'Happy Endings' Reboot at ABC? "There's a Remote Possibility"

ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke talks with The Hollywood Reporter about bringing back the beloved and short-lived comedy.
ABC/Photofest; Inset: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
'Happy Endings' (Inset: Karey Burke)

Could Happy Endings live to see another day at ABC?

According to ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke, the answer may surprise you.

"I will never say never; I'm hearing whispers," Burke told The Hollywood Reporter during an interview Monday after her time onstage at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "That is a dream of a lot of people at ABC. I'm hearing that there's a remote possibility of something. It's at the very beginning [stages]."

Burke, who replaced Channing Dungey at the helm of ABC in November, noted that Happy Endings perfectly represents the type of comedies she and new head of comedy Erin Wehrenberg are looking for in a bid to expand the network's family comedy brand.

"Happy Endings was certainly one of my favorite ABC shows," admitted Burke, "One of the things Erin and I bonded over when she came over [from Warner Bros. TV] to take over comedy development was a desire to do a show like Happy Endings, which led to a conversation about Happy Endings. So, I think she's exploring what's possible."

Burke is slowly starting to make her mark on the Disney-owned broadcast network. After inheriting a pilot crop that was developed by Dungey, Burke got to work on a Black-ish prequel — with Mixed-ish picked up straight to series after filming a backdoor pilot that ultimately will now air as the show's pilot in the fall. Outside of that, Burke's fingerprints are directly on the Allison Tolman drama Emergence, which was produced by ABC Studios and developed for NBC. Burke immediately picked up the series — which she described as perfectly on-brand for ABC — after NBC passed on the pilot in May. Elsewhere, Tiffany Haddish-hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things was the first unscripted series Burke picked up on her watch at ABC. All three shows are part of a larger strategy the exec put in place late last year in a bid to recapture the No. 1 slot among women that ABC lost to NBC.

"We'll continue to lean into the female-forward but not male-repellent character dramas and comedies going forward," Burke told THR. "That means not necessarily female leads, but some entry point for our female audience, which is large."

She continued: "I'm looking for some more disruptive ideas in terms of franchises, trying to harken back to what I think were some of the great brand-defining shows of ABC, which led narratively and were braver in their construct, shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives and Scandal. And also frankly, Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat."

On the comedy side, Burke hopes The Goldbergs continues to have a long run on the network as she looks to expand beyond ABC's family comedy brand that also includes the final season of Modern Family, American Housewife, The Conners, Bless This Mess and Single Parents.

"We're looking to build on the success and taking lessons from our past in terms of what really defines an ABC show," she said. "On the comedy side, broadening that to include what defines an ABC comedy. We have a great family comedy business, but I'd also like to see us stretching into ensembles that aren't just based in family. That's a goal."

Burke was optimistic that Happy Endings creator David Caspe would be involved should a revival become a reality. Caspe recently departed Sony Pictures Television and inked an overall deal with Universal Television. Happy Endings, produced and owned by Sony TV, ran for three seasons on ABC from 2011-2013. The ensemble comedy about a group of friends starred Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans Jr. and Casey Wilson. While the series was a cult hit, the show's then-lackluster ratings (and ABC's lack of ownership in it) led to its cancellation. Still, a case could be made that Happy Endings (and other cult hits like Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23) were the poster children for a lack of understanding about delayed viewing patterns in the early days of the DVR. Sony TV at the time attempted to shop the comedy elsewhere, with talks with NBCUniversal-owned basic cable network USA Network coming close, but ultimately a deal could not be worked out.

Buzz about a potential Happy Endings revival arrives three years after Caspe and fellow executive producer Jonathan Groff and the cast reunited and revealed that they'd be all-in on a new take. "If someone would actually let us do it the real way, then everyone would want to do it," Caspe said at the time.

(It's also worth noting that Groff has an overall deal at ABC Studios and recently stepped down from co-showrunning Black-ish in order to focus on development.)

Representatives for Caspe and Sony TV declined comment.