The conceit of CBS' Friends With Better Lives is one that most of us can relate to: We look across the backyard fence or through our Facebook feeds, see what's happening with our friends or acquaintances and say, "Man, they've got it made. Why can't I have that?" It's a jealousy that's grown exponentially in the era of social media, what with the Internet now awash in chipper updates and smiling vacation photos.
Show creator Dana Klein wants to capture that very 21st century sense of envy in her sitcom. "Happiness is supposed to be wanting what you have, but often it's about people wanting what they don't have," she says. "And now with Instagram and Facebook it's all in your face."
Perhaps Klein's show, then, is a strange antidote for her fellow television writers and show runners. Because, trust me, no one's looking at Friends With Better Lives and saying, "Man, I wish my show was more like that!" Even Chuck Lorre would draw the line somewhere.
The story, such as it is, revolves around six friends with very different lives. Bobby and Andi are married with kids, longing for the more carefree days of their youth. Will and Kate are single (the former having been served divorce papers in the pilot) and want more stable relationships. Jules and Lowell are newly engaged and, well, not as much envious as they are annoying.
Friends With Better Lives premiered right after the series finale of CBS' How I Met Your Mother, which means someone at the network must've thought the show might scratch an itch for fans mourning the loss of the latter series. And, indeed, some of the same elements are in evidence—there's lots of booze, for one thing, and never you mind that one of the drinkers also has a nursing baby; and sexual raunch is still utterly in vogue.
But I'm hoping—fervently hoping—that Friends With Better Lives won't have the staying power How I Met Your Mother did. And I'm hardly the only one.
Terry Ponick of Communities Digital News says that "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."
Writes Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times, "This wretched new sitcom … should really be called 'Friends With Genitals,' better to reflect what its characters spend most of their time talking about."
And then there's this from Robert Bianco at USA Today: "Friends With Better Lives is just one witless, thudding, sex-obsessed crack after another, from an opening joke about sitting on a carrot to another friend's discussion of her various dates' penile problems. It's as if the writers looked at the show that, come April 14, will be its lead-in, the equally repellent 2 Broke Girls, and thought, 'Now there's the show we should emulate.'"
Will is getting divorced. Jules and Lowell are getting married. Kate is getting bitter. And Bobby and Andi are trying to get out of a rut—with Bobby throwing a surprise party for Andi, and a clueless Andi attempting to perform oral sex on him in their darkened and people-filled living room.
We hear Bobby's zipper and see Andi on her knees; lots of explicit oral sex quips fly in the aftermath. Kate discusses the failings of many previous dates, some involving the look or smell of her mate for the night's "junk."
Bobby and Andi appear to be having a graphic post-coital discussion (when they've actually just finished watching Homeland). We see full views of Andi using a breast pump and hear quite a lot about her lack of milk production. There's bragging that goes on about having sex for 12 straight hours and every single day. There are references to using vegetables for sex, a woman's breast being exposed, an ex sleeping with a marriage counselor, pubic hair and pap smears. Couples kiss and make out, sometimes in their underwear.
Characters rarely are seen without wine in hand, and Kate serves herself a brimming glass when learning that Jules is engaged. There's talk of incontinent birds and people defecating in closets. "B‑‑ch" is tossed around a few times. God's name is abused at least a dozen times.