Happyish

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Happyish TV Poster Image
Dark comedy wallows in explicit language and sex talk.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Major themes include the inevitable disappointment and hopelessness of adulthood; the pursuit of "happiness" is, at best, a fool's errand and, at worst, completely impossible.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Thom's immediate family has a strong bond, in general, most characters -- including Thom -- must make serious concessions in their personal and professional lives to be "happy" -- with borderline depressing results.

Violence

Violent acts played for comedy; some blood, but it's cartoonish.

Sex

Frank talk about sex; simulated sex acts (including the seduction of a cartoon character); lingerie and some bare skin but no nudity; a couple watches porn together.

Language

Heavy usage. Unbleeped swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "p----y," "prick," "dick," "c--k," and "bitch." 

Consumerism

Keebler plays a prominent role in the pilot; other brands include Samuel Adams, Coca-Cola, Facebook, and Twitter.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking. Some characters smoke pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that HAPPYISH is a mature comedy aimed at middle-aged adults that uses frank, unbleeped language of every shade -- from "motherf--ker" to "p---y." Sex (or the absence of it) is a common theme, so you'll see some simulated sex acts (including the seduction of an animated Keebler elf) along with adult characters drinking and smoking pot. There's some cartoonish violence, too, but any blood is played for comedy.

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What's the story?

Though he sort of shares a name with a key figure of the American Revolution, 40-something advertising exec Thom Payne (Steve Coogan) sees the forefathers' pursuit of happiness as a pretty fruitless exercise. But with a pair of new bosses who are nearly half his age and a wife (Kathryn Hahn) and son waiting in the wings, he'll have to trade in his hopelessness and be HAPPYISH -- whatever that means.

Is it any good?

Originally developed for Oscar winner Philip Seymour HoffmanHappyish came to a halt after Hoffman's sudden death, and the show's creators eventually found a new star in Steve Coogan, a likable Brit best known for his comedic portrayals of broadcast personality Alan Partridge and, more recently, dramatic projects such as Philomena. But Coogan and Hoffman are such different actors that it’s hard not to imagine what Hoffman would have been like in the role. Perhaps it would’ve been better; most likely it would have been darker. Still, Coogan’s doing his best to make Happyish as watchable-ish as he can.

The show hurls most of its humor at an assortment of adult problems, from depression and erectile dysfunction to the dangers of aging in the workforce, particularly when you work in an industry that's obsessed with youth culture. It's not about anything kids would care about, so there's no reason to think they'd want to watch. But if they do, they might decide that, if the future's this bleak, they might never want to grow up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Happyish's central premise: that the pursuit of happiness is pointless because life itself is full of disappointment. How do you feel about a statement like that, and do you agree? Do the main characters' actions and experiences support it or contradict it?

  • Happyish was originally written for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died before production began. How might the show have been different with Hoffman in the lead? Is Coogan more or less believable?

  • Do you agree with Happyish's portrayal of modern-day advertising, particularly with its argument that youth culture and social media are driving everything? How can older generations fit into the conversation and add knowledge?

TV details

For kids who love satire

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