Anyone can put sexual predators behind bars — at least on TV, anyway — so it’s surprising, if not downright disappointing, that “Law & Order: SVU” was able to hide Christopher Meloni’s gonzo, testosterone-fueled light under its crime-procedural bushel for 12 seasons.
Viewers were treated to small glimpses of what I like to call The Full Meloni with his roles as Freakshow in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and Gene the cook in “Wet Hot American Summer” and its two Netflix revivals. But the actor’s deranged inner beast is set free throughout the new series “Happy!” (10 p.m. Wednesday, Syfy).
Meloni’s disgraced detective-turned-hit man, Nick Sax, is introduced while spitting blood into a dive bar’s urinal. “Sax, you wreck my porcelain again?” the bartender asks when he returns from the can. “Maybe,” Nick replies. “Wanna guess from which end?”
Consider yourselves warned.
The series’ visually anarchic pilot unleashes all manner of bloody mayhem, scored to classic Christmas carols. It takes place during the holiday season, and Nick firmly believes it’s better to give than to receive — when it comes to beatdowns and bullets. One of Nick’s first victims is a pervert who’s engaging the services of a prostitute while he wears an inflatable prawn costume.
Again, consider yourselves warned.
But while the world has done nothing but kick Nick squarely in the groin since his fall from grace as New York’s finest detective — “My life,” he sighs, “is an ever-swirling toilet that just won’t flush.” — things take a relentlessly positive turn when he’s visited by Happy, a wide-eyed, buck-toothed, flying blue unicorn who’s voiced by Patton Oswalt.
Considering all the booze and drugs he ingests, along with the way he pops nitroglycerin tablets like breath mints for his bum ticker, Nick is convinced Happy is a hallucination. He isn’t, though. Happy’s the imaginary friend of a little girl named Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo), who’s been kidnapped and locked in a shipping crate by a crack-smoking creeper dressed like Dan Aykroyd’s filthy Santa in “Trading Places” fell into a Christmas tree. And, for some reason, Happy is convinced that Nick is the only one who can save her.
Based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, “Happy!” bears a look that could best be expressed in animation terms as Frank Miller meets Rankin/Bass.
It’s a decidedly adult show with Nick dropping F-bombs followed by quarters into Happy’s swear jar. Happy, meanwhile, will occasionally say something as harsh as, “Oh crackers and jam!”
In a city teeming with dirty cops, mobsters and plenty of others who want Nick dead, it will be a race against the clock to rescue Hailey — assuming Happy can even convince Nick to try.
Based on its first two episodes, “Happy!” doesn’t always fire on all cylinders. Meloni, though, has cylinders to spare, as he plays Nick as a cross between “Die Hard’s” John McClane and “Taxi’s” Reverend Jim — with just a touch of Jason Statham’s character from “Crank.”
When Nick’s luck finally begins to turn once he gets Happy to help him cheat at poker by looking at everyone else’s cards, the thugs he’s playing against grow suspicious.
“You know what they say: Even a clock gets a broken face twice a day,” Nick says by way of explanation. “That’s a saying, right?”
But it is now.