Striking the right balance for a network ensemble comedy is like finding the perfect storm. Friends, Seinfeld and Cheers made it look easy, banking on comic actors to deliver punchlines with expert ease and carry storylines across the finish line, all in the name of microwave popcorn entertainment. But each 22-minute episode is an exhausting process, from hatching the idea in the writer’s room and fine-tuning the script to blocking it on set and piecing it together in post-production. It’s a machine controlled by an even larger machine—the networks and studios—that easily crumbles when a single screw falls loose.
Happy Endings is one of the rare ensemble comedies that got it right, but it was choppy waters from the start of its three-season run. The show, created by David Caspe, followed six 20-somethings living in Chicago, transforming the experience of post-collegiate adulthood into a factory line of jokes, carried by a handful of distinct stars at a ceaseless pace. The writing was sharp, the editing left no room for lags, and the chemistry was palpable.
In spite of its quality, the show faced an uphill battle. Picked up in 2010 from a pilot directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Happy Endings shot its first season in the dark, filming every episode prior to its network debut. The midseason airdate, April 13, 2011, preceded what would become a stronger second season, when Modern Family was its lead-in.
The show never got the support it deserved. Happy Endings was canceled in 2013, after three seasons. Since then, its cult status has given it consistent, renewed life. Sony shopped the show to USA, which almost picked it up shortly after its cancelation, but the deal fell through at the last minute. Rumors bubbled earlier this year that a Happy Endings movie could be in the cards. A new fan base has also come into the fold, thanks to the show finally becoming available for streaming in January 2016. It speaks volumes to the nerve Happy Endings struck that it continues to live on, even in death.
With the five-year anniversary of the show’s debut coming around on April 13, Complex spoke with the actors and executives that made Happy Endings the cult classic it remains today.

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