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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

PILOT REVIEW: Friends With Better Lives


Starring: James Van Der Beek, Majandra Delfino, Zoe Lister-Jones, Brooklyn Decker, Rick Donald, and Kevin Connolly

Created by Dana Klein
Written by Dana Klein, Directed by James Burrows

Friends with Better Lives is a new sitcom following the mold of shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother as it is about six friends. In this case, they are all in their thirties and in various stages of life. Bobby and Andi (Kevin Connolly and Majandra Delfino) are married with a child and another on the way. Ditzy Jules (Brooklyn Decker) is newly engaged to new age hippie Lowell (Rick Donald). Will (James Van Der Beek) is coming to grips with his impending divorce and Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones) remains single, much to her frustration. All of the friends envy each other in certain ways, hence the title of the show.

THE GOOD: There wasn't much I liked about this pedestrian sitcom. It's set up in the same way as Friends and How I Met Your Mother and those turned out pretty well. However, there have been a million clones as well that haven't worked out. Of the leads in this show, the only one I thought was mildly funny was James Van Der Beek, who also stole the show in the short-lived Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Other than that, the best thing I can say about this show is that it was pretty harmless.

THE BAD: Everything about this show had a "been there, done that" and it didn't do it as well or even close. What makes ensembles like this work are well-defined characters who actually seem like they are friends. What we have here are a bunch of "characters" with gimmicks about their lives and there is little to no chemistry between any of them. While I know that comes with time, you can usually tell in a pilot if it's headed that way and this one is not. I don't believe that these characters have been friends for a long time because the writer was too interested in stupid little jabs between the characters and a horrific amount of puns. There was sitcom cliche after sitcom cliche from a long married couple forgetting their anniversary to a sensitive new age guy playing guitar in inappropriate situations, to a surprise party gone awry. It was all there in the pilot. Finally, hashtags in the opening themes? Really? Just another reason this isn't going to be a show anyone is thinking about in 20 years.

BOTTOM LINE: CBS is hoping that Friends with Better Lives is going to be the next How I Met Your Mother, but it's certainly not going to be. There isn't anything to like here: the characters aren't funny or realistic, the situations are banal, and the show is just trying too hard. I'd like to find some new Friends with a better show.

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