'Happy Endings' Showrunners Talk 'Saving' the Show, Friday Move and Tussin Jokes
With the delayed episodes of the ABC comedy finally airing, accompanied by a vaguely ominous ad campaign, David Caspe and Jonathan Groff tell THR what's in store for the series and how they're approaching season four.
Fans left a bit confused by ABC's rather surprising "Save Happy Endings" campaign, fear not. The showrunners think it's great.
"I think it was fun," executive producer Jonathan Groff tells The Hollywood Reporter. "And it got more press attention than any promo for the show I've ever seen. Once it got picked up, obviously people commented on the oddness of it, but in the world of trying to break through the clutter, it got people to know that we were coming back on."
Happy Endings, for those keeping track, has not aired a new episode for 59 days. After getting a late start on Tuesdays in October, and never airing originals for more than three consecutive weeks, ABC announced that back-to-back episodes would air on Fridays starting March 29. And, at present, the network plans to air all ten of season three's remaining episodes in that 8 p.m. block through April 26.
"It feels very much like the network and us are on the same page," says creator and executive producer David Caspe. "It's just that they have more pressing issues than just Happy Endings. They have a whole network to run, and for as much as they might love our show, that’s not enough necessarily to keep it on the air or put it in a certain slot. It's kind of above our pay grade as to what ultimately will make these decisions."
So while big decisions about the future of Happy Endings are due in the coming months, Caspe and Groff say they're moving forward with every intention getting a renewal -- ideally on ABC. The duo also spoke with THR about their plans, creatively and logistically, for the rest of season three.
The Hollywood Reporter: How do you guys feel about ABC's "Save Happy Endings" spots?
Jonathan Groff: Well the obvious thing of it is ... this is a corporate entity, which has the power to keep us on the air, making a promo asking itself to keep us on the air. But, they knew that. I think behind it, there's the sentiment that they love the show, and they would love to have it work. It has not been an easy show for them to figure out where to put. It's a little bit different than anything else they've had, and the Tuesday night thing didn't quite work out. I take it at face value when they say to us they would love to have these airings coming up, get enough of a number so that they have a reason to bring the show back.
THR: What's the dialogue with the network been like about the show's future?
David Caspe: Between cutting the episodes and table reads and notes, we talk to them quite a bit. And it always comes up. And, like Jonathan said and to their credit, they're all fans. And if it was up to us, it would come back. So it's really just sort of an extended ritual of preaching to the choir.
JG: They've been pretty straightforward with us, and they let us know that there are challenges for them, like getting an 18-49 audience -- which we skew heavily into. A show about young people is going to skew young, but that audience is tough to get and tough to get to show up on a night that you need them to show up for. We also give them evidence that if we're left alone, we do well. We did well last year on Wednesday nights at 9:30. When we have an opportunity, we actually do grow. It's always the kind of show that's going to take patience.
THR: Did the way you approached the end of the season change at all knowing things are a little uncertain?
DC: No. My thought is that we have to act as if we're coming back, of course, but also every season ends in a way that ideally is pretty satisfying. It has some closure, so I think that if that had to suffice, it would have to suffice. It feels like acting as if this will come back is a better plan than preparing for the worst.
JG: I also think that every season, we've done something emotionally satisfying in our finale. That if, for whatever reason, it had been the end, that would have worked as the end. But we didn't change anything. It's the finale we were always going to do, and I think certainly sets us up for a next year if we do get to do more. Our goal always in these finales is to pull together some storylines we've been following off and on for the season, have a nice good feeling about our characters and to have it be funny and memorable. I'm optimistic that we've pulled it off in this year's finale.
THR: You introduce the third Kerkovich sister in the finale -- she's never been mentioned before, has she?
DC: We have a joke about that. I'm not sure if it'll stay in the cut, but we also do a joke about that where Max is like, 'I can't believe that you guys have a sister and we never ever talk about her and she doesn't appear in any of the flashbacks. And then Dave points out that flashbacks are what Alex and Jane call their photo albums, and holds up a photo album and it's labeled flashbacks.
THR: And what about this week's episodes?
DC: One of the stories is actually based on something my sister used to do when she was out in the single world, when you're dating someone new and you don't want to over-text them. She would get into these situations where, at night, she would be sitting there and couldn't help herself from texting. And you know the more you do that, you ruin the relationship. So she would take NyQuil at like 4 p.m. and go to bed super early so that she didn't text. Max is in a situation with a new guy where he doesn't want to text him, so Penny teaches him the art of taking Noche Tussin, this sort of an outlawed or discontinued Mexican version of NyQuil. She teaches him the art of how to take that and regain the power in your relationship.
THR: The delay makes that a little topical with Lil Wayne's sizzurp issues.
DC: Yeah, I was thinking about that the other day. Do you think that's bad? I wonder.
ABC's Happy Endings, however accidentally offensive, returns with back-to-back episodes on Fridays at 8 p.m. ET.