THE SHOW "Friends With Better Lives"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday night at 9 (shifts next week to 8:30) on CBS/2

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Six friends hang out. Today being 20 years on, when we've seen every "Friends" episode 19 times (and this being CBS), these buds are 30-something, married or in stages of getting hitched or getting dumped. Also, the main setting is a suburban house, not a cool Manhattan flat.

And everybody drinks wine. All the time. Coffee is so '90s.

And so, apparently, is talking about something besides sex. All the time. Kevin Connolly ("Entourage") and Majandra Delfino ("Roswell") are the marrieds with the baby and the nonexistent love life. And the breast pump (in full view, prompting jokes about "lefty"). Brooklyn Decker (yes, the model) plays the single who has sex for 12 hours straight with guitar-playing over-emo Aussie stud Rick Donald ("Underbelly"). Poor deluded James Van Der Beek ("Don't Trust the B") can't see his marriage is kaput. And "intimidating" social-media tycoon Zoe Lister Jones ("Whitney") can't find anything right with the guys she dates. One brings an incontinent bird to dinner. Another's you-know-what "smells weird."

MY SAY Does it sound like this show's terrible? It sure seems that way for the first half, what with the big-guffaw lines about smells and defecation. (Be grateful there aren't more. Connolly and Van Der Beek play OB-GYNs.) Then comes a string of visual/verbal punchlines inspired entirely by a guy being short.

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But when you're through jeering eee-ewww, "Friends With Better Lives" eases up a bit. Hear that good heart beating faintly at its core? The cast feels solid, and likable, jelling swiftly. Medford native Connolly is a multicamera sitcom natural, scene-stealer Van Der Beek remains amusing, and even Decker is at ease.

Then comes that final distasteful sex gag. Let's pray it's just pilot-itis.

BOTTOM LINE These folks deserve better.

@Newsday

GRADE B-