Cast: Kevin Connolly, Brooklyn Decker, Majandra Delfino, Zoe Lister Jones, James Van Der Beek
Release Date: March 31st, 2014
It premiered right after the series finale of How I Met Your Mother and can be excused for not matching the powerful excitement of that nine-season wonder. Other than that, erectile Friends with Better Lives has no excuses for its crude style and uninspired pilot episode. And despite his likeability and a career trajectory that can easily be compared to Neil Patrick Harris’, even James van der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) can not resuscitate this unintelligent new comedy.
The show begins six weeks after the athletic Will Stokes (James Van Der Beek) has moved in with his bland best friend Bobby (Kevin Connolly) and Bobby’s impatient wife, Andi (Majandra Delfino). Will is unhappily separated from his angry wife (who everyone else dislikes) and spends his time bike riding in front of her house, waiting for her to reconcile the relationship. The other two major cast members are Jules (Brooklyn Decker) and Zoe (Zoe Lister Jones).
As the pilot begins, both Jules and Zoe are single girls looking to find the right guy for them. After a whirlwind romance, Jules thinks she’s found the right guy while the abrasive Zoe looks for excuses to break up with men. The descriptions of “bald,” “red hair” and “tank top” are enough to get Zoe to break off a relationship before it begins.
The first episode’s greatest weakness is that it presses too hard on its character’s characteristics, making them more one-dimensional than necessary. Bobby and Andi, for example, are the “boring married couple” on the show. They are so boring that they spend their nights watching Homeland and can’t remember the last time they slept together. They are so boring that neither of them remembers their anniversary. They have one child— who is so important to them that they barely mention him at all and he doesn’t show up in the first episode (maybe he’s bored with them too)— but other than that, they’re supposed to be the most boring couple on the planet.
When Bobby seeks to relight the romance with a party, the show then mellows in its other major fault— believing that sex jokes are the comedic answer to any dilemma. In one of the most stereotypical comedy situations we’ve ever seen, Andi attempts to perform a sex act on Bobby in the darkness with their friends and family waiting in the background to yell “surprise.” The only surprise here would be if this show survives until a second season.
By the end of the first episode, all of the characters have established themselves as archetypes but none of them has established themselves as a person the audience would be interested in spending time with. There are tons of shows about a group of friends (some married and others single) that are quirky and wonderful and keep audiences coming back for more.
How I Met Your Mother was one of those shows.
Friends with Better Lives is simply a bland copy of a formula that can, at its best, work suberbly. At its worse, it can relegate its actors to being stereotypes who talk and act like they have been cast in a third-rate sitcom. Friends with Better Lives unfortunately fits into the latter category.
Review by: John Hanlon