Friends with Better Lives

Friends with Better Lives cannot escape Friends. It's in the title, obviously. The former is created by Dana Klein, a producer and writer on the latter, and both shows' pilots were directed by sitcom king James Burrows. And they both feature a group of six pals of equal gender count.

"There's a lot of similarities there, but I think the Friends talk is not fair to them or to us," FWBL star Kevin Connolly tells TVGuide.com. "They're an international juggernaut. It's different. The Friends question is inevitable. [During] Entourage, we answered Sex and the City questions. It was the same thing. You don't want to disrespect them and you don't want to put pressure on yourself. You can never be them or beat them.

"If anything," he adds, "I see the How I Met Your Mother comparison."

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In that case, FWBL couldn't ask for a better launch pad, as the show debuts following HIMYM's series finale Monday (9/8c, CBS). As the title suggests, the friends in Friends with Better Lives all think the grass is greener on the other side. Married with one kid and a second on the way, Bobby (Connolly) and Andi (Majandra Delfino) are sort of in a rut. Newly dating Jules (Brooklyn Decker) and Lowell (Rick Donald) can't keep their hands off each other, much to the dismay of career-minded singleton Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones). And soon-to-be-divorced Will (James Van Der Beek) is trying to get back into the dating game. To bring the sitcom comparison full circle, the pilot is full of bawdy sex jokes and raunchy gags you'd find on 2 Broke Girls.

"I know there are complaints about the [dirty jokes], but I think people talk like that in real life with their friends. I do!" Decker says. "And there are little moments in everyone's lives where it's only human to want something else. If you think your life is perfect, there's something wrong. It's like you go on Facebook and see your friend got engaged and you're like, 'I don't even have a boyfriend!' I think everyone has been through that. "

It's the relatability that drew the cast to the show, some of whom have lived both sides of the coin. "I know what it's like to be single and dating with married friends who looked at me longingly, and I know what it's like to be married with kids, and with each you think about the other," Van Der Beek says. "It doesn't mean you're unhappy with your life; I love my life. But you always pick one [path], so you wonder about the other. But with this [multi-camera sitcom] schedule, I get to be home to put my kids to bed, so in that sense it's 'better' than [Don't Trust the B---- in] Apartment 23.

In Delfino's case, art imitated life. Bobby and Andi had two kids in the original pilot, and after it was filmed, the Roswellalum found out she was pregnant with her second child. "I was pregnant during the pilot and had no idea!" she says. "I had to call Dana and I was sh--ting my pants. She goes, 'We're not going to give you guys three kids.' Dana has three kids and she goes, 'Only idiots have three kids.' So we had to redo one bit in the pilot and say one kid. There are so many parallels now between [me and Andi], and I loved the way it's represented."

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Like most midseason shows, the sitcom filmed its whole season in a vacuum, which the cast didn't mind. "I feel like it'd be really difficult where you're new and finding your legs and you're being critiqued and you're hearing about it and the ratings, whether it's good or bad," Decker says. "This way, we had to trust our own instincts. Now, they're all done and we can share it with people."

How people will receive the show is not something the stars are stressing over either, especially the TV vets. "I need to work to feed my kids!" Van Der Beek quips. "But I've been around long enough to know that it's out of your hands."

"People are going to watch the show hopefully. If not, it wasn't meant to be," Connolly adds. "But who knows? It's hard to tell. All you hope is people want to hang out with you for 30 minutes a week. That's all you want."

Friends with Better Lives premieres Monday at 9/8c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)