Perhaps the biggest shock here is the utter shrew they turn Cuthbert into, perennially nagging everyone around her – her “thing” is being uptight – with nary a moment of genuine levity. So brilliant in the much-missed sitcom Happy Endings, where she plays perhaps one of the greatest simpletons to grace the small screen, all of her charm is vacuumed out of her in One Big Happy. She’s a perfectionist, wants a family, and lives with her best friend, but her actual human characteristics – besides sucking at break-ups – boil down to: she’s gay.
It’d work if she were an over-the-top character who wore her sexuality on her sleeve, but she isn’t, going so far as to admit that Luke knew she was gay before she did. There’s a discrepancy with what’s on the page and what’s on screen that constantly prevents her character from ringing true. Boorish Max from Happy Endings, always holding the cards close to his chest, never brought up his sexuality unless others did first, and usually evaded it just as fast. One Big Happy wants to be Max and RuPaul at the same time and ends up as neither. Maybe it’ll find its groove in the future, but I won’t be around to find out.
Arguably worse off here, however, is relative unknown Brook. As the living embodiment of entropy wrecking havoc on Lizzie’s calm life, she – like Lizzie herself – appears to have one character trait: she’s English. She spouts lines like, “This cock has been in my family for years, I need to find a special place to stick it” when referring to a glass rooster, and literally appears to exist within this very enclosed little universe to throw all of Lizzie’s plans into disarray. She is, essentially, an accent with breasts. Sitcoms can get away with such a stale set-up – and not every show with a gay character needs to delve into the nitty-gritty of it all – when they’re funny. One Big Happy is many, many things, funny is not one of them.
And, I guess, that’s the main issue here. I watched almost 50 minutes of One Big Happy and it never tickled so much as a half smile out of me. The comedy here is just so simple, so back-breakingly broad, that every time a character mugs for the camera and waits the appropriate amount of time for the “audience” to finish their chortling, you sit in anticipation for the sides of your TV to break off in attempts for the joke to ring broader. There’s no normal conversations here, it’s all stop-and-wait-and-punchline, every talk is a diatribe and every scene ends in a ear-splitting row, resolved minutes later.
“I have a whole speech ready and it’s in all caps,” Luke states, preparing to enthusiastically preach on a subject he doesn’t know all the details about, near the end of episode 2. It’s the best metaphor for the show: a loud, all-caps, twenty-minute long treatise bursting through the door far too late, telling us nothing we don’t already know, getting most of the details wrong, and not exactly sure what to do with itself afterwards. One Big Bore.
So hopelessly out-of-touch with modern day LGBT issues - not to mention a level of humorlessness akin to two doses of NyQuil - One Big Happy barely makes it out of its opening scene before marking itself for NBC's big spring cleaning, which is set to gear up in a few weeks.