Maybe Happyish, like its characters, is a victim of chronic fatigue, exhausted by the boorish personalities of advertising executives, the frustration of being frustrated in your 30s and 40s, the exploration of what it truly means to be happy (or whether happiness even exists). It is hard to care about any of these characters or to connect with a man who’s upset because he decided to wear skinny jeans to fit in with his new, younger bosses or a woman fretting about what to do with a package from her mother (though I will say the episode in which Lee’s point of view takes precedence over Thom’s is markedly better than the other two sent to critics). The most impressive thing about Happyish is how it feels underwritten despite the fact that it’s also one of the most obnoxiously writerly series in recent history.
Created by novelist and memoirist Shalom Auslander, Happyish could easily have been a hefty novel featuring pages and pages of characters’ inner monologues. That novel could even, I think, have been a good one. On screen, however, it just looks like characters angrily yelling, cursing everything from God to Twitter. The problem isn’t so much that the rants are poorly written — on the contrary, some of Thom’s and Lee’s do offer insight (and Hahn, particularly, brings depth to them). They’re just too much: too long, too frequent, too angry, and too proud.
And therein lies the biggest issue with Happyish: It is too damn proud of itself. It is a smug little series, one that believes it is capital-I Important and pats itself on the back every chance it gets. It is so self-congratulatory that any critical praise would be redundant. Happyish mistakenly believes that it has brand-new things to say — things previous shows were too scared to utter, or viewers were just not yet ready to hear. But we were ready years ago. And we were bored then, too.