Remember not too long ago when I said we were going to be spending more time together? Evidently, I was lying to you. In a devastating blow to the show, ABC has pulled it from its Sunday night time slot. With no notice, ABC doubled up on Happy Endings and with even less notice, they’re kicking it to the curb again. Then again, episodes like “The Ex Factor” don’t showcase the sitcom at its finest. Sure, there were plenty of trademark moments, most of the best ones brought to us by Penny’s self-aware storyline, but the episode didn’t feature the type of back-and-forth between the six that makes Happy Endings so damn endearing. I mean, did we even see them all in the same place at the same time?
Still, that’s not fair. Happy Endings has successfully pulled off separate storylines, but the ones in “The Ex Factor” just felt so disjointed. Even within storylines, it felt like there was a lot less interaction between folks than usual (okay, for the Max storyline, I guess that was part of the gag, but you know what I mean…) besides Jane and Brad. Their storyline featured the two of them squaring off against one another, as they usually do. Seriously the two of them are the most manic couple, swinging from overly-affectionate and uncomfortably open to butting heads over who left the porch door open. There were some really great moments for the couple, especially Jane’s reaction to Brad’s previous “physical” relationship. Still, this storyline bowed to the classic sitcom over-reach with its heartfelt ending. I’m sorry, but I can’t be the only one that was rolling their eyes at the heartfelt conclusion, was I? Or maybe I’m just bitter and dead inside… ya know, this is probably something I should work out on my own time and not in a Happy Endings recap. Even down to Brad’s ex hooking up with Jane’s ex, this storyline felt tired. Especially since ABC is trying to reel in new viewers, you’d expect Happy Endings to be showcasing its truly unique humor, but this particular storyline was so middle-of-the-road and safe, when it had a lot of potential. It wasn’t a bad one, but certainly not up to the standards that Happy Endingshas set for its self.
Max, Alex, and Dave had a storyline that was much more in keeping with the style of the show. The overly complicated bit that they kept doing in trying to track down Chase was definitely one of the better parts of the episode. Max and Alex were at their finest since last season’s episode where Alex pretended to be a lesbian for the sake of low-stakes 80s sitcom “danger.” Honestly, these two carried the episode, but again, I didn’t feel like there was that much pay off. Chase running around on his wife was definitely not predictable, but I just- I didn’t care what Chase was doing. It was more about their unnecessary and complex journey to get to the ultimately disappointing truth.
However, the best part of the episode belonged to Penny. Okay, so maybe I’m not thrilled that Nick Zano (I can’t even remember his character’s name, that is how memorable Nick Zano is to me…) is still around, but it was forgivable to see Penny out of her element. It’s such a basic storyline that doesn’t get enough time in the episode, but Penny’s attempts to hang out with his friends was a-mah-zing. I’ve always been a fan of self-referential humor, so I was glad to see the show acknowledging its roots. In a way, it almost made up for having none of those trademarks in any of the other storylines. I mean, the pile-on bit? It was one of the last remaining recognizable elements of this episode.
Ultimately, “The Ex Factor” isn’t Happy Endings’s finest showcase. Its still a strong showing for a sitcom, but Happy Endings has shown us that it can do better. Instead, it spends too much of its time with a fairly standard sitcom plot. I mean, seriously, the only way it could be more cliché is if it was an episode about Jane feeling threatened by her mother-in-law. Still, it’s not bad enough to be mad at the show. It’s like my mama always said. ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” Luckily, the Max, Alex, and Dave brings a little levity to the table. In the end, “the Ex Factor” belongs to Penny, though. The self-aware humor and that classic Penny charm make this episode, even if it doesn’t get enough screentime.