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Television review: 'Better With You'

Relationships travel at different speeds in the new comedy on ABC. ThatÃ?Â?s a good start, but the overfamiliar jokes might cause sputtering.

September 22, 2010|Robert Lloyd, Television Critic
  • A sparky cast (including Joanna Garcia, Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller) enlivens this not wholly predictable multi-camera sitcom focusing on three linked couples (two parents, their daughters and respective menfolk, one a longtime live-in boyfriend, the other an overnight fianc). New kid on the ABC Wednesday night domestic-hilarity block.
A sparky cast (including Joanna Garcia, Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller) enlivens… (ABC )

Wednesday has become family comedy night on ABC – which is not to say a night of comedies for the family, unless you're prepared to tell your children why there are no big kitties in "Cougar Town." "Modern Family" is the pole from which this tent depends, and there is also "The Middle," and now "Better with You," a multi-camera sitcom made by people familiar -- perhaps overfamiliar -- with the form.

Creator Shana Goldberg-Meehan worked on "Mad About You" and "Friends," and the pilot was directed by James Burrows, of "Taxi" and "Cheers" and so on, who also directed the pilots for this year's "$#*! My Dad Says" and "Mike & Molly." It's not bad at all, but it so completely a thing of its kind as to make no extraordinary claims on your attention.

Like "Modern Family," it concerns three interlinked couples; parents Vicky and Joel (Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller); daughters Maddie and Mia (Jennifer Finnigan and Joanna Garcia) and their respective beaus, Ben and Casey (Josh Cooke and Jake Lacy). Unmarried older sister Maddie has lived with Ben for nine years: "It's a valid lifestyle choice," she protests, too much. Mia has known Casey -- who plays in "an avant-garde metal band with a performance art component," though nothing about his character suggests that this is so -- just over seven weeks. But they'll be engaged before the pilot is half over.

The show begins with each couple in a taxi. Mia and Casey want to travel via some tunnel because "it's dark and we can fool around." Maddie and Ben finish one another's sentences. And Vicky and Joel don't talk, yet another long relationship made spiteful for the sake of a joke. Or many jokes, rather.

The cast is able, and the idea to contrast relationships moving at different speeds is a good one, as is that of Maddie re-examining her life in light of Mia's. (Even though she's only four years older, Maddie feels a gap: "None of the famous people her age wear underwear.") It's a clean start; let's see which way it runs.

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