“Friends With Better Lives” is a promising title for a sitcom, cleverly designed to tap into the suspicions — from marrieds tethered by kids to singles looking for love — that whatever phase you’re in, you might be missing out on the real fun. What emerges, however, is a pretty banal CBS sitcom, one where everyone seems to wind up in the same house because, well, why on Earth would anybody chat over the phone? Naughty but not especially nice, the series should get a jump-start from the “How I Met Your Mother” finale, but after that should leave discriminating viewers looking for a better show.
Focusing on a group of thirtysomethings, the show’s central couple is Bobby (Kevin Connolly) and Andi (Majandra Delfino), whose weighed-down-by-baby marriage has reached the point where watching “Homeland” (a bit of CBS synergy, there) is as close as they get to sex.
Living with them, ostensibly temporarily, is Bobby’s partner in his ob-gyn practice, Will (James Van Der Beek), who seems in denial of his marriage being over after he caught his wife having sex with their couples counselor.
Rounding out the group is Jules (Brooklyn Decker), who has just landed a dreamy new boyfriend (Rick Donald), and the two can’t keep their hands off each other; and Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones), a successful career woman who runs through blind dates like dental floss, bitter that she appears to be the only chum who hasn’t found someone.
Kate has the most potential, seemingly, to become a breakout character — there’s a semi-amusing moment when Will suggests she be “less picky” about men, cause for the rest of the group to uncomfortably scatter — but breakout status would require better writing than the show’s creator, “Friends” alum Dana Klein, delivers in the James Burrows-directed pilot.
The one sure-to-be-buzzed-about gag involves Bobby and Andi both trying to recover after forgetting their anniversary — him by throwing a surprise party, her by offering a more unexpected stocking stuffer. Think of it as a PG-13 version of “The Gift of the Magi.”
CBS has gotten a lot of mileage out of blueish comedies, from “Two and a Half Men” to “2 Broke Girls,” but this latest addition seems determined to set some sort of record for greatest number of sexual innuendos in the shortest amount of time. Despite the attractive cast, these “Friends” are a mostly nondescript bunch, so much so it wouldn’t be a shock to find that those who initially tune in after the “How I Met Your Mother” finale ultimately decide that this life experience is best left as a one-night stand.