Review: ‘Better With You’

Wednesday, September 15 by

Here’s a surprise of the fall TV season. This family relationship sitcom is actually really funny. I wouldn’t normally be into family bickering and wedding plans and slacker boyfriends and meddling parents and uptight boyfriends. “Better With You” just does it right.

We meet three couples right away. Mia (Joanna Garcia) and Casey (Jake Lacy) are the new lovey dovey duo. Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan) and Ben (Josh Cooke) are the familiar compatible couple. Vicky (Debra Jo Rupp) and Joel (Kurt Fuller) are the long married parents who are over it all.

Nothing new, right? In most sitcoms, these would be annoying stereotypes, but on “Better With You” they’re way more clever. We’ll call it “true.” Each relationship actually demonstrates positive things. There’s humor in any pattern so you can enjoy that without being one of those shows that complains about how relationship play out and how men do things one way and women do them another way.

More after the jump…

All the rhythms and inside jokes are established so you feel like you’re already joining a world of relationships that have existed for years. It took “How I Met Your Mother” a whole year to get there.

As Mia introduces Casey to her sister and her boyfriend, little jokes are planted for when they ultimately meet the parents. It’s funny the first time, but it’ll be funnier again the second and third. They pay off everything they set up: grammar, e-mail, surgery, Spanish, first names…. The writing just really knows how to mimic the quirks people could have and time them for comedy.

My favorite character in the show is probably the most clichéd. Ben, the by the books boyfriend, is actually the most extreme character. He’s so tense trying to keep the peace with Maddie’s parents and he just knows this Casey guy is going to be a disaster. This is what will make “Better With You” a show guys will want to watch. There are male characters equally as important and relatable as the women.

Casey is just joyfully oblivious and inappropriate. That’s another cliché that could be tired. Oh, the dufus guy is going to embarrass himself and others. It’s funny though because he really shakes up the family and his shenanigans are cleverer than usual. See above about paying off all the things they set up.

The women are just totally endearing. You don’t mind that Maddie is desperately trying to be a modern woman and Mia is spontaneous and love struck. They earn it by being funny and each showing the good in those personalities. It would be nice to have the faith to marry someone you just met. It would also be nice to have the confidence to not define your long term relationship with traditional structure. There’s humor and truth in both situations and this pilot certainly assured me that they could find it.

The parents are not the typical sitcom parents either. They’re happy about the wrong things. That’s not what we expected but it shows that at least they can be positive about something. Most sitcom parents are disapproving smart asses. I get the sense that this show allows them to be wrong sometimes too, so it’s not the family values B.S. It’s just characters with points of view, and that’s where comedy comes from.

The family is mean to each other sometimes. They do dismiss and ridicule each other’s core values and that’s not cool. I really have a pet peeve about comedy where people are just mean to each other, but that’s not this. I don’t think it’s supposed to reflect well on any of the characters, and they don’t excuse it. They actually deal with the conflicts and solve them.

All this in the first 22 minutes. I don’t know if it makes “Better With You” a classic in the making, but it’s certainly the pleasant surprise of this fall season. A comedy that’s actually funny, and funnier than you expected. How about that?

“Better With You” premieres September 22nd at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.
 

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