Television Review

‘Better’ has good times with family

From left: Jake Lacy, JoAnna Garcia, Jennifer Finnigan, Josh Cooke, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurt Fuller in “Better With You.’’ From left: Jake Lacy, JoAnna Garcia, Jennifer Finnigan, Josh Cooke, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurt Fuller in “Better With You.’’ (Michael Yarish/ABC)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / September 22, 2010

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It wouldn’t be surprising if, after watching the debut of “Better With You,’’ viewers felt like they were hanging out with old friends.

Premiering tonight at 8:30 on Channel 5, the show chronicles three romantic relationships in one family. It is a six-person, multi-camera ensemble comedy from former “Friends’’ producer-scribe Shana Goldberg-Meehan, peopled with familiar faces from sitcoms past, paced by traditional comic rhythms, and providing a snarky-yet-sweet look at life and love.

But rather than breeding contempt, the gifted cast of “Better With You’’ knows how to turn that feeling of familiarity into a sense of potential. They also know how to land a joke.

The laughs are fairly mild in tonight’s pilot as we are introduced to the three couples: Flibbertigibbet Mia (JoAnna Garcia) and lovable doofus Casey (Jake Lacy) have impulsively decided to marry and procreate after a 7 1/2-week courtship. Mia’s older sister Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan) and boyfriend Ben (Josh Cooke) are appalled since they are career-driven fussbudgets who feel forced to defend their nine years of unwedded bliss as a “valid life choice.’’ But Mia and Maddie’s parents, Vicky and Joel, played by veteran TV actor Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp — whose prickly sophisticate is in high contrast with the flighty Kitty Forman of “That ’70s Show’’ — are just happy after 35 years to have something to talk about that isn’t their tanking stock portfolio.

What the show appears to be setting up as a recurring device — each couple dealing with a similar question in quick-cut succession meant to illuminate the variants associated with the length of relationships — veers between cutesy and effective.

The potential to run into a rut, especially with the long-married Vicky and Joel, looms large. But when it does work, the relatable relationship tics of “Better With You’’ should wring a few chuckles from anyone who’s ever been in love for any length of time.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at


Starring: Jennifer Finnigan, JoAnna Garcia, Josh Cooke, Jake Lacy, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurt Fuller

On: ABC, Channel 5

Time: Tonight, 8:30