Episode Reviewed: Happy Hunting (720)
Writers: Kathy Buchanan, Paul McCusker
Director: Nathan Hoobler
Sound Designer: Christopher Diehl
Music: John Campbell
The search for happiness
Scripture: James 1:2
Original Airdate: 11/10/12

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

Penny Wise embarks on a frantic search to find happiness, but in the process she makes everyone around her miserable.


The Review

When the time came to review Happy Hunting, I sat for a while staring at a blank screen. I couldn't quite remember what I didn't like about this episode, so I went back and listened to it again. Was it Penny that bothered me? Did the humor fall flat? Had I heard this episode before? Maybe it was a combination of these things.

I later realized that my dislike for Happy Hunting went deeper than those reasons. You see, generally, a slice-of-life episode should depict our everyday life-experiences in a realistic manner; they should feel like pages ripped from our diariesif not in how its story is told, than in the way real-life struggles are depicted. This episode attempts to depict someone's journey seeking happiness, but presenting a characterand a storythat never rang true.

This episode could have been substantially better if it had a little more subtlety. First, what Happy Hunting is trying to say is true; we do sometimes rely on new clothes, magazine tips, scientific facts, support groups, and exercise to feel happy. However, this episode presents a character grabbing hold onto those things in away that is so over-the-top, illogical, and haphazard. Penny tries out these different ways of being happy as if she is trying out different pairs of pants at a clothing store.

New clothes, exercise, moneywe grab hold of these things in passivity. Most of us don't grab hold of them because a magazine article tells us to, but because we are selfish, self-pleasuring creatures, and we sometimes rely more on temporary solutions than on God. We also don't suddenly realize that the Omega 3's in salmon is the not the source of true happiness because we develop an allergy to it. We don't suddenly realize that running is not the source of true happiness because we fell down a hill and across two parking lots.

The reality is that it's once we've drifted out to sea that we realize how far we've traveled away from the inlandfrom God. It's only once we have all that money that we realize we're just as happy with a dollar in our pocket. It's only once we have 900 friends on Facebook that we realize it hasn't made us any happier than having a few real close ones. Could not have Happy Hunting shown us the true consequences of seeking happiness in worldly things? Couldn't it have shown us Penny's feeling of emptiness? I don't understand why Happy Hunting showed unrealistic, physical consequences to her decision-making.

I understand how Penny may be simply a grown-up child that can be used to easily explain topics to younger listeners, but her astounding naiveté takes away any way I can relate to her. It did not help that I couldn't even understand why she was unhappy in the first place. She saw a few crummy paintings and didn't feel like selling them? Her unhappiness reminded me of a three-year-old having a temper tantrum when mummy asked them to clean their room. Additionally, Penny not only did, but said things that felt illogical throughout: "I should choose to be happy rather than miserable so I decided to buy these new boots to help me along". Who thinks like that?

Numerous comparisons have been made to
Happy Smilers and Count It All Joy on local message boards. Aside from a similarity in theme, I thought those episodes were structurally quite different from Happy Hunting. Personally, I was reminded of A...Is for Attitude, an episode in which Connie isn't very happy to be studying for a test, then hears an inspirational message by Dr. Vincent Van Schpeele, author of "Happiness is a State but You Can't Get There from Here", and, suddenly inspired, tries to think positively for the remainder of the episode.

A...Is for Attitude may not have been more true-to-life than Happy Hunting, it did succeed in being more entertaining. In A...Is for Attitude, the protagonist tries to change other people's attitudes instead of her own. In Happy Hunting, on the other hand, Penny is her own antagonist, and I found her attempts to make herself happy less interesting or humorous than when Connie went around trying to persuade everyone else to think positively. Penny simply ended up annoying every other characterwhich inadvertently ended up annoying me, too.

Strangely enough, in Happy Hunting, Connie Kendall, Wooton Bassett, and John Avery Whittaker allowed Penny Wise to wander around without setting her straight. In comparison, in
A...Is for Attitude, Whit actively challenged Connie's new-found perspective every step of the waywhich certainly added that extra ounce of conflict/tension. It also might have helped if this episode had a climactic ending equivalent to the one featuring Peter Dillon on Miller's Ravine. Happy Hunting, comparatively, didn't build to anywhere that interesting.

As we trek through this season, we shouldn't be surprised that there will be the occasional Adventures in Odyssey episode that doesn't speak to us. Stories will impact some, while completely disaffecting others. Happy Hunting, because of some illogical moments, a lack of subtlety, and an over-the-top grouchy protagonist, fails to make a lasting impression on me.





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