Four episodes of the first season of “One Big Happy” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
Full disclosure: I was sent the first four episodes of NBC’s newest comedy sitcom, One Big Happy, and I only watched two. That sentence will probably do more to express my feelings for the show than this review as a whole, because, honestly, there’s just not much to criticize here. It’s the most basic, shrill, laugh track-using, oh-what-shenanigans-will-they-get-into-this-week kind of show that feels like someone at NBC tripped over a dusty old pilot episode in some forgotten hallway and remembered they needed a half hour to fill this spring.
So what’s it about? Lizzie (Elisha Cuthbert) is best friends with Luke (eternally bland sitcom pop-up Nick Zano), and they made a pact in their twenties to have a baby together – via artificial insemination – if both are single at 30. But then, like a star-crossed meet-cute sent to guide Luke to his fate (or the keyboard of some writer’s crappy MacBook Pro), Nick runs into Prudence (Kelly Brook) and the two fall in love and get married and all three have to contend with generally creating issues out of thin air to argue about.
The premise, woefully uninteresting as it is, isn’t helped by the fact that every plot point is telegraphed from miles away. Hell, the entire series is explained and tied in a bow for the audience within the first 30 seconds of the premiere, in a palm-to-face opening scene that feels like what I imagined the show’s creator (Liz Feldman, who based the show partially on her own life) sounded like when pitching to NBC. It’s all garbled plot and broad jokes (Luke mentions that what he did with a cup holding his sperm was “not dishwasher safe”) and no genuine character beats. See: How To Open A Sitcom, Section M, “Marry Me” for the correct version.
Oh and Lizzie is gay, and the show really wants you to know that. There’s an onslaught of over-generalized references to lesbians being bad in breakups and wanting to paint things, and a gay character whose catch-phrase appears to be “Eugh, straight people.” It attempts to be all “clever” by turning the boy-runs-to-the-airport scene into girl-runs-to-the-airport but doesn’t do anything with it, instead ensuring the audience it was totally groundbreaking by having its characters talk about it afterwards. The show just feels stale, outdated, and frivolous in a television era where Orange is the New Black already happened, and How To Get Away With Murder essentially became How To Get Away With Gay Sex In Primetime Like A Boss.
It feels less like someone in-the-know with gay culture is writing One Big Happy, and more like someone who was told they’re in-the-know as a joke and went on doing it anyway. It’s never offensive to the LGBT lifestyle, which I guess is a plus, but its sheer skin-deep artificiality on the subject is a constant dark cloud over the show. On a producer level, I guess you can’t blame Ellen DeGeneres, but well-known LGBT writer Feldman should know better.