One Big Happy is remarkable because it is simply unremarkable. The show focuses around the lives of Lizzie (Elisha Cuthbert), a lesbian in her thirties, her roommate Luke (Nick Zano), with whom she is having a child via IVF, and his new fiancée Prudence, a naive and rather annoying British woman who eloped with him after five days partially in the hopes of getting her green card. As the series progresses Lizzie has to deal with her anger at Prudence’s nudist tendencies, creepy dolls, and her attempts to make Luke lead a more interesting life. In the meantime she also has to tackle the usual issues that come along with pregnancy, and a few more unusual ones that perhaps most people have never had to endure.
The show is cheesy at best and cringeworthy at worst, but surprisingly enough for the recently cancelled show I actually enjoyed every moment I watched it. It was the exact kind of mind numbing terrible comedy that turns me into a pile of giggles that I’ve come to expect from American comedies. Is it new? No. Does it stand out as far as writing, acting or production? Not in the slightest.
What made me warm to the show and decide to watch it in its entirety (an honour I will not grace Modern Family with) is that it takes a gay character and then never makes it into a big deal. How many times have we seen the gay teenager get bullied and ostracised by their schoolmates and parents? How many times have we seen the adult gay couple getting mocked, abused, ignored or killed off (hello every lesbian side character in TV at the moment)? Unsurprisingly, these negative experiences that lead towards an “it gets better” ending are what we’re repeatedly force fed by TV shows and films. While sadly some people do have experiences like this, they are not the norm. But for some reason they are on TV. And that reason is simple: it’s a lazy storyline that still has enough shock factor and relevance to sustain an audience. Who needs to come up with an original idea when the cookie cut formula they hand us satisfies most audiences quite nicely? Most viewers are quite comfortable watching these stories and thinking that this is good enough representation. Granted, at this point any representation is quite nice, but simply showing the same story in a different environment isn’t cutting it anymore.
And that’s how One Big Happy stands out. It’s unremarkable if you compare it to sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother, Two Broke Girls, or basically any TV show you can think of. Like these it had a mildly interesting plot, and the same regurgitated corny jokes that we’ve come to love. But the fact that a lesbian character leads the show and her sexuality is not the focus of every damn second, and it is not used as some kind of plot device to bring about an issue is magnificent. Here we have a lesbian character that is being treated as a human character. And that itself is truly exceptional.