‘Friends With Better Lives’: Sitcom smutfest debuts tonight

‘Friends With Better Lives’: Sitcom smutfest debuts tonight

Scene from
Scene from "Friends With Better Lives" pilot episode. (Credit: Trae Patton, CBS)

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2014 – We had some nice things to say the other day about the loopy new Fox sitcom “Surviving Jack.” Too bad we can’t say the same thing about “Friends With Better Lives,” CBS’ latest entry in the late-season replacement show parade.

Debuting tonight at 9 Eastern following that much-ballyhooed, final extra special hour-long series finale episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” this new show—and CBS—hope to pick up that coveted younger demographic with a new sitcom smutfest that accomplishes a feat formerly thought to be utterly impossible: making dirty jokes seem incredibly boring.

You can see the imprints of past sitcoms all over this unfortunate vehicle ranging from echoes of “Doogie Howser” to an obvious attempt to clone the long-running success of the nearly eponymous hit series “Friends.”

Unfortunately, the show’s pilot episode, airing tonight, is short on engaging characters and long on smarmy behavior. It’s a lot less like “Friends” and more like MTV’s now-defunct animated series “Beavis n’ Butt-head” but without the charm.

Similar to the situation in the original “Friends,” we start out tonight with a cast of absurdly good-looking, impossibly chummy 30-somethings trooping in and out of each others’ pads like aging college kids dropping in on their pals unannounced like they used to in the dorms. But that’s where the similarities end.

These new “Friends With Better Lives” (get it?) are successful beyond avarice, having apparently avoided the Great Recession in its entirety. They dwell in what appears to be suburban splendor whilst bitching endlessly and unconvincingly about their empty and/or inadequate sex lives.

Earth to writers: Think about it. Who would even want to have sex with these empty vessels once they’ve opened their mouths? (And no, that’s not a cue for another dirty joke picking up on the oral fixation that afflicts tonight’s opener.)

The undercurrent that provides a bit of continuity in tonight’s episode is that each of these new “Friends” happens to be in or out of relationships in notably different ways. The series producers must hope this peg will lead to further amusing plot twists, assuming this series can make it past Easter.

The designated anchor-couple for this series would seem to be Bobby Lutz (Kevin Connally)—a successful OB/GYN and Michael J. Fox lookalike—and his attractive and cuddly wife Andi (Majandra Delfino). They’ve recently had a kid and seem blissfully happy after the opening credits, all curled up in front of the idiot box, perhaps enjoying that “How I Met Your Mother” finale.

Their pal and Bobby’s MD colleague Will (James Van Der Beek) is also bunking with them and the kid (who never cries or needs a diaper change, BTW) as he’s currently on the outs with his wife.

Rounding out this entourage of virtual dorm buddies are the leggy, blonde Jules (Brooklyn Decker) and her lovey-dovey Aussie-accented, veggie-obsessed Buddhist restaurateur boyfriend Lowell; and fabulously successful, ridiculously wealthy Jewish-American Princess-entrepreneur Kate, all of whom drop in on Bobby and Andi at will.

Kate is getting—and giving—plenty of sex, all of it unsatisfactory, proving to the series’ writers at least that money can’t buy you love. Actually, it can’t even buy you a steady boyfriend if your opening line, like Kate’s, happens to be “I went to Harvard business school, I own the hottest social media company in the country, I haven’t cried since 1987 and I’m phenomenal in bed.” Now there’s a turn-on for any lonely guy in search of a relationship.

Meanwhile, Jules and Lowell are getting all the sex they can pack into each day. But a Sword of Damocles hangs precariously over these randy lovebirds: Did Lowell really mean it when he made that offhanded marriage proposal?

Sadly, our remaining heroes and heroine aren’t getting any at all. Will is served with divorce papers. And as for Bobby and snuggly Andi, well… Andi just had a kid and hey, nobody gets it on after that, right? Right?

Plus, you have to understand why at least Bobby might not be interested in sex. That’s something that will happen for you when you catch the scene featuring Andi sitting on the couch with small bottles hanging from each (tastefully covered) mammary gland.

While her attached breast pump is doing its extractive thing, a couple of Bobby and Andi’s pals just chance to pass by, estimating en route and with casual obnoxiousness the relative productivity of each ta-ta. (You think we’re kidding, dontcha? Go ahead. Tune in.)

The entire pilot episode continues in a similar vein, a dreary procession of sex-oriented one liners without a heart or soul. The only thing each dead, recycled joke is missing is the smack of a top-hat after each predictable punchline.

Our verdict: If things don’t pick up smartly in this show’s next episode, the agents representing its attractive stars will be doing a lot of dialing and smiling before April is over.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17