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Series / Unhappily Ever After

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"'Dear Unhappily Ever After: I think your show is nothing but a cheap ripoff of Married... with Children. Fred M., Chicago, Illinois.' Fred: That's ridiculous! Does that show have a bunny that talks like me? Plus, we have three children. Three. Two boys and a girl. You, sir, are an idiot."
Mr. Floppy

Unhappily Ever After was an American Sitcom that aired for 100 episodes on The WB and one of the few network launch shows to survive the first year.

In the first season, Jack Malloy (Geoff Pierson), a Jaded Washout used car salesman whose marriage to Jennie (Stephanie Hodge) has just broken up, begins to lose his mind and imagine that his stuffed bunny Mr. Floppy (Bobcat Goldthwait) can talk to him. Starting in the second season, Jack moved back in with Jennie but continued to talk to Mr. Floppy in the basement.

By the show's third season, it became apparent that Jack and Jennie's beautiful daughter Tiffany (Nikki Cox) was becoming a Breakout Character and the de facto co-star of the show along with Pierson. Most of the episodes from that point on revolved around Tiffany and her adventures at school.

The show was created by Arthur Silver and Ron Leavitt; the latter also co-created Married... with Children. This leads to Unhappily being considered a blatant rip-off of Married by many, as much of the humor was similar, though Unhappily was generally more surreal and cartoonish than even MWC got. The show ended in May 1999 with its 100th episode.

This show provides examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Tiffany has at least two rivals who play this role.
  • The Artifact: "Hit the Road, Jack" replaced the original theme song halfway through the first season, only to become this when Jack moved back in at the beginning of the second season. The producers covered it by tacking on a voiceover of Jennie saying "come on back."
  • The B Grade: "B-Minus Blues" (for Tiffany, of course).
  • Back from the Dead: In one of the later seasons, they kill off Jennie, only for her to return as a ghost. The Fourth Wall gets busted when an executive explained that the concept isn't working and Jennie returns alive.
  • The Beard: In "A Line in the Sand," Ryan states that he does this for the lesbian clique at school to trick their fathers. In return, they protect him from bullies.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The WB and its programming decisions were frequent targets.
  • Book Ends: Mr. Floppy's first line of dialogue in the pilot is "Jack, you're a loser!" His last line of dialogue in the finale is "you are a loser, Jack!"
  • Brainless Beauty: Tiffany averts this trope, being the smartest person in her family and qualified to get into Harvard, though the fact that she plans to marry a rich, dying old man to get money shows clearly that she has no plans to use her intellect to get by.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: All the time. More apparent in later seasons as the characters acknowledge that they are on a TV show.
    • In one episode, during a dinner scene, Ross openly asks why his back has to be the audience.
    • In another episode, when Tiffany tries to talk to another player on the bench, she looks sadly down while a subtitle states that they are an extra and aren't allowed to talk.
  • Breakout Character: Tiffany most definitely, though Mr. Floppy qualifies as well.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: The last episode shows that Jack can actually be quite successful at his job if he actually tries. However, this has the effect of "killing" Mr. Floppy.
  • Brown Note: In "Tiffany's Rival", it's revealed that Tiffany was potty-trained to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and now she has to go to the bathroom whenever she hears it. Guess what the Alpha Bitch does to her own advantage the next day in the lunchroom?
  • The Bus Came Back: Tiffany left her high school friends behind when she got into college, but Amber turns up in "Sorority Girl" for the main plot. At the very end, Barry makes a cameo.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ryan. And in the last season, Ross, who basically turned into this show's version of Meg Griffin.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In a canine version, the Malloy's have three dogs when the series starts. Their number soon dwindle...
  • Clip Show: An eponymous episode in Season 4. Ross is showing off a movie he made for a school project, prompting Jack, Ryan, and Tiffany to think about past episodes to alleviate their boredom. Mr. Floppy gets in on it when he has to listen to Jack drone on about how bored he was by the movie.
  • Crossover: As part of The WB's promotional night of inter-series character crossovers. Jackee Harry (then of Sister, Sister) popped in during a moment of wall-smashing.
  • Denser and Wackier: Originally Mr. Floppy was the only surreal element in an otherwise pretty standard sitcom, but it eventually turned into a live-action cartoon.
  • The Ditz: Ryan. His intellect seems to diminish more and more as the series progressed.
  • Driving Test: One episode has Jack preparing his teenagers for this.
  • Drop-In Character: Early episodes feature Jennie's mother Maureen. While she actually lived in the house she fulfilled this function as she would usually come out of her room for one scene to insult Jack and then go back there.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Season one had the Malloys divorced, a theme song sung by Jack and Mr. Floppy about the divorce, and a good amount of focus upon Mr. Floppy/Jack. By season two the show picked up a regular theme song (which was attached to the reruns of season one) and Mr. Floppy was phased out to appearing usually once per episode to deliver a monologue.
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: Most episodes end with Mr. Floppy responding to imaginary viewer mail.
  • Gold Digger: Tiffany's main ambition in life is to marry a rich old man so that she can inherit his money when he dies.
  • Held Back in School: Ryan has to repeat his senior year of high school.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Tiffany's other main ambition is to get into Harvard. In the final episode, she gets accepted by Harvard and Jack finally makes enough money to pay for her tuition.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: Jennie and Jack mistake a white clump in the car for drugs Ryan obtained after tasting it made them feel randy for each other. Turns out it was deodorant.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Tiffany, even though her beauty (and occasional malevolence) belies the fact she's incredibly intelligent.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: One episode ends with Jack a couple decades in the future and running a blind scam to get by. He's gone a bit senile, too, as he mainly recognizes Mr. Floppy as "that bear who follows me around."
  • Obnoxious In-Laws:
    • Jack and Maureen positively hate each other, trading insults during practically every encounter. Uniquely, Maureen also doesn't care much for her own daughter.
    • Apparently averted with Jennifer's unseen father, Joe. He's Jack's boss and continues to employ him, despite the marriage difficulties. The fact that he divorced Maureen might have something to do with it.
  • Only Sane Man: Ross. Everyone else in the cast is Too Dumb to Live, a Jerkass, or both, while Ross plays the Straight Man to the others. Even his moments of Breaking the Fourth Wall usually have him pointing out the idiocy of the plots or lampshading the show's conventions.
    Ross: Fine, I'll just stand next to Tiffany. At least that way I'll be in the shot.
  • Out of Focus: Jennie when the plots started to revolve around Tiffany instead of the parents. Jack's role on the show remained large since he still had one or two scenes with Mr. Floppy in every episode, but Jennie was reduced to a supporting player. No wonder Stephanie Hodge decided to leave the series eventually.
    • Lampshaded in an episode where Jennie and Tiffany try to pitch their lives as a sitcom, and the executives suggest that the show doesn't need the mother.
      Jennie: You gotta have the mother. Otherwise it's just a stupid, disjointed show about school, a bunny and a guy! The mother is the glue that holds the show together, you fools!
  • Put on a Bus: Jennie ran off with a woman in the final season, never to be seen again.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack," the theme from the second season onward.
  • Robbing the Dead: It's mentioned in Season 3 that Maureen passed away. The family helped themselves to whatever possessions she had on her person before burying her.
  • Self-Deprecation: As the page quote demonstrates, there's nothing negative you can say about the show that the writers haven't lampshaded themselves.
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: Ryan, the eldest son, starts off shorter than everyone bar youngest brother Ross and stays that way throughout the show's run. By the time the final season hits, a preteen Ross is rapidly catching up to the barely 5'4 Ryan, who by this point is college aged.
  • Studio Audience: The most obnoxious one since Morton Downey Jr, hooting and catcalling not only whenever Tiffany made an entrance, but constantly as she walked around the set.
  • The Unfavorite: Ryan. Tiffany is by far Jack's favorite and Ross at least gets some kind of acknowledgement - until the last season, which introduced a running gag out of nowhere that everyone utterly hates Ross.
  • "Walk on the Wild Side" Episode: "Tiffany on the Wild Side".
  • Waxing Lyrical: When Jennie & Tiffany try to pitch the family's lives as a Sitcom they quote the original theme song as they're being tossed out.
  • When I Was Your Age...: In one episode, Jack walks in on the kids having a generational debate, prompting him to lecture them about life when he was a kid. Their bored reactions suggest this is in no way a unique rant.
    Jack: You can blame my generation all you want, but we had it tough! Yes indeed, we didn't get driven. We had to ride in A BUS TO SCHOOL! THREE MILES! IN THE COLD! We grew up with only six channels, and you had to get up to change the channel! We didn't have tape players. You had to watch a show when it was on! And if the phone rang, and you weren't home, YOU MISSED THAT CALL! So, excuse me if we ruined the o-zone and killed your rainforest, but we were just a little bit busy walkin' to the TV, answering the phone, and openin' the garage door by hand!
  • World of Ham: Pretty much every major character was prone to long rants (except Ryan, who just wasn't wordy enough to deliver them).