April 16, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review; “Friends With Better Lives”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES:  A half-dozen 30-ish friends hang out.  OB-GYN Bobby (Kevin Connolly) and Andi (Majandra Delfino) are married, and she’s expecting their second child; Jules (Brooklyn Decker) and Australian health-food restauranteur Lowell (Rick Donald) are newly engaged; Will (James Van Der Beek), Bobby’s best friend and medical partner, is newly divorced; and Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones) is ever single.

Episode 2:  The Friends With Better Lives pilot was no more than mediocre, but the first regular episode was so much worse that it gives CBS an unenviable trifecta, joined with We Are Men and The Millers, for perhaps the worst network showing in comedy in a season that’s been notably dreadful for the genre.  The episode’s script, by longtime Friends writer/producer Adam Chase, was witless when it wasn’t being downright ugly.  The main story had Will ready to start dating again, and proving completely inept–it was eventually revealed that he’d only ever had sex with his ex-wife.  Obnoxious Kate decided to make him her “project” and serve as his wingman–but hilarity ensued when it turned out that the woman Will found actually wanted a threesome.  Well, “hilarity” isn’t the right word here, more like a reminder of the dim 1970s sitcom humor of Love, American Style.  In the end, this being a CBS sitcom, Will and Kate walked away from the situation.  Frighteningly, the woman involved pointed to the the two friends as having sexual chemistry, which means that if Better Lives lasts long enough, the show might force Will and Kate into being a couple.

The B story had pregnant Andi so horny that she wore Bobby out, until the last scene, where her pregnancy moved on to a belching and farting stage.  And the C “story,” so slight it barely existed, involved Jules trying to hide the fact that she’d eaten a cheeseburger from her vegetarian fiancee–but she was found out by Andi’s pregnancy-aided super-smell abilities.

It was all painfully bad, and although several members of the cast have proven their appeal elsewhere, here they were just shrill and desperately unlikable.  (Director Todd Holland didn’t do much to draw any shading from the script, if there was any to be had.)  The entire CBS Monday line-up is down now that How I Met Your Mother is done, and although Friends With Better Lives had the lowest rating of the night this week, it wasn’t horribly off from the rest of the line-up.  One hopes that the network won’t take that as encouragement; viewers would have better lives if this thing fell off the air.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:   If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  The Decline and Fall of The Network Sitcom

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."