TV Review: ‘Friends With Better Lives’
After the—spoiler alert—terrible ending of “How I Met Your Mother,” I was ready to find another show that could fill the five-person hole in my television-infused heart. Cue “Friends With Better Lives,” which aired directly after HIMYM’s series finale on CBS this Monday, offering up six friends who are trying to become the new MacLaren’s gang.
Before I even get into the show itself, can we talk about how the opening title sequence included hashtags? And not just hashtags like “#FWBL,” but also hashtags to introduce each person/couple in the show, like “#married with kids,” “#just got engaged,” “#divorced” and “#very very single.” I am a huge advocate of hashtags and social media, but everything about their use in those moments felt incredibly forced. Not to mention that they weren’t even used correctly: you can’t have spaces in hashtags. In an attempt to appeal to a young, social media-savvy audience, “Friends With Better Lives” only managed to make me feel uncomfortable.
“Friends With Better Lives” stars James Van Der Beek as Will, a recently separated, possibly attractive male who still hopes he and his wife will get back together, even though she cheated on him with their couples therapist. In the pilot episode, Will is living with old friends, Andi and Bobby Lutz (Majandra Delfino and Kevin Connolly), who have been married seven years and have a baby. At least, I think they have a baby. We never actually see them caring for a child. The Lutzs, though only in their 30s, seem stuck in the “we’ve been married so long we’re boring” trope. The cast also includes model-turned-actor Brooklyn Decker as Jules, the romantic and free-spirited blonde whose first scene reveals that she has found “the one.” This “one” turns out to be Lowell, played by Rick Donald, an Australian who owns a restaurant called “Namaste.” The final friend in the group is Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones), a sardonic and superficial serial dater.
The episode follows Will as he navigates through this new period in his life, Andi and Bobby realize they’ve forgotten their anniversary Jules and Lowell get engaged and Kate realizes how superficial she is. The friends are constantly ribbing on each other, but they seem like they really care for each other. Will and Bobby are OB-GYNs who own a practice together, and the girls were all sorority sisters. #FWBL sets up a group of friends who are all in different places in their lives but still seem somewhat supportive—albeit envious—of one another.
As to who has “the better lives,” you can’t really pinpoint anyone, which is, I’m guessing, the whole point of the show. Because they are all in different places, every part of the grass looks greener, and this episode manages to place each character in the “worst life” role at some point throughout the 22 minutes.
While some of the one-liners made me chuckle slightly, I was overwhelmingly disappointed with this new sitcom. The characters weren’t overly likeable, but they also weren’t so flawed and unlikeable that you were rooting for them to learn something—anything—like I find when I watch HBO’s “Girls.” Overall, these six characters were just boring, and they didn’t have a central location that bound them together, unless you count Andi and Bobby’s living room. #FWBL needs a Central Perk, a Cheers or a MacLauren’s, where the friends can banter and catch up. They need an escape from their better-or-worse lives just like we do when we sit down to watch.
Unfortunately, “How I Met Your Mother” fans, you’re going to have to wait for something else, as “Friends With Better Lives” does not offer the characters or writing that we love so much.