That Ray Bradbury was one happy son-of-a-bitch. Or at least he comes across that way in his stories. Part of it was having the luck to grow up in a simpler time when the country was growing, and growing in the right direction. His timing also couldn’t have been better for a 50 year window where it was possible to make a good living writing short genre fiction. A story called The Happiness Machine sounds right in his wheelhouse.
Also lucky, is the star of the episode who has made a fine living for decades despite being possibly the only actor worse than Bill Paxton ever to get steady work. Elliott Gould awakens one sunny morning to birds chirping, dogs frolicking, bees buzzing, birds soaring. He is so goddamn happy he decides he needs to pay it back (or forward as we say now).
He pulls various pieces of junk out of his garage to invent a Happiness Machine. He then walks around the neighborhood taking pictures of little boys climbing trees and little girls playing hopscotch. His luck continues by him not being arrested.
He spends hours in the garage soldering, welding, wiring, painting and finishing the Happiness Machine. Under deadline from his wife who has called the city to haul it away, he tests it out by putting her in it.
She dances by the Danube, sees the Sphinx, sees London, sees France, sees a little girl’s underpants. She is having the ride of her life until suddenly she is in tears. She emerges distraught from the Happiness Machine.
But when you step out of the machine into shitty reality, it is soul-crushing. It leads only to sadness and depression . . . like experiencing Bradbury’s TV show.
Gould’s wife begs him to destroy it. He tries it out himself and briefly experiences the euphoria before a fire starts that destroys it. It pains me to say it, but there is an effective ending. He is saddened by the destruction of his Happiness Machine, but his wife tells him to look in the windows of his house. He sees his kids playing the piano, the violin, showing off a painting, modeling a new blouse. His home and family are the Happiness Machine.