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'Happyland' series premiere recap: Happy or not, here we come

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Welcome to Happyland” | Aired Sept 30, 2014

Everyone has been talking quite a bit about the last few minutes of MTV’s newest scripted show, Happyland (including me, I’ll confess), but the headline is not the are-they-or-aren’t-they issue of incest, but the balance of the edgy humor with just the right tones of melodrama. Lord knows I love a good melodrama, and I devoted many summer nights to ABC Family’s weekly lineup, so it seems that Happyland—despite getting a bit of heat for the pilot’s twist—is trying to make a name for itself among teens who are growing weary of shows that are all pecs and no heart.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.27.26 PMDon’t get me wrong: This show has plenty of pecs, and one of our first glimpses of Shane Harper (Awkward) is a stunning visual of chiseled abs and rock-hard arms, but there’s a little more to it than that. The show is set behind the scenes at an amusement park similar in theme and values to Disneyland, but we quickly see that the beautiful princess welcoming parkgoers isn’t the real story here. In the very first sequence, we meet Lucy, played by The Fosters’ Bianca Santos, who is in charge of the “Ricky Show,” and immediately we get a sniff at the park’s seedy underbelly.

We get a quick review of anonymous sex, drug use, and mild physical violence while we are introduced the Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.27.38 PMvery attractive teenagers that populate Happyland. When Bianca is responsible for a “Ricky tumble” from the new guy, we figure out she is the über-responsible type A, while the downed new guy is a free-spirited slacker who will turn out to be the new owner’s son, possible love interest, and could-be brother.

A predictable chemistry ensues between Lucy and Ian (the new guy) when he is promoted from a costumed character, Ricky the Racoon, to a “face” character, Prince Valor. She’s annoyed, he’s charming … you guys know how this goes.

Rounding out the gang are Harper (Katherine McNamara) and Will (Cameron Moulene), who are in a relationship. There is tension between Will and Bianca that she won’t admit, yet Harper notices and resents it. What’s a good teen soap without a juicy love triangle? When Harper’s parents are promoted to the corporate division of Happyland, she and her family move to Dazzle, a supernice suburb that is obviously for rich folks. In stark contrast, Lucy walks home to her (near-)slummy neighborhood and finds Dirty Dave (a superfun cameo by Josh Groban) peeing on her steps. When she walks in, we discover the beautiful princess Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.30.00 PMfrom the opening scene is her mother, Elena (Camille Guaty).

Borrowing from the mother figure on another of MTV’s scripted shows, Awkward, Elena had Lucy as a teenager and has been clawing to hold onto her youth ever since. These two actresses seem almost the same age, so it’s a little weird as Elena starts mothering her irresponsible and flighty mother. Lucy has bigger dreams than her Happyland-lifer mother, and reminds her (and us) that she’s headed for college, not year after year at the park.

Lucy’s plans for the future include a spot at Relief Partners, a nonprofit organization responsible for providing clean water. She blows the interview, but scores another spot with her charm and pluck. Her mildly jaded monologue reveals Lucy’s desire to get out of the “happily-ever-after” fantasy the park peddles to not only its guest, but to its employees too.

At the swanky corporate party, the Chandler family announces its Happyland takeover. That’s when we officially meet Ian Chandler, the ne’er-do-well new guy from the Ricky costume in the first scenes. Elena gets weird when she runs into the older Chandler, and even tries to discourage Lucy from hanging out with Ian. Lucky for us, Lucy doesn’t listen, and Ian gets a chance to attempt to separate both Lucy and Harper from their panties with a beautiful view and a gleaming smile. Harper, embarrassingly enough, throws herself at Ian, but he only has eyes for Lucy, who is being a bit of a buzzkill.

Elena continues her overprotective mom bit, and Lucy doesn’t respond very well. Lucy says some pretty Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.30.23 PMmean things to her mother, including quite a bit of slut-shaming, and Elena gets her feelings hurt. Lucy is sorry, but it’s too late, and Elena gives her a healthy and much-deserved dose of mom-guilt.

In a mildly surprising twist of events, Elena doesn’t show for her princess shift and Lucy volunteers to fill in. Will moons over her in her princess costume, and Ian oozes charisma. Their chemistry crackles as they do their silly dance, and Ian helps save the day by rushing Lucy to her makeup interview with Relief Partners. She doesn’t make it, and we get a sense of the hopelessness of Lucy’s situation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.27.51 PMLucy spirals into a pout, and that’s when the big kiss happens. It’s not overly sexual or risqué like a lot of MTV shows can get, but the fact that Lucy and Ian are possibly siblings certainly taints the whole moment. Elena confesses to Lucy that she and Ian share a father and the screen goes dark.

So here we are with the mother of all dramatic news, and we have until next week to see how Lucy handles this bombshell.

What do you think she should do? Keep it a secret, or run straight to Ian and confess? Are we angry at Elena for keeping it a secret?

What are y’all’s first impressions of this show?

Happyland airs Tuesdays at 11/10C on MTV.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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