One of the very few advantages of depression is that you get an awful lot of time to catch up on your TV watching*. Time that would’ve previously been spent doing things like being at work, seeing friends or just leaving the house is suddenly completely unclaimed. And if you’re me, you need to find a way to fill that time, simply because you own cats and they definitely won’t let you stay in bed all day.
Not because they worry about your mental well-being and want to get you back functioning as soon as possible, though. It’s just that as far as they’re concerned it’s their bed, and you’re an interloper that they tolerate for a few hours each night.
And so, I spent much of the summer of 2015 sat on the sofa making my way through all the box sets that live on my Sky+ box. I started off with Mad Men (not a great choice with depression, it turns out), spent a bit of time watching every bad romcom I could find, and then turned to the TV comedies.
Which was how I found myself watching Happy Endings. I’d seen it advertised on E4 when it was actually on TV, and avoided it because it looked daft as all hell. Which, incidentally, was exactly the thing that made it appeal to me now. I wanted stupid, and I wanted easy to follow, and I wanted to be able to go “my god it’s AWFUL” while pressing play on the next episode.
And it actually had the word “Happy” in its title, which might make it like televisual medicine.
And yet, I didn’t spend my time telling my cats and my Sky box that I was watching the worst TV show in the history of terrible TV shows. In fact, I didn’t insult it at all, because I really bloody liked it. It didn’t make me feel old. It didn’t make me feel boring. It didn’t make me feel like I was an absolute failure in life. And it actually did make me laugh – something that for the previous umpteen months only YouTube videos of people falling over had managed to achieve.
Admittedly, it didn’t start well. Within the first five minutes, Elisha Cuthbert’s character Alex runs out on her wedding to Dave with a guy on rollerblades (does it still count as running out if one of you is on wheels?) And then, by mid-way through the episode it becomes clear that she’s not actually run off with RollerMan at all, which immediately made me feel the strange combination of slightly murdery and very concerned that I was setting myself up for hours of tortured “will they/won’t they” bollocks. But actually, Alex and Dave are a pretty endearing non-couple/ex-couple/minor catastrophe. And my TV remained unstabbed.
Then there’s Brad and Jane, a married couple who are actually NOT BORING, despite being the ones with solid careers and a very nice home. Everything about them brought me hope that if someone were to make a sitcom out of the lives of me and my friends (other than that one I tried to write in 2009) I might play a role that goes beyond being a bit patronising to my single friends and generally being dull and smug and married.
Maybe I am still deserving of a storyline of my own, after all. Maybe things do still happen to people after they wear fancy clothes and pledge their love in front of everyone they know. And maybe some of those things can even get on TV.
Max, meanwhile, is not functional at all. Which inevitably caused me to wonder how he manages to afford his supposedly terrifying but actually pretty spacious apartment when he never has a proper job. But I suppose it wouldn’t be a proper sitcom without some kind of property-related mystery.
And then there’s Penny, who I adore to the point that I might name my as-yet-non-existent daughter after her (after all, Daisy’s already been vetoed by my husband.) She’s pretty incompetent in her romantic life, but pretty damn good at her job. And she’s part of a mother-daughter singing troupe with Megan Mullaly, who encourages her to sing her feelings. SING HER FEELINGS. I tried it at the cats, and they just looked at me with disdain and then wandered off to try and break into the food container.
So I binged on Happy Endings like I have binged on few shows before or since; I made it through all three series in four days. And then I sat there, wondering what happened to all the characters next, until I realised that nothing had happened to them because they were fictional people.
And that this was how people got started writing fan fiction.
But unfortunately fan fiction may be all there ever is (I haven’t written any, I promise.) Because the travesty is that Happy Endings was cancelled after three seasons, at a point in the plot where nothing was really wrapped up. And yet the Big Bang Theory, a show which I find about as appealing as syphilis, will apparently keep going until the END OF TIME.
I’ve done a lot of googling since I ran out of episodes to watch, and there seem to be constant rumours of a reunion, or new series, or webisodes, or something. But having spent the past 14 years waiting for series 3 of Spaced, I’m not overly hopeful. So maybe I will have to just write some fan fiction after all.
*(Incidentally, the only other advantage of depression that I’ve found is that you can accidentally train your hair to only need a wash every three days. Which perhaps will have more long-term impact than watching 16 episodes of a TV show in one day.)