I really wanted to like Liz Feldman and Ellen DeGeneres’s latest sitcom, “One Big Happy.” The network television series stars the usually very funny Elisha Cuthbert as, Lizzy, a lesbian who is planning to start a family with her best friend, Luke. Lizzy and Luke (Nick Zano) have been best friends since high school. Pop culture usually portrays lesbians as man-haters, meanwhile, in real life most of us can relate to having a male bestie. “One Big Happy” also immediately establishes that the two main characters won’t be hooking up with each other; so I believe with all my heart that we will be spared the “lesbian realizes she’s straight” storyline. Ellen wouldn’t do that to us right?
The show wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t offensive. But it just wasn’t that funny, which is surprising since Cuthbert was hilarious in the critically acclaimed and cult fan favorite, “Happy Endings.” So you can’t entirely fault her for the fact that most of the jokes were stale and fell flat. There was an odd Gerard Depardieu reference which felt out of place considering that was the only cultural reference made the entire show and no one under 30 would have caught it. The laugh track is annoying and it is very much a network sitcom- the likes of which are being dismantled by original content from streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix. I haven’t had cable in years and it was jarring for me to go from the cinematic quality of those shows back to a network sitcom.
Another problem is the lack of diversity. Yes, there is a black friend in the show; but why couldn’t one of the main characters be a person of color? A major plot device is that Prudence (Kelly Brook), the straight woman that interrupts Luke and Lizzy’s happy platonic universe, is British and on the verge of being deported. Luke marries Prudence because they fall in love after one wild night together and in order to keep her in the country. That character could literally have been from anywhere.
Prudence’s “manic pixie dream girl” act also falls flat. Nothing she does is really that zany. She walks around naked in front of Lizzy and makes Lizzy uncomfortable. Of course it makes her uncomfortable! What 30 year old woman is so unaware of social norms that she would think that’s okay? If the genders were reversed, and it was a man walking around naked in front of a woman, it would just be pervy and uncomfortable. But because Prudence is a sexy, heteronormative kind of gal, it’s all cool. It’s a very dated way of thinking and “One Big Happy” is risking alienating it’s potential younger queer audience, who is passionate about both diversity and consent.
By the end of the pilot, Lizzy proves how much she loves Luke by getting Prudence back for him and thus setting up the storyline for the rest of the series. The three main characters are so beautiful, sanitized and generic, it’s hard to imagine their trials and tribulations will be that interesting to follow. However, this is just a pilot, and usually shows don’t pick up steam until later in the season. I will definitely give the show another chance and keep watching. Because Ellen! I love her, she wouldn’t give us a bad sitcom! …Right? What did you think of “One Big Happy?” Will you be watching?