James Van Der Beek’s friends have better lives than him

Real life, Van Der Beek style
Cuddle up with James Van Der Beek in his new sitcom, ‘Friends with Better Lives’. Credit: Trae Patton/CBS ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Keeping up with the Joneses used to require a peek over the white picket fence. Thanks to social media, you now have to post equally fabulous vacation photos on Instagram, bake cookies that are nothing short of Pinterest-worthy, and make sure Nike+ is keeping everyone on Facebook aware of your running progress. At least, that’s the premise of the new CBS sitcom “Friends with Better Lives” (premieres March 31 at 9 p.m.).

“The show examines friendship through that ‘grass is always greener’ lens,” says Dana Klein, creator and executive producer of the show. “I mean, I can barely open my computer without feeling like I failed in a million different ways. Someone’s got the perfect family, the perfect kids, the perfect job, the perfect body. It’s human nature to want what we don’t have.”

“I’ve got all those things,” interjects star James Van Der Beek. It’s an off-handed joke, but one that exemplifies the show’s biting humor about modern friendship. The series follows six people at different stages in their lives — married, divorced, newly engaged and single — and examines how that in itself can create jealousy. The harried mom longs for a night out with her girlfriends; the single gal wishes she could meet the right guy and start a family. “That’s sort of what friendship is,” Klein says. “It’s this constantly moving pendulum between pity and envy…with the undercurrent of love. Because if these friends didn’t love each other, then the pity and the envy wouldn’t be as funny.”

Still obnoxious, but not as James Van Der Beek

The last time we saw James Van Der Beek on TV, he was playing a heightened version of himself on ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.” In “Friends with Better Lives,” he’s still not the most likable person on the block, but at least he’s not known as Dawson again.

“The last thing I did I played a completely bizarro human being who happened to share my name and four or five things on my resume,” Van Der Beek says.

But his favorite change in his return to television is playing in a new format. “The great thing about this is the live audience aspect,” he says. “I started out in theater, so it’s a lot of fun. I feel like the audience kind of keeps you honest. It’s old school. It’s an old-school sitcom. You either get a laugh or you don’t.”

Meet the ‘Friends’

James Van Der Beek as Will — Status: Recently divorced

Kevin Connolly as Bobby — Status: Married with kids

Majandra Deflino as Andi — Status: Married with kids

Brooklyn Decker as Jules — Status: Newly engaged

Rick Donald as Lowell — Status: Newly engaged

Zoe Lister-Jones as Kate — Status: Single


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