A disillusioned ad man struggling to find motivation in a changing world.
While the above could easily apply to Mad Men (ending its run in two weeks), Showtime’s new comedy HAPPYish — starring Steve Coogan as a middle-aged creative at an agency which just hired two younger, digital-savvy creative directors — explores similar ground; albeit, in a more modern, premium-cable setting.
With just two episodes under its belt, HAPPYish is getting scorched in reviews. The show has already been dubbed “too grumpy to entertain“, “just sad“, and is garnering a paltry 31% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.
Unsurprisingly, I disagree. In fact, I think Happyish has possibilities; it just needs to find its stride.
While it’s true that HAPPYish is both crude and a tad depressing, it’s also — at moments — laugh-out-loud funny and genuine. While many critics have honed-in on the show’s been there, done that look at a middle-aged man going through an existential crisis as a primary source of their discontent, I myself have found some commonalities with Coogan’s characterization of Thom Payne and his angst with the “younger generation”. After all, though digital marketing is my forte, having just turned 33, I too feel “outdated” at times (particularly, when co-workers a decade or so younger trade disappearing pics on Snapchat — an app whose appeal I still don’t understand).
Is that connection enough to keep a show on TV? Of course not. But, I believe, HAPPYish has put down some solid groundwork in the first two episodes. The writing is good — not great — but gives the cast, including Coogan, Illinois native Kathryn Hahn, and West Wing‘s Bradley Whitford, room to stretch their dramedic legs.
HAPPYish was, ICYMI, originally going to star the great Philip Seymour Hoffman before the actor’s untimely passing. Though certainly no slight to Coogan, one has to wonder what critics would be writing about HAPPYish should Hoffman been around to star in the series.
Showtime may not have a hit with HAPPYish right now; but, I’m holding out hope that the remainder of season one lives up to the casts’ promise. If nothing else, Happyish‘s portrayal of an ad man struggling to keep up with social media should provide some laughs — even if this year will be the only shot the show gets.