Happy Together continues to use its outlandish (but true!) premise as a backboard for an examination of growing up – especially with someone else.
In case you missed last week’s pilot, in CBS’s new sitcom Happy Together Jake (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Claire (Amber Stevens West) are very much living up to the show’s title. They’re also living with Cooper James (Felix Mallard), an Aussie heartthrob who is taking advantage of their “normal” existence to hide from the press and live a relatively uneventful life. Which is why we re-join them in the second episode, “Scrubbing”, trying to stay up as late as possible so as not to appear uncool to Cooper.
The show’s still funny, even if it is difficult to buy the leads as “uncool”. But Happy Together works best when you don’t see Jake and Claire that way, but as a couple who have had their cool phase and are gradually growing out of it. But while they might be too old for the carefree, laidback lifestyle that Cooper embodies, they’re young enough that they can remember how it felt to live it.
What they’re dealing with in “Scrubbing” is the need to get rid of the old tat they’ve hoarded throughout their relationship, spurred on by Cooper’s minimalist existence. (All his possessions are contained within a single box.) The joke here is that Jake and Claire are hopelessly attached to their things because those things represent a past that they’re reluctant to leave behind, whereas Cooper has so much living left to do that he’s only concerned with the future.
This setup allows for some gags, but it’s mostly used as a backboard for Happy Together to examine relationships, especially how it’s important for couples to carve out time for themselves so as not to become too defined by their partnership. To hammer this home Claire’s parents arrive in matching outfits for a couple of scenes in which they loom like the ghost of Christmas comfort, referring to Claire and Jake as “Clake”. The terror of being defined by a portmanteau is palpable. You can be happy together, but not together. At least that’s what I took from it.