Happyland (MTV) Review “Park Maintenance”

Happyland (MTV) Series Premiere 2014 Pilot (1)

Happyland is having an identity crisis and the viewers are caught in the middle. After a third episode full of momentum and humor, episode four, “Park Maintenance,” meandered along like a sulky teenager whose parents made them visit a theme park against their will. The episode brought neither drama nor humor and it squandered all chances to create conflict. Seriously, Happyland, what are you? You are not a comedy, not a drama, not even a dramedy at this point. Each week is a half hour spent following around Lucy, a character who has to be reminded multiple times over the course of the episode that she is 17 and deserves to have fun. All I can say to that is, so do we, Lucy, so do we!

This week’s outing was set during a preview night for the park workers where they get to enjoy the fun of Happyland that they serve up to tourists on a daily basis. Basically, people in this town never leave this park, even during their off hours. Lucy uses the night to turn her friends and family into her projects. Gloria hates being the witch and needs a confidence boost, so Lucy encourages her mother to dress up and then shoves her toward the first vaguely handsome park worker around (who turns out to be a “princess popper,” the one clever term, unique to park life that came out of the episode). Poor, sad sack Will is bummed over losing his job and just slightly bummed over Harper dumping him, which leads to Lucy spending her evening trying to convince Ian and Harper to break up with each other for Will’s sake. They don’t because unlike Lucy, they are not obsessed with keeping everything the same forever.

Both of the Velez women’s problems are solved by Chandler men in the end. Gloria and the illustrious Mr. Chandler rekindle their old flame enough for Gloria to get bumped up to being a park tour guide. Lucy is mildly irritated by her mother taking favors from the father she is supposed to never, ever approach, but she lets it go faster than Elsa froze the kingdom. Meanwhile, Ian quietly helped out his secret sister by getting Will rehired as a security guard. Which is good for Will because his admitted lack of motivation and disinterest in college, jobs outside of Happyland and possibly moving to another town one day pretty much cancels out the guy’s chances of finding new opportunities elsewhere. Even Will’s bartender dad is cooler than he is.

By the episode’s end, Will did work up the courage to admit Harper was right about his feelings for Lucy. He was just about to share the news with Lucy when the random guy who has been trying to get Lucy’s attention since the bash at the Chandler’s house interrupted them. Does Lucy have anything other than platonic feelings for Will? It seems unlikely. She calls him “dude.” Even if she did, would anyone in the audience want Lucy with Will?
Do we really want Lucy with anyone at this point? Outside of having a wonderful rat-a-tat banter with her brother (a much missed element this week), Lucy’s primary character trait is a desire to help others. It is noble, but also boring. Maybe if Lucy decides to take the time to figure out who she is, Happyland, a series built around the cipher that is Lucy, might figure out what it wants to be too.

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