If you watched all eight episodes of the first season of Happy!, Syfy’s incredibly violent and silly show starring Wet Hot American Summer and Law & Order alum Christopher Meloni and comedian Patton Oswalt, then bless you.
No, that’s not to suggest that the series adapted from Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s four-issue comic book story is bad, because it’s nothing of the sort. In fact, Happy! quickly became one of the genre cable outlet’s most talked-about debuts in 2017, thanks mostly to Morrison and series co-creator Brian Taylor’s approach to adapting the short-form comic. Happy! also owes its success to Meloni and Oswalt’s performances as detective-turned-hit man Nick Sax and the show’s titular imaginary unicorn.
At the series’ 2018 New York Comic Con, Morrison, Taylor, executive producer Patrick MacManus and the principal cast (sans Oswalt) offered fans a first look at season two. Unsurprisingly, the next installment looks even more debauched than the first, and everyone was more than happy to explain why to Den of Geek.
“Our writer’s room is insane,” says Taylor. “It’s a group of very funny and fucked up individuals who come up with jokes and absurd situations all the time. It’s actually the easiest thing for us to do. We try to stay out of the situations where we come up with a joke that’s so irresistible that we have to do it, regardless of what it means. Instead, we’re always pushing for things that are driven by character, by personalities. We want these characters to be very strongly drawn, so that when you put them in conflict with each other, it naturally leads to jokes.”
“Listen, I follow this guy’s lead,” laughs MacManus. “But he’s totally right. The more we’re anchored or rooted in reality, strangely enough, the better it’s going to be. Following his advice has proven to be very, very fruitful for the show.”
Neither is wrong, for as utterly wacky as Happy! often is, its continued attempts to ground its crazy characters and even crazier situations in some sense of reality is what keeps it from going too far. (Well, too, too far, at least.) And this is what keeps the cast invested in their roles, no matter how insane their scenes happen to be.
“We’re always attempting to ground it in a reality that’s meaningful,” Meloni explains. “It’s a fine dance. It’s always a line that we’re attempting to dance around. I’m always asking myself, ‘Should I throw as much shit against the wall as I can, to see what sticks?’”
After stifling a laugh, he continues.
“I go to work every day, hoping that I’m grounded and that I’m telling the truth. At the same time, I’m also doing a pratfall here and a little bit of mugging there. Honest, reactive mugging, of course.”
That being said, many on the cast truly do enjoy taking over opportunity provided to “lean in” to their characters’ more absurd moments. Even went copious amounts of blood, gore and sexual paraphernalia are involved, the common dictum on the Happy! set is, “Why not?”
“In season one, I think that the absurdity of it all, especially with what Merry had to deal with, worked because we didn’t leave it on the sidelines, says Lili Mirojnick, who plays Det. Merry McCarthy. “There are moments so far in season two where I thought, ‘Why not lean into it a little bit?’ Because we do start pushing a little bit further, but I think what works about the show is that we don’t necessarily lean into it as much as you might think. I mean, we do lean in, but not all the way.”
Ritchie Coster, who plays the gangster Mr. Blue, agrees for the most part.
“I lean in all the way,” he laughs. “I’m just a hideous English ham. I don’t know how to do acting that’s not chillingly hammy. I wish I could, but I can’t. So I just lean in. I make the big face and do the silly voice. I still don’t know where the parameters are because most of the time, Brian will come out from behind the camera with that stupid grin on his face and giggle. Sometimes, he’ll come out and say, ‘Just don’t do that. That’s silly.’ And I don’t know what the difference between the two is, so I just lean in.”
Which makes complete sense, because Happy! is a show that all but requires both participants and viewers alike to “lean in” completely to what it’s proposing. This is, after all, a program in which, among many other ludicrous scenes, Sax goes on a drunken binge, shoots his own head off and dances around the bar despite being headless. It’s one of the first examples of the kind of show that Happy! is in season one, and season two is no different.
“That’s a pretty absurd gag,” Taylor recalls, “but it’s a gag that comes absolutely from his character. I mean, this is a guy who has been trying to find a reason to stay alive, and who doesn’t value his life at all. The greatest day of his life, or the celebration for the greatest day of his life, will happen on the day he finally gets to end it.”
“Let’s not forget,” he adds. “In the original comic book, which only ran for four issues, Sax dies at the end.”
Seeing as how Happy! the series has extended Sax’s story (and life) somewhat, Taylor, MacManus and the rest of the writer’s room have had their work cut out for them. Their primary job, aside from grossing out Syfy’s viewers, has been finding reasons to keep Sax alive for the time being. And while the show’s many villains are still doing everything in their power to make sure the anti-hero meets his comic book counterpart’s fate, Meloni and company are doing what they can to stave off the inevitable.
Happy! Season 2 premieres sometime in 2019 on Syfy.
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