'Happy Endings': A good word for a dying TV show

“My first instinct, of course, was, ‘If you want to help save this show, couldn't you save the show yourself?' But I think there's a meta joke there. That's what this ad is about, somewhat,” he said. “(ABC has) been supporting the show from the beginning, they want to make it work, but there are a lot of masters to serve and it's hard to make a show work. I believe they are doing their best. But we're a critical success, not a ratings success.”

If ABC were supporting you, why move you to Friday, I asked.

“Running a network is above my pay grade,” he said. “They loved the show so much they put it on after ‘Modern Family,' and we did well, but money has to go to new shows. The slot after ‘Modern Family,' it has to be used for promoting those new shows. They can love the show and still have a hard time slotting it.”

David, I said, I can't see you but is someone holding a gun to your head? Tap the phone once for yes.

Caspe did not tap the phone.

Jonathan Groff, the executive producer, who was on the other line, jumped in: “I think (ABC is) frustrated it is not a bigger hit. I think there is hindsight, in that they could have scheduled it better. … But I think the ad campaign is a great idea. It is a bit of a head-scratcher, but I also think that they know what they are doing.”

It's painful to hear people so attuned to language watching what they say.

On the other hand, who wouldn't in a hostage situation?

Tellingly, Matthew Libman said that at New Trier, he and David were the smoothers, the connectors, “the group who bridged the groups, the people in band, the jocks, we would be invited to everyone's parties.”

Which made me think of a moment on the second season when Cuthbert and Damon Wayans Jr. find themselves with nothing to say. Cuthbert, sincerely curious, asks Wayans, apropos of nothing: “Are rap and hip-hop the same thing?” And Wayans, wanting to keep things flowing, replies quickly, earnestly, “Yes!”

“That was my joke,” Libman said.

It's also the kind of thing that suggests familiarity, friends who have known each other a while. Groff told me that a lot of the way the show sounds — though it's written by a staff of 13 20- and 30-somethings, most of whom didn't know each other before the show — “was based around the way (Caspe) and his friends speak to each other. They have a shorthand, like a tribe, which is how people who have known each other a very long time can act. They aren't always nice to each other, but they finish each other's sentences.”

Indeed, Daniel Libman said: “We like the sound of words. Men's names on women, women's names on men. Using one word as often as possible. And we never talk about how we sound, which is maybe why it happens.”

Matthew Libman said: “When we meet new people, they tend to be like, ‘What are they talking about?'”

Caspe said: “Someone's nickname, or some inside joke, will be like 20 years old and built up and up and gone through so many iterations within the group that it can become barely recognizable to the outside world. … I also went to college with a guy who would make up a lot of words, and I loved it. He would always say ‘inperatootoo.' Which basically meant ‘in perpetuity,' which is so weird, yet it kind of sounds so right.”

I asked them for their favorite words on the show.

Groff's was “chicksand,” the act of being sucked into a crazy relationship.

Caspe's was “by-abe,” which means “babe.”

Matthew's was “legit,” which was a letdown.

My favorite line, I said, was “Save the drama for Wilmer Valderrama.” Which means nothing.

“No,” Matthew acknowledged, “but the rhythm is the key there.”

Groff said some of this playfulness might come from social media, from “being part of an online generation that is always condensing things, coming up with the 140-character way of explaining the world.”

And Caspe said: “The more you get the rhythm (of our dialogue), the more you feel on the inside. That being said, though, our goal here is never to be exclusionary. To keep this show going, we need to be inclusatory.”

“Which — ” I started.

“Is not a word,” he finished.

cborrelli@tribune.com
Twitter @borrelli
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