'Better With You' review: Standard sisterly sitcom
Like several new shows this season, the ABC comedy is neither cover-your-eyes bad nor set-the-DVR-season-pass good. It just sort of is what it is, which is occasionally cute and amusing -- thanks mostly to a cast of comedy veterans -- but largely forgettable.
"Better With You," which premieres at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, is the fourth member of ABC's comedy block for the night, and like the other three it's a show centered around a family -- in this case two sisters ( Jennifer Finnigan and JoAnna Garcia), their significant others ( Josh Cooke and Jake Lacy) and their parents ( Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller). Unlike its companion shows ("The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town"), it's a traditional, multi-camera, live-audience sitcom.
That's not what makes it feel so different from the rest of the block, though. Funny is funny, regardless of how a show is filmed. What makes "Better With You" an incongruous fit with the other ABC shows is that the comedy isn't as sharp. You'll see a lot of the punchlines coming.
Finnigan and Cooke -- who several years ago co-starred in NBC's short-lived "Committed" -- play Maddie and Ben, a successful couple with a great New York apartment and a loving long-term relationship. They're not married, though, and they keep telling everyone who will listen that it's "a valid life choice." Garcia ("Privileged," "Reba") is Mia, Maddie's more whimsical younger sister who announces in Wednesday's premiere that she and musician Casey (newcomer Lacy) are getting married after knowing each other for all of 7 1/2 weeks.
Maddie is shaken by the news and hopes her parents will set Mia straight. Joel and Vicky (sitcom pros Fuller and Rupp), though, have taken a bath in the recession and are a little more free-spirited themselves now. They're just happy one of their daughters is getting married.
The biggest downer about "Better With You's" setup is that Maddie and Ben are somehow made out as the failures for having a nine-year relationship that doesn't include marriage. That is, in fact, a valid life choice and not just a punchline. Having Maddie wonder why she can't go with her gut like Mia might be good vein of comedy to mine, but the deck is so stacked against Finnigan's character from the get-go that it drains a lot of the humor from the situation.
Sandwiched between "The Middle" and "Modern Family" on Wednesday nights, "Better With You" could end up doing just fine. Or it could be half-hour when people go see who's getting kicked off "Survivor" and "America's Next Top Model" or how "Undercovers" ends.
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Photo credit: ABC