Happy Endings and the Cursed Sitcom Birthday

Last night’s episode of Happy Endings revolved around Penny’s “thirtieth” birthday, which wasn’t quite a success not only because she lies about her age, but also because Penny’s birthday is cursed. In a series of flashbacks, we see the evidence: a clown getting CPR when she was 7; the ill-advised gift of a pet going nuts and terrorizing the gang. This year, the curse has manifested itself in a series of misadventures involving several different choices of restaurant for the birthday celebration; finally, the group ends up at their usual hang … where a gypsy woman either reinforces the existing curse or hits Penny with a new one.

Happy Endings is a show that doesn’t shy from calling out its pop-cultural ancestors, and last night’s episode had a lot: “Character Who Always Has a Terrible Birthday” is a classic TV trope.


Birthday Victim: Frasier

Representative Birthday Mishap: Hurts his back while in the process of blowing out the candles on his cake.

Is This Birthday Curse Reflective of Cosmic Justice? If ever there were a TV character that deserved a humbling at least once a year, surely it was Frasier Crane.

Mad About You

Birthday Victim: Paul

Representative Birthday Mishap: Accidentally takes a sleep aid right before a surprise party thrown in his honor.

Is This Birthday Curse Reflective of Cosmic Justice? Other than being kind of neurotic and helping to popularize the phrase “ehhhhhh, not so much,” Paul is a good dude. The Buchman who really deserves to have bad birthdays is his insufferable mother.

The Big Bang Theory

Birthday Victim: Sheldon

Representative Birthday Mishap: As a child, being forced to endure the “crowded sweaty hell” of bouncy castles.

Is This Birthday Curse Reflective of Cosmic Justice? Sheldon’s birthday aversion is less a curse than a facet of his general disapproval of social events/fun/people.


Birthday Victim: Phoebe

Representative Birthday Mishap: Joey, one of her dearest friends, misses her surprise party because he’s dating her hated twin sister.

Is This Birthday Curse Reflective of Cosmic Justice? They don’t talk about it much, but she did spend her youth as a violent criminal, so maybe her bad birthdays are just evidence of karma catching up with her. Maybe in her next life, she’ll have learned not to mug Ross.

Will & Grace

Birthday Victim: Will

Representative Birthday Mishap: Being too agreeable gets him trapped at a figure skating performance next to an increasingly drunk and obnoxious Karen.

Is This Birthday Curse Reflective of Cosmic Justice? Will’s biggest crime is being excessively persnickety. Karen probably deserves bad birthdays, but one can assume she’s been spared them as part of an overall deal with the actual Devil.

Tara Ariano will take a pinch to grow an inch.

Filed Under: Friends, Happy Endings