Exclusive: No Gay Kiss for Max on “Happy Endings.” Here’s Why.

Last week, AfterElton.com posted pictures of next week’s episode of Happy Endings, “You’ve Got Male,” which featured a kiss between Max (Adam Pally) and guest-star Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars, Ugly Betty).

Max Greenfield and Adam Pally

Turns out the same-sex kiss won’t air after all. It’s been cut from the episode.

When it comes to gay characters and onscreen TV kisses, GLBT viewers are probably right to view this turn of events with suspicion. The list of de-sexualized gay TV characters is long, as is the list of on-screen kisses that have been censored, outright forbidden, or at least very controversial – a depressing history about which we’ve frequently written.

Since the photos had already been released, and assuming that some people might believe that the cutting of the Happy Endings kiss might be seen as a result of pressure from the network, both ABC and the show’s creator, David Caspe, contacted AfterElton.com to assure us that wasn’t the case. Caspe explained that the producers simply decided that the kiss didn’t work in the context of the scene and that, when it comes to his romantic life, Max will definitely be treated like every other character on the show.

In my conversation with Caspe, I got the definite sense he was telling the truth – especially since the only onscreen kiss the show has shown so far was between two men (a comic kiss between Dave and Max). [Editor’s update: Several commenters have pointed out that there actually have been several heterosexual kisses shown on this show.]

But don’t take my word for it: read the interview and judge for yourself.

AfterElton: You have a lot of fans on our site – not just of the character of Max, but of the show itself.

David Caspe: Thanks. I’ve been following that. I was aware that Max was a character that could be perceived in two very different ways. People could think it’s refreshing and very nice to see, or it could piss people off for some reason.

So I’ve been sort of monitoring [the reaction among gay people]. And [AfterElton.com] is a site I’m a fan of. I probably read too many comments, but I’ve been very much following you. I’ve been wanting to thank you for the support in general, and then this came up, and it was even more of a reason to sit down with you guys.

AE: So there’s no onscreen kiss between Adam Pally and Max Greenfield in this upcoming episode. What’s going on?

DC: Well, as you can see from the picture, we shot the kiss. But when we got in the editing room, it didn’t really work. I think when you see the episode, you’ll understand, but it comes to a funnier conclusion that didn’t really work with the kiss. It was too romantic or too real. Too serious, I guess.

The truth is, when you look at our show, we don’t really do any kisses. Penny has dated a different guy in every episode and hasn’t kissed any of them. But I wanted you guys to be aware that it had nothing to do with it being a heterosexual or a homosexual kiss at all. It was just at the end of the day, we’re trying to make a comedy, so we’re going to do what’s best or funniest for the show, over trying to make some point. And I’d assume that you guys would totally think that that’s the right way to do it.

At the end of the day, my whole point with the Max character, which is based on one of my closest friends, I wanted him in there basically because I wanted a more realistic group of friends [in the show]. I don’t know anyone who has a group of friends that’s all white and straight. That really doesn’t seem realistic anymore. I wanted to have a cross-section. Not that it’s extremely diverse, but at the same time, I think it’s got more diversity than maybe a lot of these other groups of friends [on other shows]. My goal was to do it because that’s what it’s like now, but not really to make some gigantic statement.

The same thing with the Max character. The statement is that he’s in there because he exists in the world of my life. That being said, we’re not going to make special concessions to make a point with him if it defeats the purpose of the moment or the comedy. At the end of the day, the bigger statement is that we’re not doing that.

AE: I hear what you’re saying. At the same time, gay people are obviously going to compare Max’s romantic and dating life to that of the straight characters on the show, and the fact is, the relationships of the heterosexual characters have been primary plot-drivers. It’s great that Max hasn’t been desexualized, and he does have a dating life, but his romantic life hasn’t been a plot-driver. So where do we go from here? Are we ever going to see more kissing, more of Max’s dating life?

DC: As I’m sure you’re aware, in the first thirteen [episodes of any show], you’re still trying to find the show tonally. How real is the show? Is it Seinfeld, where no one hugs or makes up or says anything serious? Or is closer to Friends, where it eventually became real and romantic? To be honest, in the first thirteen, we were a little all over the place, because we didn’t totally know.

That being said, there are six leads in the show, and we tend to use all the characters equally. Whichever direction we go with the larger show with the heterosexual characters, we’ll do the same thing with Max. He should be compared to the other characters in the show. The closest comparison to make is Penny, because she’s mostly single. Dave and Alice are technically single, but they had this relationship between the two of them which we’re still figuring out how to deal with.

But Penny is the other character who is single, and she dated the Italian guy, Doug Hitler, and in both those relationships, we didn’t see her kiss anyone. The only kiss we’ve seen so far is between Dave and Max. And it was more of joke because Dave was helping Max out [with his parents, pretending to be his boyfriend].

As you’ve seen with the photos, we have no aversion to it. We tried, it just didn’t work. I’m sure we’ll see him kiss at some point. I’m sure we’ll see Penny kiss.

In terms of plot, this week it’s Max judging guys too quickly, his friends saying, “You should give guys more of a chance.” And with the Max Greenfield one, he’s dating Max Greenfield, and it turns out that [the character] owns a restaurant Adam Pally’s character is protesting. So these two episodes are about his dating life.

AE: So the Max Greenfield character is only in one episode?

Well, to be honest, so far it’s only one season. But I love Max Greenfield as an actor, so he would totally be a guy that we could see going forward with.

In starting a show, we were strongly advised not to do any serialized elements. Not to do anything episode to episode, where you have to have seen the previous episode to understand what’s going on. So we were not able to do any dating arcs in the first thirteen with any of the characters. Generally the thought at any network is to keep them one-offs with the first few, so people don’t get confused.

But going forward, if we were to get a second season, then Max would without a doubt have an ongoing boyfriend. And Penny would have an ongoing boyfriend.

AE: How do you feel about the prospects for a second season?

DC: I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m proud of the show, and people seem to respond well to it – they seem to on your site. So now it’s kind of out of our hands a little bit. I just hope we get another shot.

Back to the Max character a little bit. As much as I did say we’re not trying to make a statement, at the same time, I’m not an idiot, and I’m aware that it is a character that has not traditionally been seen on TV, and I’m very proud of that. I’m glad to show that character on television. And at the same time, I realize there probably is a responsibility on my part to delve deeper into his relationships, and I’m aware of that, and I welcome that. In this particular case, it just happened to not work. You’ll understand when you see the episode. We had a really phony resolution. It just didn’t make sense for the character or situation to end in that kiss.

AE: One of the things I said in my review of the show is that Max isn’t in a relationship at first – as if you were introducing the character first, letting the audience get comfortable with him, then getting into the “gay” stuff later, although I admit you got to the gay stuff a lot sooner than I expected. Was this an intentional strategy?

DC: The pilot was a premise pilot, so the Dave and Alex stuff [where they are poised to marry, but break up instead] really sucked a lot of story air out from everyone else. This was always intended to be six leads equally. That early stuff affected our ability to tell stories about any of the other characters, because we had to focus so much time on Dave and Alex. These things are only 21 ½ minutes long. But we wanted to get to the others as quickly as we did.

Maybe I’m just naïve, or maybe it’s the people I hang out with, but to me it’s such a non-issue, a gay character dating or kissing on TV that I actually never thought about it. Once we were able to do stories that weren’t centered on Dave or Alex, it was, “Okay, what’s a funny story?” If it was a funny story, we said, “Okay, let’s do it.” It just wasn’t a thought.

It’s probably naïve of me – I would never say it’s a non-issue in the world. We’ve seen it with gay marriage recently. It seems that maybe I live in a little bubble, when I’m surprised when it doesn’t pass everywhere, because it seems like everyone I know is on board with that.

I guess what I’m saying is that I just never thought about it. I’m aware of it, and I think I have a responsibility because I’m putting it on television to a large audience, and there are certain inherent responsibilities that I want to honor. But personally when we come up with stories like that, I never thought about holding off on gay dating. It just never came to me.

AE: Which is absolutely the sense I’ve gotten from the show. What does the guy the character is based on think of Max?

DC: Well, he loves telling people it’s based on him, and I’m always, “Well, it’s loosely based on you, guy.”

AE: Is your friend single?

DC: Yeah. He was basically married for about seven years. And now he’s single. But it’s funny. We were in one situation, we were out, and there was a guy where he was sort of hitting it off with and who gave him a ride home, and I turned to one of my friends and said, “Maybe they’ll hook up or go on a date.”

So later I called my buddy and said, “How did it go?” and he said, “I don’t think he really liked me.” So then my other friend talked to the guy who gave him a ride home, and the guy said, “I didn’t realize he was gay.” And at first my buddy hadn’t realized he was gay. They both didn’t realize that the other guy was gay.

That could easily be a storyline.

AE: [laughing] Do you think it will be?

DC: I don’t know, maybe. You laughed.