I recently started watching the latest CBS series, ‘Friends With Better Lives’. Although I was quite disappointed by the first couple of episodes, the series picked up soon and I started enjoying it. Watching the most recent episode last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: do people relate with these stories? How many women get instantly depressed watching this stuff, and then comparing it with their own lives?
In the 1980’s the majority of the world’s population was hooked on ‘The bold and the beautiful’. It was everything it promised and more; a typical American soap opera based on the lives of superficial and materialistic rich people that never had to do a day’s work in their whole lives, and still somehow could afford a life of luxury.
The bold and the beautiful , really, did define the 1980’s and the 1990’s as far as television was concerned. Its international and multicultural audience embarked on a fairy tale journey of love, mystery, scandals, betrayal, and sweet revenge.
I would guess that the greatest part of the viewers were females dreaming of Brooke’s beauty that never aged and her legendary romance with cool Ridge. Thorne was the sweetest prince charming while Stephanie represented the powerful matriarch of the family. Watching the series offered a nice break to our everyday routine and a glimpse of how would Cinderella be like in real life with a dysfunctional wealthy family and a lot of intrigue.
We now come to today and a series depicting the life of six friends, all of whom are at totally different stages of their lives and believing that each other has it better. For those of you who are not familiar with the series at all, here’s a rundown: Will is a newly divorced bachelor looking for love, Jules and Lowell are newly engaged, Kate is a single successful career woman unlucky in love and Andi and Bobby are a married couple with one child and another one on the way. So far, so good, right?
Although the title sounds promising and the characters involved easily predictable as to why they would envy each others’ lives, it ends up being quite superficial and banal. Despite their different lives they all end up in the same house every day. The single girl’’s depiction is a far cry more the reality of most single women. She is super successful and well off, and although unlucky in love, her sex life hasn’t suffered at all.
Her single life mimics Carrie Bradshaw’s from Sex and the City only without the drama and heartache. In a recent article we emphasized the wrong misconceptions most women have about their single counterparts. Although single life is not and should not be a prison sentence is simply just isn’t a cocktail party either.
As Sarah Eckel successfully describes it: ‘the single woman is a person. She’s your neighbor, your lawyer and your fellow soccer mom. She’s the woman next door who snow-blows your front sidewalk without asking, the aunt riding roller coasters with her niece and nephew, the stranger in the Loehmann’s dressing room saying “that’s a good color on you.” She just fell in love, and she just got her heart broken. She just got a promotion, and she just got laid off. She’s savoring the still of a Sunday morning alone, and she’s wondering if anyone wants to meet for brunch.’
On the other hand, we have the married couple – they are nostalgic of their younger carefree years but they are not doing so bad themselves either. The husband is, of course, a successful doctor who is totally cool, laid back, romantic and loving to his wife and ready to socialize with his friends at any time of the day since he always seems happy and ready for anything.
His wife spends her time doing mostly nothing at home or having coffee at their local meeting place. Married life and parenthood looks like a breeze of fresh air! I am not sure why exactly they envy their single friends’ lives since theirs is equally amazing.
A basic element of TV series nowadays are the super fit actors. The newly engaged couple fit that criteria. Young, sexy, with athletic bodies, an extra dose of happiness and amazing lives. In all fairness, would viewers prefer them to be miserable and depressed? Besides, that is what comedy is all about.
Shutting down for a while while watching pretty people do stupid things is a form of escapism, a guilty pleasure that doesn’t need to be scripted. Turn on the news, and you’ll see plenty of moderately attractive people making a mess of their lives. Some of them run our countries.
Fiction needs to be kinda lifelike, which is never all about misery, just as it’s never exclusively about laughs and giggles. The most popular series of the last two decades were not, if you care to look, incorrect impressions of an unrealistic life. Sex and the City, Friends, How I met your Mother – all comedies, all prime time smash hits, each with a cast of realistic characters who knew when to make us laugh, and when make us reach for the handkerchiefs.
Friends With Better Lives is fun. It’s a well-built, dynamic joke delivery machine, but don’t we have comedians for that? It’s pretty people doing silly things.
That’s what real life is for.. I’ll keep watching it, but it’s not the Next Big Thing I was hoping it might be, while we wait for something that engages as well as entertains, something that enriches our souls as well as make us giggle.
As long as we understand that it’s not real life, and that we shouldn’t let all that perfection get to our brains, let’s enjoy the stories and laugh.