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'Friends With Better Lives' recap: Game, sext, match

Season 1 | Episode 3 | “Deceivers” | Aired Apr 21, 2014

For the third episode out of the gate, Friends With Better Lives attempts to truly shift the paradigm of the modern-day sitcom, and in the process completely alter everything we think we know about the conventional framework of multicam series. Just kidding! That’s what happened in my imagination. In reality, we were treated to yet another week of tired TV tropes, gender stereotypes, and the ongoing conundrum of “Who are these people? Why should we care about them? And if they’re so jealous of their supposed friends and their supposedly better lives, why don’t they just find different friends?”

I wish I had the answers to those questions along with some of the other, deeper complexities of the cosmos, but instead I have a rundown of what happened on tonight’s episode. Since all of the plotlines on #FWBL (including the attempt to hashtag the title) are situations culled directly from the writers’ Facebook and Twitter feeds around 2009, this week dealt with sexting, wedding planning and bromance. Let’s take them topic by topic, because they clearly need to be expanded upon — and because this isn’t a show capable of combining A, B and C stories.

True Bromance"It's funny how we never seem to do anything with our children."

In the completely expendable C-story of the week, Bobby needs a partner for the Southern California Obstetrics Tennis Classic (just Googled — not a real thing) because Will has tennis elbow from masturbating too much. Naturally, Jules volunteers Lowell because, well, everyone else already has a story arc for the week. It turns out Lowell is really competitive and a great player. Unfortunately, Bobby needs him to throw the game after the co-chairs of the obstetrics department threaten his parking privileges, O.R. tables and more things that I guess matter to an OB.

In the end, however, Bobby realizes he cares too much about his budding friendship with his friend’s fiancée (careful, Bobby — things get tricky when relationships end and you’ve become better friends with the fiancée than the original friend) to ask him to lose intentionally and violate his tennis integrity. Plus, the co-chairs of the department turn out to be huge a-holes, taunting Lowell with things like, “I’ll bet he didn’t even go to college.” Well, he’s a gorgeous Australian man with a fiancée who looks like a model and has his own vegan restaurant, so the joke’s on you, rich obstetricians.

It’s a Nice Day for a Fake Wedding

The females of the group share one story this week, so viewers can reach utmost perplexity as to why these three women would ever spend time with one another. Sure, the basic crux of the show hinges on the fact that each of the friends is in a different life stage, and the grass always seems greener, yadda yadda yadda — but it only works if there is, in fact, a base friendship to begin with. I’m still not clear how or why these people ever met and decided to spend all their time with one another. Was it simply that no one else wanted to hang out with them? That may very well be the case.

Anyway, Kate spies Jules and Andi having lunch together, calls them, and watches them decline her call. When she confronts them about it, they say it’s because they’re planning Jules’ wedding, and they didn’t think it was something a career-focused spinster who’s going to die alone (their words) would want to be involved in. Honestly, with friends like these, who needs better ones?

Kate assures them that of course she wants to be involved; she was never the little girl who dreamed of the perfect wedding, and besides, she’s married to her job. Andi and Jules believe her and invite her to future planning sessions. Except, in typical Type-A Kate form, she takes the reins and runs, ending up with something not at all resembling anything Jules would want in her dream wedding.

After a little detective work, Andi and Jules realize that Kate isn’t being fully honest with them (or herself); she does have a dream wedding, and the evidence is right in the fact that she has a subscription to bridal magazines. Someone get those two a USA spin-off about a lady detective agency called The Mom & the Model. They’ll solve any crime by dinnertime, but unlike the Olsen twins, it’s because one of them has to feed the kids, and the other most likely doesn’t eat dinner. Call me, networks, I am available for development deals.

In an effort to cheer up their friend and also get back on track for planning Jules’ wedding, Andi and Jules throw a mini version of Kate’s dream wedding to let her know that it’s okay to dream, and it will happen for her one day (even Friends With Better Livesthough their mini-wedding feels more like a memorial service for what never will be). Speaking as someone who used to work at a wedding magazine and website, let me tell you about the effort, time and money that would have to go into throwing even that tiny microcosm of Kate’s dream shindig. Don’t these people have jobs? And they say they paid for it on Kate’s credit card. Is it normal to have your friends’ credit card numbers? Just how successful is Kate that she’s totally fine with such a completely superfluous expense (that, again, feels more like a maudlin entrance in full-blown Miss Havisham territory) on her credit card? I realize this is a TV show, but I’m still mad on her behalf. Identity theft is a serious issue, and real friends don’t mess with their friends’ credit scores.

The Sext Best Thing

As you’ll recall because he mentions it every five seconds, Will recently got out of a 12-year relationship with the only woman he’s ever slept with. His attempts to get back on the horse have been unsuccessful, what with being mired in other tired sitcom-y situations like “the crazy woman at the bar who will only sleep with you if your female friend is involved.”

This time, all signs are pointing to “he shoots, he scores,” because a woman in a bar might have grabbed his crotch while hitting on him. To me, that more screams “sexual harassment” and “run,” but hey, we’ve got 22 minutes of television to fill here, and we haven’t reached Very Special Episode territory. Will is recounting his happy-hour glad-handing to the group when (what a coincidence) the woman texts him a picture of her vagina. Again, this might give a normal human being who exists in the real world pause, but as an OB/GYN, Will sees these things every day.

Once again: Here are two men who look at vaginas professionally.Plus, his friends decide to use this as a teaching moment. Since it’s her mission in life to make sure Will can never be fully comfortable and confident with himself or his identity, Kate insists he’s not the type of guy who can sustain a sexting relationship and the other wild sexual implications that come with it (so many puns intended, and so many apologies for all of them). He sets off to take the perfect picture of his junk and comes back triumphant, only to once again be reminded how much of a failure he is by his friends.

Why? Will didn’t realize the first rule of dick pics is to always advertise the goods to their fullest advantage. I wish the first rule of dick pics was the same as Fight Club. So, back to the guest bathroom in Bobby and Andi’s house he goes to further jeopardize his future participation in the Southern California Obstetrics Tennis Classic — with another women’s fitness magazine as the wind beneath his wings.

Will’s adventurous paramour likes what she sees, so she suggests they go back to her place for some sex in lieu of lunch. Coincidentally, Andi, Jules and Kate are busy with wedding planning in the same place Will takes her to eat. In what is surely a landmark television moment, we get to watch three women completely objectify another female by staring at her crotch. Slow your roll, CBS — whatever will you do during sweeps week and Women’s History Month?

Not only is Sexmerelda into light bondage and other kinky stuff, but she ties Will to the bed with Christmas lights and manages to then plug them in so they twinkle. For anyone who’s ever put lights on an animate object like a tree or windowpane, you know how much of a challenge that can be. Adding a human being into the equation just seems like more electrical trouble and time than it’s worth to me. But then again, I’m Jewish. Our December holiday uses candles and wax, so I guess Will dodged a bullet there.

Crazy girl disappears, leaving Will tied to the bed, his nether regions a-twinkle. In a gag straight out of 2011, he begs Siri to call Bobby for help, and Siri (that little minx) instead dials his parents. After a typical parent convo (should his dad upgrade Internet Explorer? Wait, NCIS is on), Will is no closer to getting out of his predicament. Finally, he manages to leave messages for all of his supposed friends, and the entire gang shows up to rescue him. But first, Kate has to run through her litany of jokes about “Rudolph the blue-balled reindeer” and take a Christmas card photo.

Next week: Kate accidentally sleeps with a male prostitute. Been there, amiright?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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