For Quinns, Family, Drama and the Holidays are Woven Together

An Eight Episode Netflix Series Review of Merry Happy Whatever


Holly Harris

You can find Merry Happy Whatever under the “Netlfix Originals” section on Netflix. Netlfix is available for subscription online, on televisions, and on the app store.
Official Netflix Trailer of Merry Happy Whatever

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Many are familiar with the stress of the holidays, some more than others. One such is the Quinn family. Merry Happy Whatever, created by Tucker Cawley, captures the relationship stress as well as the family drama of the holidays in a comical sitcom on Netflix. The 8 episode show began airing on Friday, November 28th, 2019 kicking off the month of December. 

First, let’s get familiar with the Quinn family. Merry Happy Whatever takes place in Bucks County, Philadelphia, where Don Quinn (Dennis Quaid) works as a sheriff. Don has four kids: Patsy Quinn (Siobhan Murphy), Kayla Quinn (Ashly Tisdale), Emmy Quinn (Bridgit Mendler), and Sean Quinn (Hayes MacArthur). Patsy is married to Todd (Adam Rose), Sean is married to Joy (Elizabeth Ho), Kayla is married to Allen (Tyler Ritter), and Emmy has a boyfriend from Los Angeles, Matt (Brent Morin). Shawn and Joy have two boys Sean Jr. (Mason Davis), Donny (Lucas Jaye) and a baby girl. Here’s how it goes down.

The comical Christmas series starts off with episode one, “Welcome, Matt”. Emmy Quinn and her boyfriend Matt flew back from their quiet life in Los Angeles, to the craziness of the Quinn family. Right off the bat, Don Quinn has very high expectations for Matt. Once Don realizes Matt’s career choice is music, things begin to go downhill. On the way back to the Quinn residence, Don announces he has a big opportunity for his beloved daughter Emmy. Of course, Emmy immediately shuts him down for meddling in her life. Once back at the Quinn’s, Matt is introduced to Emmy’s three siblings and their spouses. Kayla, one of the 3 Quinn girls, walks into the bustling kitchen fighting with her husband Allen. That fight quickly turns into Allen announcing he wants a divorce. Don quickly escorts Allen out of his house, in the nicest possible “cop-for-a-dad-” way. Patsy’s emotional distress of not being able to be pregnant takes over at any chance it can, any word or phrase related to babies, or being pregnant, sends Patsy into a spew of tears and sadness. Matt quickly forms a friendship with Joy and Todd, the in-laws.  He confides in them the fact that he is going to propose to Emmy on Christmas. 

Later in the episode, Sean junior, the son of Sean- Emmy’s brother, announces that he is an atheist, something that would make Don Quinn absolutely blow a gasket. Both Joy and Shawn decide that it is best to keep Sean Jr.’s new realization a secret, for now. Matt then asks Don for his permission to marry Emmy, which, surprise! Did not go so well.  Don blatantly responds with, “I really appreciate it, which makes it that much harder to say no. Ya know, after this whole Allen thing, I just realized I have to be more careful about who I let into this family, but thanks for asking, it means a lot.” That is where the beginning of Matt trying to win over Don starts. 

Episode two, “Harmony”, starts off with Matt being chosen for a huge gig. Unfortunately, preventing him from joining the Quinn’s caroling night. Don, of course, views this as Matt “blowing off caroling”. Matt then meets with Joy and Todd, the in-laws, about a plan he has hatched. That plan is getting Don with a nurse from the hospital, Nancy. Don fell head over heels for Nancy after both him and Matt went to the hospital for injuries sustained in episode one. This plan ended up not going so well. Don and Nancy disagree over something which leads to an awkward silence. Which then led to Nancy “having to get back to work”. And you guessed it! This results in Don blaming Matt. Emmy has her big meeting that her father was so kind to set up, which results in an amazing job offer in Philadelphia, her hometown. While Matt, Todd, and Joy are at the bar, they see Shawn, who was supposed to be at work. As it turns out, Shawn had lost his job a few weeks ago and was too embarrassed to tell his wife, and unsurprisingly his father. Matt then decides to bail on his gig to go caroling with the Quinn’s, this, of course, backfires. Emmy views Matt choosing caroling over his gig as not caring about his (their), future. That worry leads to Emmy second-guessing the choices she’s made with Matt. Later that night, caroling was going smooth, per se, until a few certain events went down. One of which is the fact that Emmy and Matt started arguing about his future in music. As well as, Shawn decides to tell his father about him losing his job. By the end of the episode, tenses are still high between Matt and Emmy. 

The third episode of Merry Happy Whatever, “Interference”, starts off with the Quinn family getting ready for the big Eagles game. If you hadn’t already figured, the Quinn’s take the Eagles very seriously, like pretty much everything. Besides watching the game, the day is spent decorating the Christmas tree. During the game, Kayla confides with Matt the fact that she likes women. Also during the game, while taking out the trash, Emmy finds Joy hiding and smoking cigarettes, something the Quinn’s are very against. Emmy offers to help Joy quit smoking to avoid starting a war that Joy would never win with Don. During halftime, Don receives a call from Nancy inviting him to spend the rest of the game with her. As Don tries leaving, his family reminds him of the traditions he’s breaking. So, when he returns home from his evening, he lets Patsy put the star on top of tree. Episode three ends with Matt and Kayla having another heart to heart, sort of.

Episode four, “Happy Mall-idays”, kicks off with a Quinn family mall trip. This is a very tightly run event, bathroom runs before leaving, absolutely no “browsing” or “trying-on”. While at the mall, Kayla tries to flirt with the barista at a coffee stand, that did not go too well. Matt and Emmy’s shopping wasn’t going too well either. The two began arguing about money, which definitely could be due to the stress of Christmas. Joy then gets into an accident in the parking lot with an elderly woman. Joy begins to “explain” the situation but that basically turns into full-on ranting to the woman. The woman was very kind to Joy telling her that “It’s fine, you’re fine, take a breath dear. You are doing the best that you can and guess what? You’re best is good enough!” At least someone was spreading Christmas cheer! When the Quinn’s meet back up in the mall, the kids finally learn that Don (their dad) was dating again and is interested in Nancy. The episode ends with Patsy getting sick, and she and Todd realizing that she is pregnant. 

The fifth episode, “Twas the Night Before the 4th Night of Hanukkah”, starts off with bad moods and getting ready for church. That is until Patsy and Todd walk in announcing, surprise, she is pregnant! While sharing a small enclosed bathroom, Matt and Emmy try to get ready for church, but that quickly turns into another argument over life plans. Todd, Joy, and Matt meet outside discussing the fact that Matt doesn’t think he should propose to Emmy tomorrow. Joy, agrees saying the timing is key. Todd, on the other hand, thinks Matt should go for it. While that joyful talk is taking place, Kayla decides she wants Emmy to give her a makeover so she can be a “new person”. Todd decides to sidearm the family by announcing that he wants to raise their child Jewish until he or she is old enough to decide. Don, as you might imagine, did not have the best reaction, nor Patsy. Shawn Jr. jumped at this opportunity to also announce his newfound atheism. While Emmy is giving Kayla a haircut, she finds the ring Matt was going to propose with. And unfortunately, as you will soon find out, realizes he was going to propose on Christmas. Don being angry with everything, had left for church by himself. The episode ends with the family surprising Don at church. A merry Christmas Eve ending. 

Episode six, “Merry Ex-Mas”, starts off with the family waking up early Christmas morning. Patsy is, of course, cooking in the kitchen, still trying to fill the role of their late mother. Matt realizes he is doomed. He was so caught up deciding whether to propose, he forgot to get Emmy a Christmas gift, as the proposal would have done the trick. The infamous Grandpa/Uncle Jack showed up. Don gives Joy a very generous check due to Shawn’s loss of job. Nancy then stops by soon after to give Don a Christmas gift, as she had finally found his gift to her that her son “misplaced”. Don, overreacted per say. He basically starts acting like Nancy is a princess, calling her “my lady” and kissing her hand. Keep in mind, they by no means are an official item. He just totally scares her away. Emmy continues through the morning thinking for sure that she was soon to have a fiance. When it was finally Matt’s turn to give his gift to Emmy, all he had was a proposal song. Except he wasn’t proposing. So, he had to turn the lyrics of a blatantly clear proposal song, to whatever he turned it into. Regardless, Emmy was not proposed to, nor got a real Christmas present and was assumably, very upset. And please remember, the whole reason he decided to not propose was basically due to Don not giving Matt his blessing. So whose fault is it really?

Surprise! Allens back! Allen decides that he misses Kayla and never wants to do Christmas morning or any morning without her. Super sweet right? Well, Kayla has already realized she likes girls, but, shocker, she still takes him back. Of course, there has to be a discussion regarding Matt’s “amazing gift” to Emmy. This turns into Matt finally telling Emmy that he did not have Don’s blessing. Emmy doesn’t believe that is the only reason, and she is right. Matt had found Emmy’s job offer letter she didn’t tell him about. This fight goes downhill quickly and Matt soon decides to leave to go back to Los Angeles. The episode ends with Emmy telling Don about how she and Matt got into a fight, might have broken up, and how he left to go back to Los Angeles. Don says he feels bad, but Emmy knew he was part of the reason Matt didn’t propose. The last scene is Emmy asking Don why he said no to Matt proposing. 

Episode seven, “Christmas Break”, starts off with an angry Emmy. She has been giving Don the cold shoulder since Matt left. Matt has gone to stay with Joy and Shawn and let’s just say they want him to stay forever. He took care of the baby, Donny, and Shawn Jr. so that Shawn and Joy could sleep in, and they could not have been happier. The show then switches to Kayla and Allen in bed. Kayla cannot find herself wanting to do anything with Allen, at all. Instead, she escapes by saying she wants to make pancakes. Back at Joy and Shawn’s house, Shawn is getting ready for an interview he isn’t too excited about. Joy decides that Shawn can take the time to find a job that he really wants to do, even if it something different than before. Emmy starts interrogating Don about why she got such a great job offer and after she finally gets the truth, she became angrier. Matt then moves to help Patsy and Todd paint their expecting baby’s room. The episode ends with Emmy calling Matt, hoping to work things out.

The final episode of Merry Happy Whatever, episode eight, “Ring in the New Year”, starts off with Shawn showing the family his new job. A food truck! Selling his homemade “eggies”. Before Emmy had called Matt in the last episode, she used the job offer she got in Philadelphia as leverage to get her boss to give her a better position in Los Angeles. Back inside the house, Patsy is frantically searching for a missing puzzle piece. Todd and Joy’s outside meeting is interrupted by Don. The two took that opportunity to subtly tell Don he is controlling, how everyone “walks on eggshells” around him, and how they all fear his wrath. Allen’s assistant, Vanessa, comes over to see if Kayla needs any help with anything. That assistant, Kayla has an interest in. Vanessa told Kayla that she has a “vibe” and Kayla gets very excited, but of course, Don came into the room forcing Kayla to basically push Vanessa out of her room. Don went to Kayla for advice about Emmy, and Kayla blatantly told him that he made Matt and Emmy’s problems worse. Don slowly starts to realize, maybe he was the problem after all. To fix all of this, Don decides to show up in Los Angeles at Matt and Emmy’s old apartment. He tries getting Matt to go back to Philadelphia with him but Matt refuses. He said “what’s done is done,” which is exactly what Emmy said. Matt would not go, so Don was left to fly home feeling defeated. While helping Kayla move out, Emmy got a call from her work. As it turns out, the job offer was not for Los Angeles, but for London. Emmy still accepted it. The night moved on and it was soon time for New Years’ “Quintintions”, aka, what anybody else besides Don would call New Year’s resolutions. 

Nancy came by to surprise Don. Everyone then goes around saying their true resolutions, but when it comes to Kayla, she gave a fake resolution. But then decides to come out to her family. Everyone was so supportive, and of course, Don did his best, but it was not the sweetest reaction. Oh, another surprise. Can you guess? Matt comes back to Emmy! He proposes right then and there. And of course, Emmy said yes. Emmy then tells Matt about her job offer in London, and they both decided to move to London for her job. The episode ends with the ball dropping, and Nancy and Don getting their New Years kiss. Also, Todd destroying the puzzle Patsy worked so hard on. And of course, the family sending Matt and Emmy off to London, waiting for their wedding. 

Merry Happy Whatever may be a disappointment to those who look for many episodes or seasons in a show, but for those that loved the comical drama, have no fear. Plans for the show have not been made 100%, however, according to Deadline, the show may create new seasons to go with other holidays. Perhaps Kayla’s new relationship life may be a topic, Matt and Emmy’s engagement, Patsy’s pregnancy, or maybe even Shawn’s food truck. Bottom line, there are many unanswered questions season one left, so it may be in Netflix’s best interest to provide a season two.

Merry Happy Whatever did a fabulous job capturing the true family stress about the holidays, but not without a lesson. Don learned that he had to be less controlling over the family, and more supportive. Of course, the ending of Don flying out to Los Angeles to convince Matt to come back to Emmy just proves he has truly learned his lesson. As well as, at the end of the last episode, Don gave Kayla a key to their house with a gay pride flag, reminding her that her childhood house will always be her home. The eight-episode sitcom is the perfect series to binge-watch over Christmas vacation for lots of laughs, and maybe even a few tears.