Friends With Benefits





Bob Hoose
Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Let’s face it, if you put the word Friends in the title of a new sitcom about a gaggle of urban twentysomethings navigating the seas of buddydom and love, well, it ain’t by accident.

Especially if you’re on NBC.

Indeed, this With Benefits version is really only a natural extension of what the old Friends was all about. That groundbreaker may have seemed to be focused on friends gathering and humorously jawing at the local coffee shop, but in reality it was all about the hookups. As humor site recently reported, the Friends pals had at least 85 different sexual partners between the six of them over the life of the series.

This newest NBC gang of five has the same goal in mind. It’s just determined to get there quicker.

How much quicker? Well, the series pilot opens with leads Ben and Sara pantingly untangling from their latest late-night romp. But is there real intimacy here? A hint of romance? Forget about it. They’re just buds. While strategically sliding out from beneath the sheet and into underwear and clothing, the pair casually chat about Sara’s recent date and other punch line-driven trivia. Then they go their merry way. It’s as if they had just helped each other move a mattress instead of rolling off of one. And that’s this particular Friends’ biggest conceit—and most absurd flaw.

Forget the fact that the friends in question—commitment-hungry Sara, commitment-shy Ben, geeky nanotech millionaire Aaron, sexy sleep-around bartender Riley and cool but oblivious Fitz—are all too pretty and stereotypical to ever be a group of real friends. Forget the fact that the show communicates that committed relationships are nearly impossible to manage while rolls in the hay with strangers are as easy as a wink and a smile. Forget the ridiculous supposition that Sara and Ben are the only ones who can’t see that they’re perfect for each other. And you can even forget that four of the five lead characters end up casually sexing each other by the end of the very first show.

Because even if you put all of that eye-rolling incongruity aside, Friends With Benefits’ biggest problem is what it presents in that opening scene: the idea that sex can actually be so nonchalant that it has no real impact on its participants.

Episode Reviews

FriendsWithBenefits: 8122011

“The Benefit of Forgetting”

Ben dates someone with memory retention issues and frequently lies to her about their dates—including telling her they’ve been dating longer than they have so she’ll agree to sleep with him. He rationalizes the situation: If he lies to a person and she doesn’t realize it, is he really lying?

“Yes,” Aaron says. “That’s the definition of lying.” But the damage has already been done.

“I was raised to believe that love was between one woman and one other woman,” Julian says. And he tries to hook his mom up with other women, taking her to a lesbian burlesque show. Later he struggles with the fact that she’s dating a man. Riley dates a guy who treats her breasts like “religious artifacts,” then discovers (after he ogles a breast-feeding mother) that he has a lactation fetish. When she agrees to play along with his fantasies, he whips out a breast pump and tries to make milk come out of his own nipples. The girls talk about how men handle their breasts.

Couples pair off and make out, sometimes stripping off shirts to reveal bras and bare torsos. We see Sara and Ben in bed together, apparently between bouts. References (some veiled, some not) are made to masturbation, pedophilia, sex-change operations and sexual role play. Characters say “a‑‑” and misuse God’s name.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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