TV Review – Happy Together (2018)
Apparently, the pop star Harry Styles went and lived with his producer Ben Winston for two years. Styles stayed in the attic. This series, written by Tim McAuliffe and Austen Earl, takes that idea and runs with it. However, there are some changes to that real story that are both positive and problematic. As it stands, the show strains credulity. It helps that it has two comedic actors at the center who are so energetic and lively that they are able to carry what is a contrived and ultimately, pedestrian story.
Damon Wayans, Jr. (The New Girl and Happy Endings) stars as Jake Davis, an African-American accountant in his mid to late 30’s. Amber Stevens West (The Carmichael Show and Greek) also stars as Claire, a biracial architect who’s about the same age. They’re self-described as middle-class and boring. They’re home-bodies. They like to binge-watch things on Netflix and go to bed at 9 p.m. or so. They do like to sing Boyz II Men songs. They are fun people and smart but they sell themselves short and are constantly self-deprecating.
Felix Mallard (Neighbours) co-stars as Cooper James, the Australian pop star who is the equivalent of Harry Styles. Cooper has a public break-up and to hide from the paparazzi, he goes to Jake’s house. Jake is his accountant, so they have a prior relationship, but it’s not as if they’re that close. Cooper then bonds with Jake and Claire in a familial way. Cooper is only meant to be an impetus for Jake and Claire to stop being so boring so to speak or get them out of their home-body habits, but so far Cooper is more a plot device than an actual character, which flattens the comedy here.
The problem is that I didn’t buy even the plot device, which means I basically reject the premise. I can get over it because the whole show is just an excuse to get Wayans and West in a multi-camera set giving their best comedic performances, breathing life and exuberance onto the screen. Wayans especially continues to live up to his family name and brings gold however he can, particularly in his physical humor, including pratfalls and his always hilarious facial and verbal reactions. That being said, the premise just doesn’t work for me.
Jake and Claire are star-struck by Cooper James and they go out of their way to try to seem cool, hipper or younger than they are when Cooper is around. My issue is that I don’t buy that dynamic. Even if I accept that Cooper is as famous or as much of a pop star as Harry Styles, I don’t accept that a middle-class, mid-to-late 30’s, black couple would be star-struck by such a pop star as Harry Styles. If not for the working relationship between Jake and Cooper, I highly doubt that someone like Jake would even know Cooper, let alone be a fan of his music.
The real-life case of Styles and Winston makes more sense. The age-difference aside, both Styles and Winston are British. Both are white. Both probably grew up with the same musical inspirations and cultural milestones. Plus, Winston was a producer that seemed to have a closer, working relationship than the fictionalized versions in this series. To make Jake a different nationality, race and as disconnected work-wise is too much of a handicap, so much so that I don’t believe that Jake or Claire would be so compelled to bend over backwards for this pampered, privileged pop star.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.