Happyish, the TV show from writer Shalom Auslander, is settling in after a turbulent ride. Picked up by Showtime, the series filmed a pilot starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Auslander-esque main character Thom Payne shortly before the actor’s death in Feb. 2014. (“This planet is no damned place to have a heart, and Phil had the biggest, brokenest heart of anyone I have ever met,” Auslander said at the time.)
The series was put on hold, and in October 2014 English actor Steve Coogan was recast in the lead role. Kathryn Hahn plays his wife, a character Auslander described as “fierce while funny, defiant while vulnerable.” This week, Showtime again ordered Happyish to series, announcing an April 26 premiere date, right after Nurse Jackie and before Penny Dreadful.
The show is billed as “a comedic, soul-searching examination of our pursuit of happiness and why it continues to be so elusive,” which ably describes the entire Auslander canon. A Tablet contributor, Auslander has tackled subjects like his testicles, the nightmare of holiday barbecues, and crippling writer’s block.
As Showtime president David Nevins put it, “Shalom has a unique comedic voice. He is smart, provocative and thoughtful. I know he’s going to make viewers laugh, but he’s also going to push a few buttons while doing it.” Amen.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.