When I watched the pilot of ABC’s Better With You nearly five weeks ago, I thought it was amusing, but perhaps lacking in that special something that makes it worth tuning in week after week. I didn’t watch a second episode until yesterday. But when I did, I had to watch a third. And a fourth. And a fifth. I joyously devoured the entire run so far of what I consider the best new sitcom this year, though admittedly the competition isn’t steep.
Better With You has a team of experienced actors at its center. The parents are Joel (Kurt Fuller, Psych, Supernatural) and Vicky (Debra Jo Rupp, That ’70s Show), a couple that has been together a few decades, are definitely set in the way they do things, even if it’s not always the best way. For example, in one episode, the other characters were trying to figure out ways to resolve their problems, while Joel and Vicky just passive-agressively hid each others’ stuff. Both actors are tops, and play much the same character they have before, but do it wonderfully. They conceit is wonderful, and Vicky has more of an edge that Rupp played on That ’70s Show. Their chemistry is believable, though far from romantic, but I believe that’s what they’re going for.
Their eldest daughter, Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan, Close to Home, The Bold and the Beautiful) has been with her beau, Ben (Josh Cooke, Big Day, Four Kings) for almost one decade, and live happily together, but have no plans to get married. They consider that a “valid life choice”, though Joel and Vicky disagree. Recent plot has centered on Joel not considering Ben part of the family, and Maddie’s frustration with that. Even in 2010, choosing not to get married seems a little weird, but as more people are doing it, it’s nice to see it respresented so well on television. That doesn’t mean I’m not rooting on them to tie the knot down the road (series finale?). However, if they do, will that invalidate the relationship they are portraying? Possibly. Interestingly, Finnigan and Cooke starred opposite each other in the short lived sitcom Committed back in 2005. I remember enjoying it, and it’s gratifying to see them reunited.
Younger daughter Mia is played by the talent Joanna Garcia, who starred in the ill-fated Privileged, and more recently did a four episode stint on Gossip Girl. She became engaged to Casey (Jake Lacey, the one unknown in the cast) in the pilot, and also admitted that she was pregnant with his child. We’re only a month into the series, but Mia and Casey have only been together for two months. They seem to be adapting to living together quite well, and are lacking many of the problems a couple in their situation would face. The characters are so charming I forget that when I’m watching, but hopefully a little more depth will better round them out.
The six starring players have plenty of failed shows this decade between them, although a lot of those failures weren’t bad. Hopefully the mix of them together will prove to be the right formula to keep them on the air. They’re off to a good start. ABC recently ordered a full season of the series, so they’re not going away anytime soon. The comedy is good, but there is also sweet affection between them. The grown up sisters are still close, and while a tight-knit family is far from rare on television, another good one is always welcome. Plus I can’t think of a show quite like it on the air, in terms of the way it delivers.
My only complaint is the theme song and transitions featuring those strips of pictures. People don’t really use those a whole lot, and it’s not something I see the characters doing much of. It seems forced and kitchy, and does not really fit in with the rest of the show. In my opinion, ditch it.
If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend checking out Better With You. It airs Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC.