Happy Together still feels a little silly after the premiere, but it’s often funny, and the premise will work as long as the show continues to recognise its own absurdity.
The latest CBS sitcom, Happy Together, is a true story – kind of. It’s based on the two years that executive producer Harry Styles spent living in fellow executive producer Ben Winston’s attic; a sabbatical from the craziness of being a young, handsome, healthily-haired pop-star in the age of social media.
In it, Jake (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Claire (Amber Stevens West) are a happily-married “ordinary” couple who watch Netflix, plan their sex life in their weekly schedules, and live low-key lives as an accountant and a bar/restaurant designer, respectively. One of Jake’s clients is Cooper James (Felix Mallard), a twenty-something heartthrob musician who, on the run from the paparazzi after a bad break-up with a starlet, takes shelter with Jake and Claire and starts to enjoy a life in which he doesn’t have to be suspended upside-down for photo shoots. (“I can feel my heartbeat in my face.”)
There’s your premise, then. Cooper is basically a slightly less hittable version of Justin Bieber or some other such fresh-faced spillage from the lumbering machine of celebrity culture, but Happy Together doesn’t linger on that culture beyond using it as a way to turn the spotlight on the leading couple. Cooper’s blasé approach to fame and his enthusiastic embrace of laidback normality and toaster snacks is just the backboard for a relationship comedy about two people in the no-man’s-land between youth and middle-age; too old for late nights and wild partying, but young enough to not be able to admit that to themselves.
The premiere can feel a little too try-hard and exaggerated, but it’s largely focused on flipping a convenient setup into a long-term premise. It plucks low-hanging fruit (Cooper asks Claire for the recipe for toaster strudel; his vapid ex-girlfriend calls her assistant “Alexa”, even though her name is Susan), but the chemistry between Wayans Jr. and Stevens West is what keeps Happy Together afloat, and as long as the show continues to focus on them and their relationship, it’ll probably continue to work.