NBC latest summer comedy follows five friends in search of the perfect significant other. There’s Ben and Sarah, close friends who talk incessantly about sex and hook up on the side, plus three others (a romantic, a hot bartender, and a guy who has only distinguished himself in that he doesn’t think people should hook up within the group and likes cougars–or perhaps just will take sex where he can get it).
After two episodes, I have not been able to learn who the other characters were (as evidenced above, I wasn’t even able to learn their names). I’m not sure how I feel about Sara and Ben, the two characters we do know. Perhaps we need to get to know them better before we decide if we should like them. Sara is a doctor with everything set in her life except her love life–she is desperate to find her significant other and outs up with a lot of ridiculous dates to do that. Ben is more of a player who finds silly reasons to break up with girls. We don’t know what he does for a living or anything else about him. The lack of explanation (how they became friends, what the group dynamic is, what everyone does for a living) is the problem with the show. Or at least the biggest problem. For comparison:
- How I Met Your Mother we learn immediately that Marshall and Ted are roommates and best friends from college, Marshall has been dating Lily (a schoolteacher as we see almost immediately) for years and is about to get engaged, we see how Barney and Ted met (Barney is a womanizer who always wears suits), and Ted (who is obviously a romantic) meets Robin (a reporter) in a bar after she moves to New York–all of this is established naturally within the first seven minutes.
- Friends has our main characters sitting in their usual haunt, Central Perk, where we find that Ross is getting divorced, Phoebe is eccentric, Monica is looking for love, Chandler is a joker, Joey is a womanizer, and Rachel has just run out on her wedding (and is obsessed with shopping) and becomes Monica’s roommate when she has nowhere else to go. Monica and Ross are siblings and Rachel went to high school with them. This is also established in the first seven minutes.
- Big Bang Theory we find out that Leonard and Sheldon are science geniuses/socially inept nerds who live together and they meet Penny when she moves in across the hall. (This show takes longer to establish the wider group of characters but these three are the core relationship of the show so it is the most important part of the show.) Raj and Howard only show up 14 minutes in, but they are quickly established as more nerds (with Howard obsessed with women and Raj silent).
Noticing a comedy pattern here, at least when it comes to friend-centric comedies–someone new comes into the picture, changing the group dynamics in some way. But Friends with Benefits doesn’t establish the group dynamic, how it is changed, and who everyone is.
The jokes are sort of eh, can’t think of any that really made me laugh out loud. It is clear that NBC doesn’t care all that much for the show–the late summer start date, Friday night schedule, virtually no promotion. It doesn’t help the show that a movie of the same name is in theaters at the moment. I wouldn’t count on this show being renewed.