Nick Sax is an alcoholic ex-cop, turned hit-man who lives his days with drugs and cynicism. After he is shot and left for dead, he revives while in the care of paramedics and can now see a small, blue, winged unicorn named Happy. Happy is the imaginary friend of a little girl named Hailey that has been kidnapped by a deranged man dressed as Santa Claus and had escaped to seek Nick’s help in finding her. Nick and his new “partner” now must work together to save her.
Definitely a strange way to describe a TV show right? Well, that’s the synopsis for the newest show on the SyFy network called Happy! directed by Brian Taylor and David Petrarca.
The show is based on the Grant Morrison/Darick Robertson mini-series of the same name that lasted only 4 issues. Full disclosure, I have not read this book but I’ve read enough of Morrison’s other work to know that he does laps in the weird end of the pool and this is no exception. The show runners have managed to hold no punches and give zero f*cks when it comes to depicting the madness. It’s a very, very weird and trippy show and in the most obnoxious fun kind of way imaginable.
The weirdness starts with casting choices, pairing an unhinged Chris Meloni with an eerily upbeat Patton Oswalt. And while that may seem odd on paper, it actually works in this context and I have no idea why. If I had to pinpoint one thing it would be in the juxtaposition of the dialogue between these two. Meloni’s dialogue is laden with enough colorful language to make most anyone blush and Oswalt’s words are of course mostly euphemisms full of purity and naivety.
Meloni does his best to shake the image of his past work on Law & Order and the opening scene mentioned above makes no qualms about the fact that those days are long gone. This performance is edgy and rough and at times he plays more like an R-rated troubadour than a downtrodden masochist.
Visually the show takes from a number of things that incorporate realistic settings combined with fantastical digital layers. Take the very opening scene where we find ex-cop Nick Sax (Chris Meloni) in a seedy bar bathroom attempting suicide. This fantasy sequence starts off with him wasted and with blood pouring from his head. It immediately cuts to most of his head being blown off and dancing to Christmas carols around what look like a bunch of prostitutes. This sequence plays more like adult animation than anything else and is very trippy in nature. It also sets the tone visually for the remainder of the episode which is organically and artificially mixed tones of darkness and familiar Christmas palettes.
Interestingly enough, the filming takes on a 3D approach almost making it feel interactive in some scenes. The point of view changes often once Happy enters the story and the pacing increases from there, along with the body count. The show is not without its comedic beats as well which is no surprise from show runner Brian Taylor who incorporated that same bathos sensibility in his Crank films.
The remainder of the show blends surprising amounts of gore with “quippy” dialogue seamlessly and maintains a frantic pace from start to finish. It’s a head spin of a premiere actually which makes it feel like Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas meets Sin City. It’s a dark gloomy world that Nick lives in with each person, other than Happy of course, being either a victim or a criminal and that includes the cops. His self loathing and suicidal tendencies are a perfect match for this misanthropic world order and perfectly encapsulates Morrison’s point of view.
Tough to imagine they’d be able to keep this cynical pace throughout an entire season, and already by the end of the first episode Nick is displaying a little catharsis. They’ll need to employ a little optimism going forward if they hope to keep people tuning in from week to week, and that is the great thing about having Christmas play as the backdrop. The dichotomy of this season makes for good storytelling as it of course plays into joy and despair so well.
A promising start for this SyFy series and one that I hope finds an audience. If not for the fact that I applaud the company for thinking outside the box and producing material other people wouldn’t touch with a ten foot candy cane.
Happy! premiers on the SyFy Network in U.S. on Wednesday, December 6th at 10:00 pm.
For our Canadian friends, the show premieres on Showcase Thursday, December 7th at 10:00 pm.
Check out the trailer below…
Till next time…