The Cambridge Geek

Happy & We Know It

There's been an interesting run recently, in shows that do a version of the Candle Cove creepypasta, being fictional podcasts about re-watching fictional shows/films. There's been One From The Vaults, The Lydia Landing Lads, and this show, Happy & We Know It. Originally based on an r/nosleep story, this has now been expanded into a full dramatised podcast.

In this podcast, Rory and Max are watching "If You're Happy & You Know It", ostensibly a sitcom of simple family life, similar to things like Malcolm in the Middle and Modern Family. They're matched by their third host, Martin, who only ever joins the show via telephone call (with garbled signals) or TEXT MESSAGES LIKE THIS. He has a rather interesting life, from the snippets we get.

It's set in the town of Volgaville, and follows the lives of Simon and Darcy Squib, and their three children, Abraham and Lilith. Naturally, there's a wide range of supporting characters, like the next door neighbours, Sweet and Almond Gesture, and their never named children, and Lee Doesit, who "dresses for the job he wants", in this case a Croupier.

As the podcast runs through the show episode by episode, naturally, it's not just a normal sitcom. There's an underlying level of creepiness, which is expressed through sitcom tropes that are always slightly broken. For instance, catchphrases, such as "it's dangerous to play by the turbine", here referring to a jet engine in the Gestures garden that fell out of the sky in a way that may or may not be in the show.

Though the hosts don't really recognise those oddities, which means they avoid that problem with being overly sarcastic/self-aware, which can sometimes ruin the effect. That's done rather well by suggesting that these strange elements might be intentional design by the director, or simply because of the low budget of the original sitcom.

But there's also a whole lore built around this show, in the same obsessive way that people construct fandom wikis, which the hosts interrogate. There's the tunnels under the set, to allow production movement, and in which "things" might live. The Springfield problem, where no-one is sure where the town is (even in real life), or missing people who seem to be extras now.

This is one I've enjoyed immensely, and have gone back to listen to multiple times while awaiting episodes (it releases rather slowly/inconsistently - episode 7 is coming apparently). They've hit a good level of creepiness, with some genuinely disturbing soundwork (with the standard joke of the audience laughter coming in unintended working rather well). And it's got a good structure, with fixed segments in each episode. There's plot recaps, discussions, standout scenes, and even fan mail.

The fan mail is also creepy.

Being imagined as a rewatch podcast, the soundscape in some ways is fairly simple. There's no playing of clips of the sitcom, instead it being described or acted out by the two hosts, though there are in some instances snippets of other relevant interviews. But around that, there's some excellent music and sound choices. It does a brilliant job of drawing you in, all bookended with the discordant jangle of the original sitcom theme tune.

But the most appealing part to me is the grim detail that they've built into the sitcom descriptions. It ranges far and wide, and is wonderfully inventive. Sometimes these style of things can fall over when the horror is either too bland or overdone, but this is positioned really well. Give it a listen.

Score 5

Tagged: Audio fiction Dramedy Cast Fictional show Horror Serial