For the network that airs Two and a Half Men, the bar was already pretty low for insipid and needlessly vulgar comedies, but with the debut last week of Friends with Better Lives, the bar has been set even lower. Debuting after the much-anticipated series finale of How I Met Your Mother, FWBL follows six friends who are in different stages of their lives, and each thinks the other has it better. First up, TV’s favorite cliché: the married couple with kids who never have sex anymore, Bobby and Andi. Next we meet Will, Bobby’s partner (they’re both gynecologists in practice together) who gets served with divorce papers in episode one. Then there’s single Kate, the professional who can’t find a man worthy of her; and newly engaged Jules.
The premiere episode opens with Bobby and Andi, out of breath under the covers rhapsodizing about how great it was. The viewer is led to believe this is their post-coital afterglow, but then we see that they’re just sitting on the couch catching up on their favorite TV show, because they’re married, and according to most TV writers, marriage means the death of sex. Moments later, we see Kate giving the reasons for her string of failed relationships, most of which are purely superficial and involve her would-be-suitor’s genitalia.
Kate: “Guys, his wiener smells weird.”
Kate: “One ball. One big ball.”
Jules and her fiancée compare notes about their sex life with Bobby and Andi and Bobby learns that Jules “pleasures” Lowell every day.
Lowell: “How often do you make love?”
Bobby: “Why? How often do you make love?”
Man: “I mean, not often, four or five times a week. But my darling Jules pleasures me every day.”
Andi: “Every day? Why?”
Jules: “Because he likes it and so do I.”
Bobby: “Like all the days?”
Lowell: “How often do you do it, Andi?”
Bobby later discusses with Will how he can make it up to his wife for forgetting their anniversary, and Will suggests a surprise party, where Andi, not realizing they’re not alone in the darkened room, begins to “pleasure” Bobby.
Bobby turns off the light to surprise Andi. We hear Andi unzip his pants in the dark.
Andi: “Don’t get the lights, it’s sexier this way, trust me.”
The lights go on. Andi is kneeling in front of her husband, implying that she was about to perform oral sex.
Andi: “How long were you going to let me go on for?”
Bobby: “You know me. A minute.”
There have been plenty of comedies that were tremendously successful without resorting to cheap sex jokes and innuendo. And there have even been a handful of successful adult-targeted comedies that used an occasional off-color joke but was still genuinely funny. There have been few successful comedies that relied so entirely on vulgarity.
The New York Daily News’ David Hinckley opened his review of FWBL with, “Oh look, attractive people talking with each other about sex for half an hour.”
Says the LA Times’ Robert Lloyd: “There is a professional, even a grim efficiency to the jokes, which approach like B-52 bombers, drop their punch lines and head back to base. There are breast jokes, genital jokes, a long oral sex joke, an alcoholic-sorority-girl-defecating-in-a-closet joke. A few hit, many miss. The war goes on.”
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- Film: “The Other Woman”