenon we’ve seen on network television.

A clever update of the Friends phenomenon of the 20th century, Happy Endings makes the beginning of the new millennium a lot less lonely. And much gayer. The complete second season, now available on DVD, also includes deleted scenes and outtakes.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (sony.com).

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