'Happy Endings' Creator David Caspe Talks Renewals, Sitcom Romance and Unaired Episodes (Q&A)
Off the air until the (likely) third season, the showrunner tells THR about finding the series' stride during its sophomore run and where it's headed next.
Some fans of Happy Endings may be slightly confused at 9:30 p.m. this Wednesday. Though the regular broadcast season still has a month's worth of steam left in it, the ABC comedy concluded its sophomore run last week after a fast-tracked 22 episodes.
Make that 21. As the network did last year, one episode is being saved to air at some point after the regular season, making room for the April 11 premiere of Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23 in its plum, post Modern Family timeslot.
That launchpad served Happy Endings well. A wildcard for renewal this time last year, its ratings swelled in the fall, making it the network's second strongest sitcom, next to Modern Family, among viewers 18-49. And though a renewal seems like a given, creator David Caspe was cautiously optimistic when The Hollywood Reporter spoke to him after the season finale. "I’m probably not freaking out as much as I should," he says.
STORY: 'Happy Endings' Finale Postmortem: Elisha Cuthbert Forecasts the Coming Love Triangle
Now finished with his first full year running a television series, Caspe offered his take on the sophomore season, the blessing of Happy Endings' timeslot, its connection to '90s hip hop and the romantic can of worms they opened during the season finale.
The Hollywood Reporter: What are you still doing in the office?
David Caspe: I’m sitting here doing what is probably my last hour and a half of editing for the season, cutting something for the DVD. It’s Penny’s [Casey Wilson] dream where she encounters herself as a 65-year-old woman, also played by Casey Wilson.
THR: Was that cut from the season premiere?
Caspe: It was going to be in the episode, and then we felt that we wouldn’t really be able to fit it the way we wanted to do it. Casey is so funny, it’s crazy. This is my last requirement as far as editing goes. I’m sure there will be little things here and there. But I’m going to actually take a little vacation, and hopefully we’ll hear something about getting some more episodes.
THR: You still have one more episode from Season 2. Do you know what that will air?
Caspe: ABC has Apartment 23, and they needed to premiere that on April 11, so we just ended up having one extra episode. It’s actually one of my favorites of the season. The whole group enters a local Chicago kickball tournament. It’s really a fun episode and Lance Briggs from the Chicago Bears is on it. It’s really fun. We don’t know when it will air but hopefully in the next month or two.
THR: You hinted at the Penny/Dave (Zach Knighton) romance throughout the season and then went in a completely different direction in the finale. What made you want to revisit Dave and Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) thing as something maybe more than a flirtation?
Caspe: I just felt, organically, like the way to go. That being said, from a story standpoint, it seemed like a more interesting one so that’s just kind of how it laid out. Who knows what would happen is we come back for another year.
THR: The show’s never had much conflict within the group. How much do you want to focus on that love triangle dynamic?
Caspe: You know I think we would do it for the sake of comedy, as long as it gets us the comedy that we like. I personally don’t want the show to turn into something too soapy. I think that sometimes these things end up where it all becomes about relationships and people arguing about who is getting together and stuff like that. It loses a bit of the funny and sort of melodramatic in certain spots. I just don’t know if that’s what’s most fun about our show. There’s inherent comedy in all of those sort of f---ed up love triangles. I would do it for the sake of that and because it gives you something that you want to watch story-wise from week to week.
THR: The introduction of Brian Austin Green's character for Penny seemed open-ended. Is there talk about bringing him back?
Caspe: Yeah, for sure, he’s great. We didn’t give him a ton of stuff to do, and he was still so funny. That's why we cast him. It was always with the thought of, “Maybe he’s Penny’s boyfriend if we come back next year.” If he’d be willing to do it, we’d love to have him. He’s really hilarious.
THR: One of the funniest moments in the last few episodes was that tag with Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) getting a heroes' welcome from everyone in their co-op while Ice Cube's "Today Was a Good Day" played in the background. Where did that come from?
Caspe: Jay Chandrasekhar shot it and just nailed it. He is a great director that’s done a bunch of episodes for us. I always wanted to use that Ice Cube song in something. It’s just one of those songs that I remember from when I was a kid and just always thought it was a funny, bad-ass song to put in a comedy. It seemed like a perfect spot for it, and it matched up well. The one you’re talking about with Brad and Jane walking at the end was actually shot 10th, but ended up airing 20th because of scheduling and when we could finish things in post-production. That was actually shot before Penny’s birthday episode that had that Run-DMC slow-mo thing. We did Ice Cube first and then I was like, “Oh, I really like that. Let’s do another old school hip-hop song here." Maybe that will be our thing going forward.
THR: Ratings took a bit of a hit when the show was book-ended by repeats during the last couple of weeks. Did anyone at ABC talk to you about how that would probably happen?
Caspe: They didn't seem surprised. They seemed like “Hey, this is what it is.” They need to save some new [Modern Family] to premiere Apartment 23 -- which is how it was for us last year too. We’ve basically stayed pretty consistent, and our retention and percentages have gone up. We’re holding more of the Modern Family audience. It’s obviously a much lower Modern Family audience when they're reruns. ABC tells us how much they love the show and that they’re really behind it, so I’m probably not freaking out as much as I should.
THR: You shouldn't freak out.
Caspe: It would be great for us to suddenly do really great in the ratings. I think a lot of our audience watches online and DVR and Hulu and all of that. Maybe they’re out there; they’re just not on Nielsen boxes. That’s my secret hope... There’s a lot of those stories about shows that took a little while to find their audience, and I’m hoping that maybe we’re one of those.
THR: The first season was also your first season in television. How do you feel about making a show now that you've gone through the full 22, airing during production?
Caspe: It’s super hard. That was my first realization. There’s a lot to do in a very short amount of time. You're sprinting, but it’s the length of the marathon. At the end you get pretty burnt out, but that being said, it’s the best job in the world to get to make a TV show with a bunch of super talented people. It's a big team sport, with a 200-person team. Airing during production, it’s cool for the cast and crew and directors to see what lines get quoted like which writer wrote that line and if the crew laughed at it on set. Our sound guy, Sterling, actually pitched a line that ended up being the button to a cold open and that line was getting quoted on twitter. It’s cool that everyone gets to be a part of that.