Merry Happy Whatever was a surprising success


Cheesy holiday movies—we know them well. 

A successful woman of around thirty years old packs up her bags in the big city to return to her small town family home for the holidays. While staying with her parents, she realizes that there is more to life than work and the bustle of the city and falls in love with a man. She decides to stay in her small town, and everything always works out. Happily ever after. 

Every year, Netflix and other streaming services release a slew of these new holiday movies hoping to attract viewers who want to get into the holiday spirit. 

Netflix and Hallmark are notorious for these predictable movies. Something that doesn’t happen as often, though, is a holiday series.

Merry Happy Whatever was released on Netflix this past Thanksgiving as one of the first of its kind. 

This holiday series revolves around Emmy (Bridgit Mendler), the youngest daughter of the Quinn family of 4 kids, bringing her boyfriend Matt (Brent Morin) back home for the holidays to meet her family. Emmy’s unique and strictly Catholic family is led under the reign of her father and police officer Don (Dennis Quaid). 

What seems like a cookie-cutter mold for a cheesy movie is developed with a twist from the drama with other characters. Within the first two episodes alone, Emmy’s eldest sister Patsy (Siobhan Murphy) and her husband are struggling to conceive a child, sister Kayla (Ashley Tisdale) received the news that her husband wanted a divorce publically in front of her family, and brother Sean (Hayes MacArthur) was recently laid off of his job and is unable to support his family of four. 

Merry Happy Whatever is somehow able to deliver all of these somewhat heavy topics in a light-hearted and comedic way without coming off as too tacky. 

As I continued watching the remaining of the nine episodes, I found myself actually connected to the characters and intrigued in their plotlines. With comedies, this is not always the case. The plot develops over the course of twelve days—each episode representing a day or two. While the plot easily could have been one for a movie, the episode format fits the show perfectly and allows it to tell more stories. 

The acting complemented the plot flawlessly. When I began the show, there were only three recognizable names of the cast, but I soon found that they were not the only ones to give stellar performances. 

Elizabeth Ho, who portrays Sean’s wife on the show, earned her place as my favorite character easily. The dry humor of the character was delivered in such a manner that it seemed more realistic as opposed to the overly dramatic and unrealistic one-liners that are seen in most comedies. 

Bridgit Mendler also handles the position of the lead seamlessly and is able to carry scenes, just like she did on Disney’s Good Luck Charlie

Dennis Quaid’s performance, though, was the only one that left me slightly disappointed. Even though he hit his stride by the later episodes, the first few seemed very forced and awkward. As the biggest name on the show, and by far the oldest and most experienced actor, the expectations were high for a quality performance. These expectations, though, were just not met until the later episodes. 

Merry Happy Whatever presented a family with so much drama but made it clear that no matter how dramatic or crazy life could get, the Quinns were always going to have each other’s backs. 

Overall, I found myself very satisfied with the first season of Merry Happy Whatever and am excitedly anticipating its return next year.