Here’s a mix for you: a holiday season show with serial killers in lobster costumes, a washed-up cop turned hitman, a horrific Santa, the mob… and, oh yeah, a flying imaginary unicorn called Happy.
Showcase Channel will be showing the first episode of the latest Syfy/NBC television show Happy! this very holiday season. Based on the 2012 graphic novel of the same name by legendary comic writer Grant Morrison and drawn by Darick Robertson, this dark comedy manages to hit all the vitals: the guts, the spleen and the heart.
Nick Sax, a cop who once had the spotlight illuminating a former shining career, now ekes out a living as a hitman. His health is poor and he lives a booze-soaked existence, a shadow of his previous life. After a messed-up contract that sees him in trouble with the Mafia and a forced trip to the hospital, he wakes up to see Happy.
That’s not a euphemism. Happy is the imaginary friend of little Hayley – the “cutest little girl that ever lived!” After Hayley is kidnapped by the scariest Santa you could imagine, Happy flies into the wild to get help – and Nick Sax, in all his visceral world of blood, guts and glory, is it.
Though seemingly outlandish, it’s completely hypnotic to watch. If you’re a fan of the comic, then you’re in for a treat. Every character in the first issue of this book is completely realized, true to detail. Christopher Meloni plays Nick Sax exactly as any loyal reader would remember, even down to the swaying motion and surly attitude. His life is shit … he has no illusions about it or himself, nor does he care how long it lasts. Happy, on the other hand, is sunshine, lollipops and comes complete with his own collection of juvenile catch-phrases.
Gritty, grim and at times, gruesome, this is a true-to-life realization of Grant Morrison’s graphic and unapologetic style of storytelling and one of the best comic-to-television adaptations I’ve ever seen. In fact, in an interview, Morrison self-describes his book as “malignantly sweary,” and there are no holds barred in this show either.
Even if you’ve never read the book, the show is completely compelling and the performances by Meloni and the voice of Happy, Patton Oswalt, are respectively riveting and thoroughly endearing. Sax has no reason to live. While this is alluded to in the first episode, clearly there is more backstory that will come to light in the rest of the series. But this sense of awareness gives him something of an invulnerability. In comic sense, his super-power would be his complete disregard for his own mortality which allows him to take so many chances.
Happy, on the other hand, voiced by fan-favourite comedian, Patton Oswalt, is a clearly goofy but lovable sidekick, though unwanted by Sax. When danger finds Hayley, Happy leaves her to find help when she is in trouble. Yet, how a child’s imaginary companion can be realized by only a few people is something that is yet to be explained as well. Again, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know, but having Meloni as Sax discover this fact for himself is part of the show’s draw.
The innocence of little Hayley, the warping of the holiday season and other holiday elements really underscore the darkness of this story. Happy is more than just comic relief – he’s a manifestation of hope in an otherwise bleak world. There is a clear theme of redemption in this show and Happy is a tiny ray of light in an otherwise black sky that allows for this to happen.
The cast is a collection of twisted human reprobates as well: the Scaramucci Brothers/Family, corrupt cops, a prawn-costumed serial killer who preys on prostitutes as well as the creepiest Santa Claus pedophile imaginable. Given that our hero starts the show vomiting blood into a soiled urinal, it’s hard to believe that he represents the upper echelon of gallantry gives you a sense of how low the bar has been set for humanity. It should come as no surprise that Hayley’s best hope should come in the shape of a blue, winged imaginary unicorn.
Not only do we see danger and uncompromising evil, we also see hope and the promise of salvation shining through the dark.
Happy! premieres on Showcase Channel on Thursday at 10pm ET.