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


Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…


Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…


Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.


Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…


'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…


Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.


Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.


Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.


When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.


Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…


Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…


The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…


Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.