In this day and age, it's hard to come up with a new concept for a sitcom show. About 99% of the time it's more of the same when it comes to a traditional sitcom and once in a while, one breaks the mold. Does ABC's Friends with Better Lives, a series about six thirty something's who are seeking out to improve their lives, accomplish that? Not really, but it does somewhat stand out in a sea of clichéd shows with its excellent cast.
Friends with Better Lives revolves around six friends, Will Stokes (played by James Van Der Beek), a gynecologist who is going through a divorce and attempting to put himself back on the market. Bobby and Andi Lutz (played by Kevin Connolly and Majandra Delfino, respectively) are a happily married couple who are unfortunately stuck in a rut. Kate (played by Zoe Lister-Jones) is a Chief Operating Officer of a thriving social media company who doesn't have the best of luck when it comes to dating due to her judgmental nature. Jules (played by Brooklyn Decker) is a former model and aspiring actress who gets her way in life thanks to her looks, and has recently become engaged to the spiritual Lowell (played by Rick Donald), an Austalian environmentalist she had a one night stand with.
Over the course of these 13 episodes, the characters attempt specific things to help them improve their overall lives. The characters who get the most screen time are easily Will and Kate, and despite being the funniest characters, they're also the characters who get the least development, Will spends the majority of these 13 episodes trying to meet various women, ditto for Kate as she continually tries to prove her friends wrong that she's not "Man repellent." Bobby and Andi are anticipating their second child, and we see them go through the hardships (sort of) of pregnancy while being stuck in a rut. Despite being the characters with the least amount of screen time, we get to watch Jules and Lowell receive the most development from the core group as they grow from a simple one night stand to a loving married couple.
The first season had its fair share of excellent episodes, a few of my personal favorites were "Yummy Mummy", "Pros and Cons", "Game Sext Match" and "The Imposters" as I felt these episodes really showcased the casts comedy chops at their best. Window Pain was a weaker installment in hindsight, because I can't buy James Van Der Beek who in this show is essentially playing James Van Der Beek as a doctor, having no game and being shot down by every lady in sight, especially when 2 episodes later he's back to being charismatic. "Cyrano de Trainer-Zac" was a particularly painful installment to watch as I didn't find anything stood out.
1. Pilot - A group of 30 something's believe that their other friends lives are better than their own and attempt to rectify their current situations.
2. Window Pain - Will attempts to move on from his recent divorce by getting back out on the market, despite having "no game", with help from Kate. Meanwhile, Bobby tries to satiate Andi's growing sexual desires.
3. Game Sext Match - Bobby reluctantly accepts the overly-competitive Lowell as his tennis partner for an upcoming tournament. Meanwhile, to prove to his friends he is not so conservative, Will sexts a photo to a girl he just began dating.
4. Pros and Cons - Kate sleeps with a man who turns out to be a prostitute; Meanwhile, Will and Bobby discover a rat problem at their house, and Jules auditions for a hair commercial, with devastating effects.
5. Bicycle Thieves - Will, Bobby, and Lowell have guys night but end up paying for it when they wake up to discover they've stolen police bicycles; Kate is upset that Jules gets preferential treatment because of her looks; Andi is upset that one of Bobby's clients is a playmate of the year.
6. Yummy Mummy - Kate begins seeing a man with a 23 year old daughter who Will starts seeing; Andi thinks she's being hit on by a man in her birthing class; The group finds an outgoing sex tape of Bobby and Andi, prompting Lowell and Jules to tap into their wild side.
7. Cyrano de Trainer-Zac - Kate sleeps with Will's personal trainer and it's awful, after some useful tips from Will, Kate has the best night of her life, but is horrified when she finds out the truth; Meanwhile, Bobby and Andi search for a nanny; Jules goes shopping for a wedding dress.
8. Something New The gang attends the wedding of Kate's friend and former sorority sister, and Kate asks Will to pretend to be her boyfriend so she can tell her college friends she is dating a doctor; Andi gives birth; Lowell surprises Jules with a trip to India, but she gets mad because they are supposed to be saving money for their wedding.
9. Surprises - Concerned about their boring love life, Andi and Bobby try to spice things up. Meanwhile, Kate investigates Lowell's past relationships; Will misinterprets signals from his ex.
10. Deceivers - Will signs up for online dating and challenges Kate to see who can find a better mate; Andi goes to extremes to get Charlie into a nice preschool; Jules fills in as Kate's assistant.
11. No More Mr. Nice Guy - Out to prove she's not "un-setup-able," Kate persuades Lowell to fix her up with his friend; Andi decides to get more involved in the neighborhood, but Bobby's not on board with the idea.
12. The Lost and Hound - A missing cheque could throw Andi and Bobby's marital scorecard out of balance; Jules and Lowell adopt way too many dogs; Will is determined to coin a corny catchphrase.
13. The Imposters - Bobby and Andi decide to hire a babysitter for Charlie and this doesn't sit well with Andi's mom who is perfectly happy taking care of Charlie. Kate struggles with her newly found sex life with a gym trainer.
- Positives: + The cast were all excellent together with no real weak link. Though the standouts of the show are easily Zoe Lister-Jones's Kate and Van Der Beek's Will, with both actors nailing their respective parts perfectly.
+ James Van Der Beek is amazing for sitcoms, but after the failure of both Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23 and FWBL, let's hope the next one sticks.
+ Friends with Better Lives showed promise to improve.
- Negatives: - Cancelled.
- Some hit or miss episodes.
Video and Audio:
The only audio format presented on this box set is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix, which works quite well. There were no signs of audio dropouts or distortions. It's overall a very solid sound mix.