Monday, March 31, 2014

CBS Midseason Pilot Review: Friends with Better Lives - Premieres March 31; Three's Company Returns to TV Land, That '70s Show Quietly Now on Nick at Nite

Friends with Better Lives

Friends with Better Lives - Mondays at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Premieres Monday, March 31, 2014 at 9:00PM ET/PT


by Skees

As we come of age, we all think that we're the ones suffering, and it's our friends who have the better lives. So, naturally, that would be the premise of the latest sitcom on CBS, Friends with Better Lives. The series follows a married couple (Andi and Bobby), a divorced man (Will), a soon-to-be-engaged couple (Kate and Lowell), and the eternally obnoxious one who finds the flaws in everybody (Jules). So who really has the better life? That's what this CBS series tries to answer, in sitcom form.

Cast Details:
James Van Der Beek as Will Stokes 
Brooklyn Decker as Jules Talley 
Zoe Lister-Jones as Kate McLean 
Rick Donald as Lowell Peddit 
Majandra Delfino as Andi Lutz 
Kevin Connolly as Bobby Lutz 

James Van Der Beek (Will Stokes) is primarily known for playing the starring role in the teen drama Dawson's Creek. More recently, he was on ABC's Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. His first TV appearance came in 1993 on an episode of Clarissa Explains it All, and since Dawson's Creek ended, he has been cast in several unsold pilots, and has also played roles in many dramas such as Criminal Minds and One Tree Hill

Brooklyn Decker (Jules Talley) is primarily known as a swimsuit model, having appeared in many magazines including Sports Illustrated, but she has also made appearances in series such as Chuck, Ugly Betty, and New Girl. She is married to retired tennis player Andy Roddick.

Zoe Lister-Jones (Kate McLean) is possibly best known for her role of Lily on the series Whitney. She has also made guest appearances on three out of four series in the Law & Order franchise, as well as an episode of The Good Wife.

Rick Donald (Lowell Peddit) is an Australian actor who has made appearances on series such as House Husbands, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Underbelly, and Home and Away. This series marks his American television debut.

Majandra Delfino (Andi Lutz) is a Venezuelan-American actress who is best known for her role on the series Roswell. She got her start in Hollywood in the film Zeus and Roxanne, as well as appearing in the short-lived sitcom The Tony Danza Show, and has appeared in episodes of The Office and Boston Public.

Kevin Connolly (Bobby Lutz) is best known for his role of Eric on the HBO series Entourage. Before that, he was a regular on the series Unhappily Ever After. He has appeared in movies including The Notebook, Antwone Fisher, Secretariat, and will be reprising his TV role in the upcoming Entourage film.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" – airs Monday, March 31st, 2014 at 9PM ET/PT
Andi (Majandra Delfino) and Bobby (Kevin Connolly) are married and happily living on their own... well, sort of. They've also got to deal with parenting, and also Will (James Van Der Beek), who recently moved in after his own marital troubles. Bobby is about to throw a surprise party for Andi, but it is something that is going to end in disaster for almost everybody, except for Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Lowell (Rick Donald).

Analysis:

In the 21 minutes of the episode that I watched, I mostly found myself confused by who the characters were and what their backstory was, which can be expected to some extent in a pilot... but that is also a solid indication that there is little, if anything, that is exciting about the characters or the series. The premise here is that we've got the married couple, the engaged couple, the one who is dating, and the one whose relationship just crashed. These are, ideally, all distinct characters that should have completely unique personalities. But everything just seemed to sort of mesh together into a horrible mess.

Like many pilots, a lot of things happened in the pilot. But in this pilot, maybe it was a bit too much. An engagement and a divorce happening within minutes of one another in the same house (all during a wedding anniversary celebration of another friend, to top it off) was a bit too much for the pilot. It would have been better to see the pre-engagement relationship play out a bit first, followed by a drawn out divorce. Now the series has already turned into two people dating and two couples married married (or one of them is at least close to it).

While the pilot did have some great actors in it, I felt that their potential was not utilized as fully as it could have been. While I was never a fan of Dawson's Creek, it cannot be denied that James Van Der Beek is a talented actor... but having him played the desperate divorced guy seemed out of place. It may have felt more natural for Kevin Connolly (another talented actor) to play that role, but instead, he was the happily married guy. Personally, I'm still seeing him as Eric from Entourage, or to go back even further, Ryan from Unhappily Ever After.

I can't say that I laughed at all during the entire episode. Of course, I'm always willing to give a sitcom the benefit of the doubt if it isn't a laugh-filled riot, because even some of the greatest sitcoms ever have good story telling with few laughs. The problem is, there wasn't a great story to be told here. The pilot attempted to focus on getting quick laughs, particularly related to some sexual content. But the problem is that a lot of sexual jokes are going to get their biggest laughs from a much younger audience than this series could ever hope to target.

Conclusion:

In all honesty, CBS probably doesn't have a hit on their hands with this series. I'm not sure what can be done about this series to make it a bit more watchable, as it honestly seems to show little promise. Of course, I've been wrong about these things before, but it mostly just feels like something CBS is using to fill the hole left by How I Met Your Mother, except there really isn't going to be anything good enough to fill that hole for the time being. Luckily for CBS, they have a mostly solid lineup, with a majority of their lineup already having been renewed for next season, and plenty of pilots in the works, which makes it unlikely that they'll turn back to this series in the fall. The real question, though, is will they continue to turn to this for an entire 13 episode run. The series will be given a very fair chance to capture an audience with what will probably be a solid lead-in for the debut, but what viewers decide beyond that is to be determined.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 2/5
Funniness: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, March 31 at 9:00PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Friends with Better Lives Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Three's Company

    TV Land has picked-up the cable rights to Three's Company once again. The classic 70s/80s sitcom was not renewed by TV Land after its contract expired in August 2013, but now TV Land has made a deal to bring back the sitcom. It will join other recent returnees including The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island. The John Ritter-led sitcom will begin starting this Saturday (April 5, 2014). It will air weekend mornings. Times will vary, but this coming Saturday it will air with a marathon block from 4:30am-2pm and Sunday from 4:30am-12pm. To make room for Three's Company, it seems TV Land will be removing The Golden Girls. Not to worry, as that will still air on the Viacom-owned network Logo. And as we mentioned, Three's Company is also returning in April on Antenna TV, so it's twice as nice for Three's Company this April. No foolin'. Stay with us for continued updates on TV Land and Three's Company!

    That '70s Show

    In other news, That '70s Show has quietly started on Nick at Nite a few weeks ago and it is airing every night from approx. 1:24-2:36am (2 episodes). George Lopez is now pushed to 2:36-4:57am, with Yes Dear rounding out the night from 4:57am-6am. Old Christine and My Wife & Kids are no longer airing on the network, but both can be found on other Viacom siblings (NickMom and BET, respectively). Hangin' with Mr. Cooper remains from 6-7am. Back to That '70s Show, with it now airing on Nick at Nite, it is still airing on TV Land as well. TV Land has not removed it and will continue to air it early mornings after 4am and on weekends after 2am. Stay with us for continued updates.


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Tuesday, December 12

    The Middle - "The Christmas Miracle" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    It’s Christmastime, and Frankie and Sue are devastated after Axl informs them that he’s not going to church this year because he’s beginning to question his faith. Meanwhile, Mike goes to war with the Glossner kids after they keep defacing his new, giant inflatable snowman; and Brick goes all out in an attempt to wrap his first present for a planned Christmas Yankee Swap.

    Fresh Off the Boat - "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    As head of the HOA Christmas committee, Jessica threatens to cut the neighborhood caroling this year due to last year’s rocky performance. However, Deirdre says that her friend Holly (Paula Abdul), who teaches “Performance and Movement,” will help get everyone into tip-top, melodic shape. Meanwhile, Marvin becomes suspicious of Honey when she goes to see “Titanic” at the movies without him; Nicole develops her first girl crush and struggles with how to get her attention.

    black-ish - "Sugar Daddy" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Dre is diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and after talking to Pops, he’s resolved to curing himself. Things come to a head at the Stevens & Lido holiday party. Meanwhile, Jack is convinced that baby Devante hates him, so he enlists Junior and Diane’s help.

    The Mayor - "Grey Christmas" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    After visiting a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve, Courtney realizes things for the needy could be improved and pledges to make it a joyous Christmas that every family deserves. But when he learns he doesn’t have the budget to deliver on his promise, Courtney loses hope and his holiday spirit which leads to a magical “It’s A Wonderful Life” moment that makes him realize he has the gift needed to pull off a Christmas miracle.

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Game Night" / "The Favor" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Rosa asks for Jake's help to deliver important information to her parents, but their plan goes awry when they assume the two are in a relationship; Seamus Murphy comes back to redeem an ethically questionable favor owed by Capt. Holt.

    Teachers - "Let It Flow" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Ms. Cannon discovers that one of her students is an artistic prodigy. Mrs. Adler and Ms. Watson take the mini-society competition to a new level.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 11)

    Tuesday, December 12

    • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) - Catch Tom on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He also talks about The Post on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
    • Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/30 Rock) - Jane appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Ari Graynor (I'm Dying Up Here/Bad Teacher) - Ari is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Niecy Nash (The Soul Man/Getting On/Do Not Disturb/Reno 911!) - Niecy visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Bill Pullman (1600 Penn) - Bill stops by Steve, so check your local listings.
    • Miles Brown (black-ish) - Miles appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Ana Gasteyer (People of Earth/Lady Dynamite/Suburgatory) - Ana talks about Fox's A Christmas Story Live! on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • Noah Galvin (The Real O'Neals) - Noah talks about Dear Evan Hansen on the BUILD Series at 4pm.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (November/December)

    The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season Living Single - The Complete Third Season Alice - The Complete Sixth Season One Day at a Time - The Complete Series Fuller House - The Complete Second Season

    11/07 - American Dad! - Volume 12
    11/07 - Family Guy - Season Fifteen
    11/07 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season
    11/14 - D.C. Follies - The Complete Series
    11/21 - Living Single - The Complete Third Season
    11/24 - Grandfathered - Season 1
    12/05 - Alice - The Complete Sixth Season
    12/05 - One Day at a Time - The Complete Series
    12/05 - The Simpsons - The Eighteenth Season
    12/05 - South Park - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
    12/12 - Fuller House - The Complete Second Season
    12/19 - South Park - The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest