Happyland

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Happyland TV Poster Image
Strong female lead rescues otherwise so-so teen soap.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series mines complicated human relationships for drama and, at times, comedy. The concept of incest is raised as it relates to teens who act on an attraction to each other but then learn they're actually related. Another complicated love triangle threatens longstanding friendships. A persistent theme draws comparisons between real life and the superficial nature of the theme park, which encourages viewers to consider which they would prefer. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central figure Lucy is different from most in that she shies away from the park's glitz and romance and yearns for a more real existence. She keeps a cool head both on the job and in her personal life with her mom, where she's often the more adult of the two. Other teens demonstrate less responsible behavior, including being stoned on the job and fall-down drunk at parties. Adults are a mixed bag. Lucy's mom manages to hold down a steady job but does little to manage her own household. 

Violence
Sex

Innuendo that suggests sexual promiscuity among teens and adults. A teen chides her mother for bringing home a string of guys, and another flirts shamelessly despite being in a relationship already. Guys are shown shirtless. Some physical affection is seen between both opposite- and same-sex couples, but it usually stops with embracing or kissing. Occasionally sex is mentioned in crude terms such as "Have you hit it yet?" and "The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new." 

Language

"Ass," "hell," and name-calling such as "asshat" and "dick."  

Consumerism

Cultural references include mention of social media sites such as Facebook. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's said that Ian uses drugs, evidenced by his dazed behavior in some cases. Harper uses alcohol to ease her inhibitions and flirt more easily with multiple guys, but it also puts her in some precarious situations. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Happyland is a soap-style teen dramedy with a recurring storyline that implies incest as two main characters fight their mutual attraction after it's revealed that they're actually half-siblings. Teens and parents have reason to like Lucy, a smart, hard-working teen who takes her responsibilities seriously but also sees beyond her current situation and wants to do something more meaningful with her life. Relationships between both opposite- and same-sex couples yield some kissing, embracing, and hints at casual sex. Expect infrequent strong language ("hell" and "ass," for instance) and some name-calling ("asshat" and "dick"). Teens show the effects of doing drugs and drinking too much (a guy passes out onstage after admitting to being stoned), but their use isn't shown. Adults and teens aren't always good role models, but Lucy stays true to her good intentions despite the distractions around her. 

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What's the story?

HAPPYLAND follows Lucy Velez (Bianca Santos), an industrious teen who's lived her whole life in the theme park where mom, Elena (Camille Guaty), is the long-running main attraction. Despite a solid job of her own in Happyland, Lucy yearns for more than the superficial, economically stagnant existence there, but fate seems determined to stand in her way of leaving. And then there's Ian Chandler (Shane Harper), the smug heir-apparent of the park itself who has taken a liking to her and wears down her defense ... that is, until it comes to light that a brief romance between Elena and Ian's dad actually begat Lucy. Even her relationship with her friend Harper (Katherine McNamara) has its sticking points, thanks to Harper's boyfriend's (Cameron Mouléne) unrequited attraction to his longtime friend Lucy. As the show progresses, Lucy learns that growing up is never easy but that, with friends and family by your side, it can be manageable.

Is it any good?

Happyland is a soapy dramedy geared toward teens, which makes the Disneyland-esque theme park setting and elaborate character costumes a little corny. But as the story evolves, even they serve a purpose as visual reinforcements of the show's comparison between fantasy life and reality and Lucy's struggle to find her place on one side or the other. Teens may or may not relate to the main character's specific challenges with regard to family and life situation, but they will see some familiar issues arise in rocky relationships and roadblocks to the characters' success.

Happily, the show uses these coming-of-age topics to bolster a decent female lead who copes with adversity in admirable ways, even if some of her circumstances are a little far-fetched and the plot fairly mundane. Although Lucy has high standards for herself, though, the same can't always be said of those around her, and teens will see and hear of instances of alcohol and drug use among other negative behavior that rarely yields consequences. The bottom line? Happyland doesn't break any new ground, and its incest-tainted premise is a little bizarre, but it does touch on some issues that likely relate to your teens' lives. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about relationships. Are the romantic relationships your teen sees among her peers always committed? Is casual contact and/or sex considered OK, or is it frowned upon? What are the risks of casual encounters?

  • Is Lucy a strong role model for teens, and girls in particular? What traits make her an admirable character? What traits don't? How does she use the life she leads to inspire her quest for something different? 

  • What do your teens think is this show's intended message? Does its setting in an elaborate theme park do it any favors, or is this a distraction from the heartier content?

TV details

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