television

Even Philip Seymour Hoffman might not have saved ‘Happyish’

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Showtime decided to revive and recast Happyish with Steve Coogan in the lead role.

Two stars

Happyish Sundays, 9:30 p.m., Showtime.

When Showtime first developed comedy series Happyish, it was a vehicle for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who starred in a pilot before his death last year. The network decided to revive and recast the show with Steve Coogan in the lead role, but it’s hard not to wonder how Hoffman would have fared instead, whether he would have been able to elevate this sour, condescending comedy into something more than faux-edgy nonsense. As it is, Coogan and the rest of the accomplished cast (which also includes Kathryn Hahn and Bradley Whitford) can’t overcome the smug, overwritten material from creator Shalom Auslander.

Coogan stars as the pointedly named Thom Payne, an advertising creative director experiencing a bit of a midlife crisis and feeling out of touch when his agency is taken over by a pair of hip, young Swedes. Like fellow Showtime comedy House of Lies, Happyish is aggressively cynical, using profanity-laced tirades in place of meaningful dialogue. Thom rails against social media and callow youth, but his words are empty, and the fantasy sequences involving pop-culture and advertising characters are belabored and unfunny (in the first episode, Thom has sex with an animated Keebler elf).

Hahn brings a bit more heart and a bit less bluster to her role as Thom’s equally aggrieved wife, but mostly this is another show about a middle-aged, upper-middle-class white guy’s angst. Thom offers an angry dismissal of Mad Men in the first episode, but at least Mad Men knows how to make Don Draper worth watching each week.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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