TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Happy! TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Comic-turned-ultraviolent dark comedy series pushes limits.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The main focus of the show is the rescue of a captured young girl (by a Santa Claus-like figure), which is the only positive message you'll find here in the violence and misanthropy. The institutions that are supposed to protect this girl are depicted as rotten and corrupt, and the people in charge can't be trusted. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

This is one aggressively misanthropic show. Just about every character we meet is evil, a big loser, or a victim. Even main character Nick is tough to root for a self-loathing former "supercop" who now makes his living as a hitman. He's tough but not a good guy. Many of the other characters seem clichéd: the distressed damsel, the long-suffering mother, the heartless mobster, the dirty detective. 


About as violent as it gets. Characters are shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled; faceless henchmen types are dispatched in violent set pieces; a character shoots himself in the head in a vision and then dances as blood streams out. In one scene, a man is strapped to an upright hospital bed and tortured with a tray of sharp medical-like instruments. A man threatens to "remove" his penis in "thin slices like salami."  A young girl is trapped in a coffin-like box, screaming, by a scary Santa-esque figure. 


Intense sexuality, sometimes intermingled with violence. A sex worker (dressed as an angel) is seen giving oral sex to a customer in a strange costume (we see her on her knees in front of him, moving her head; no nudity); the man who is receiving the oral sex is shot to death, and his killer takes his place in front of the angel. Minutes later, she asks him, "Hey, where's my money?" and he walks away without paying. A man is said to enjoy being urinated on during sex; later, he is killed and his killer mimes peeing on him as he makes suggestive comments. 


A rainbow of curses ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bastard," a man is called a "little bitch") and lots of coarse expressions: "hooker," "dumbass," "bitching," "balls," "sucks."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use includes a character smoking something (marijuana?) from a hand-rolled cigarette, and another smoking something (crack?) from a glass pipe. Many scenes take place in bars, with characters drinking heavily and later complaining about hangovers. An injured man forcefully demands morphine from medical professionals. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Happy! is based on a comic book series and pushes TV's limits on what it can say and show. Violence is frequent, brutal, and often commingled with sex. Characters are shot, bludgeoned, strangled, stabbed in the neck or the eyes, thrown out of high windows, etc., etc. One character is killed while receiving oral sex from a sex worker; after he is dead, the killer takes his place and declines to pay the sex worker (who is dressed as an angel). We hear that a character who enjoys being urinated on during sex, and the act is mimed on him after he is killed, as the killer makes suggestive comments. A man is threatened with removal of his penis "in thin slices like a salami." A main character makes his living as a hitman; a young girl is trapped in a coffin-like box, screaming, by a scary Santa-esque figure. Language is frequent and intense, too: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bastard"; a man is called a "little bitch," a sex worker is called a "hooker." We see characters smoking something out of a glass pipe and something out of a hand-rolled cigarette; many scenes take place in bars, with characters drinking heavily and complaining later of hangovers. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRevalopod June 16, 2019

Disturbing, messed up, graphic, dark, but amazing show!

Lot's of gore including guts being ripped out in slow motion. A person impaled by a forklift and blood sprays out and makes such a huge puddle that everyon... Continue reading
Adult Written byUsername101 February 19, 2019

Commonsensemedia missed a LOT of stuff

The show is good, but commonsensemedia missed a lot of stuff, including a disturbing messed up rape scene, a baby exploding in a microwave , a guy lobotomizing... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byScottyFrank December 23, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byLil Legend June 25, 2019

epic show

watched season 1 and loved it. Same with season 2. a lirtle violent and a couple of sex scenes but really not that bad

What's the story?

Once upon a time, Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) was a valiant cop and a hero. But that was a long time ago. Now he makes his living as a broken-down, boozy hitman, and his latest job -- to kill the nephews in an Italian mob family -- is almost his last, until he's shocked back to life by EMTs. But when he wakes up, he has a new talent: He can see a tiny animated purple flying unicorn named HAPPY! (Patton Oswalt). Happy, you see, is the imaginary friend of young Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo), who's in terrible trouble: She's been kidnaped and imprisoned by a very scary Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman), and now Happy needs to get Nick to come to her rescue -- before it's too late. 

Is it any good?

Surreal and ultraviolent, this series treads familiar ground and is way too intense for young viewers, but is elevated somewhat by a great cast. Patton Oswalt is a delight in anything, and Christopher Meloni looks like he's having a blast playing a dark counterpart to his iconic Law & Order: SVU role. Happy!'s setup is fun, too, though again, hardly fresh: The "unstable character sees life-lesson-imparting otherworldly figure" has been used in movies from Harvey to Drop Dead Fred -- made in 1950 and 1991 respectively. The characters are clichés too: the broken-bad character called upon for heroics, the little girl in peril, the detective who can't be trusted. 

But despite all these damning facts and despite the fact that one of the show's most striking aspects -- the visually operatic over-the-top violence -- recalls shows like Preacher and Ash vs. Evil Dead, too, there are moments of interesting oddness that make things occasionally work. The holiday touches that bring more creepy to creepy scenes: lights, tinsel, red and green lights, Carol of the Bells thundering slowly over visuals of terrible things happening. This one is not for kids, but if Mom, Dad, or older teens like really dark violent mayhem, it may be worth a look. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Happy! is a very violent show, with bloody injuries and frequent on-screen deaths. Why do some dramas show blood and guts? Is it entertaining for the viewer? For you? What's the impact of media violence on kids? 

  • Comic book adaptations are common on TV and in movies. What other adaptations can you name? Is it more or less enjoyable to watch a show when you haven't read the comic books on which it's based? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dark comedy

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