Better With You "Pilot" Review

Last Friday at Lilith Fair, I had the chance to watch the pilot episode of ABC's new sitcom "Better With You", which will air on Wednesdays this fall as part of the network's successful comedy block (the show will air at 8:30, between "The Middle" and "Modern Family").

Now, considering I hated the first episode of "Modern Family", then grew to love the show, I'm willing to give "Better With You" time to grow. And, despite the negative reaction from most of my fellow concertgoers, I didn't think "Better With You" was terrible... just very average.

The story centers around the three couples of the Putney family, sisters Mia (Joanna Garcia) and Maddie (Jennifer Finnegan) and their boyfriends, and Mia and Maddie's parents. In the pilot episode, we learn that Maddie and her boyfriend have been together for years, but have made the "valid lifestyle choice" to not get married, while Mia is getting married to her new (and very stupid) boyfriend after just 7 1/2 weeks, in part because she's pregnant.

In the episode, Maddie didn't want to tell Mia she was making a mistake (still not knowing Mia was pregnant at this point), so she set up a dinner with their parents (played by Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller), who she expected to disapprove of Mia's engagement. Only surprisingly (except to anyone who's ever seen a sitcom before), the parents were fine with it, and revealed that they'd been joking about Maddie's "valid lifestyle choice" behind her back for years.

Both the plot and jokes in "Better With You" seemed very formulaic, and in recent years, the old sitcom formula has generally resulted in the fast track to cancellation (see "Hank", "Sons of Tucson", "Accidentally on Purpose"... actually, don't, since they've all been cancelled), so I'm not sure how bullish I am on the long-term success of this show. It did manage to make me laugh a few times, but it also made me cringe pretty much every time Casey (Mia's incredibly stupid boyfriend) opened his mouth. When will sitcom writers learn that one dimensional stupidity is a character trait best left in the '90s?

Somewhere beneath the outer layer of standard sitcom formula, there's a decent show hiding within "Better With You", and if the writers can figure out their strengths (the relationship between sisters Mia and Maddie, the one-liners from the parents) and mask their weaknesses (both male leads were pretty bad), then maybe this thing just might work. Plus, anything that gets Joanna Garcia back in my life on a weekly basis is fine by me.