Runaway Trend: The Relationship-y Sitcom

Do you like shows about relationships? Do you like Julia Roberts movies? Do you think men are from Mars and women are from Venus? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, then you're going to love 2011, or the year the romantic-comedy sitcom came back with a vengeance.

NBC, Fox, ABC, and CBS will all be debuting rom-coms (and the requisite rom-com stereotypes) next year, adding half-a-dozen sitcoms dealing with love, relationships, and vibrator jealousy to the primetime schedule. It's unclear what started this trend, but relationship-y shows are often budget conscious, employing up-and-coming actors, multi-camera formats, and a low number of sets.

But the real question is, will any of them be any good? To guide you in your midseason sitcom selection, we decided to examine the new slate of shows and explain how they differ from one another. And from the looks of things, the differences are few...

Perfect Couples

Airs: January on NBC
Rom-Com Stereotypes: Six friends, three couples in various states of relationship bliss, the "normal" couple vs. the fighting couple vs. the too-cutesy couple
Notable Stars: Olivia Munn, Kyle Bornheimer, Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
How it Differs: Perfect Couples appears to be the most generic of the six new shows, playing it safe with six friends that make up three couples. There's one couple who we're supposed to relate to, one couple who's supposed to remind us of our "passionate" friends who fight and then have toe-curling make-up sex, and one couple that consists of a whipped dude and a hot, lovey-dovey girlfriend. This is about as straightforward as it gets.
Tolerability Index: Low. The Cliche-ometer needle is bouncing wildly at maximum levels. Abandon ship! Abandon ship!



Traffic Light

Airs: February on Fox
Notable Stars: Roy from The Office
Rom-Com Stereotypes: Three various states of relationship bliss, The Bachelor vs. The Husband vs. The Boyfriend
How it Differs: Formerly called Mixed Signals, which was a much better name, Traffic Light (seriously? Traffic Light?) is a relationship sitcom told from the male point of view. For some reason, network execs are trying to create a Sex and the City for men. Newsflash: Men don't like relationship shows unless they involve '70s jazz music, a pizza man, and a lonely housewife who doesn't have enough money for a tip. This show will set the men's movement back three decades.
Tolerability Index: Extremely low. This is what happens when men are the focus of a romantic comedy. Fox simply does not understand.



Happy Endings

Airs: April on ABC
Notable Stars: Elisha Cuthbert
Rom-Com Stereotypes: Six friends, three various states of relationship bliss, one ridiculously desperate friend.
How it Differs: With yet another title that follows the Adjective-Plural Noun naming convention, Happy Endings is gives us the ol' six-friend/three-couple scenario with one twist: The main couple just broke up! The rest of it is pretty much the same.
Tolerability Index: Medium. I grudgingly admit that this one looks the most watchable, because at least the two halves of the broken-up couple are trying to make each other miserable. But it's just a matter of time until they get back together and then break up again and then repeat.



Love Bites

Airs: Midseason on NBC
Notable Stars: Jordana Spiro, Becki Newton, Lindsay Price
Rom-Com Stereotypes: The Slutty Sister vs. The Goody Two-Shoes Sister, man vs. vibrator, multiple relationships in various states of bliss.
How it Differs: Love Bites started as an anthology-style show about love and dating, with different tales about the trials of finding that special someone. The original premise involved two sisters, one of which is hot in the dating scene (Jordana Spiro) and one of which is a virgin (Becki Newton). But Spiro left the show due to her contract with My Boys, and Newton got pregnant. The showrunner also left. So who knows what this will end up being, other than a giant mess. And if you want to get technical, it's supposed to be an hour long—twice as long as the others on this list.
Tolerability Index: Too hard to tell. Great cast, but the show looks about as original as a Rolex knockoff. Factor in all kinds of development problems and a nebulous concept, and we have no idea what the finished product will look like.



Mad Love

Airs: Midseason on CBS
Notable Stars: Judy Greer, Tyler Labine, Sarah Chalke, Jason Biggs
Rom-Com Stereotypes: Lookin' for love in New York!
How it Differs: Four twenty-somethings (what? Not six?!) are trying to find that special someone in the Big Apple. When two of the quartet meet and start dating, their other friends aren't so sure about the relationship. It's Friends minus Joey and Phoebe—you know, the funny ones.
Tolerability Index: Medium-high. A good cast gives us hope. And the fact that there's no horrible preview (unlike for the other shows) gives us even more hope. But it sounds like How I Met Your Mother Lite.

[Preview unavailable.]

Better With You

Airs: Wednesdays at 8:30pm on ABC
Notable Stars: Joanna Garcia, Kurt Fuller
Rom-Com Stereotypes: Six friends*, three couples in various states of relationship bliss.
How it Differs: This one is already on TV, and centers on three couples who are in different stages of their relationships. Twist alert! One of the couples is the parents of the women in the other two couples.
Tolerability Index: Medium-Low. Hey, it could be worse. Right?




What do you think of this trend? Does it give you butterflies in your stomach, or does it make you want to throw up? Do any of the shows look that different than the rest?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (45)
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I really like Happy Endings! it's a great and hilarious show!
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I like Better With You. Tried watching Perfect Couples, but it was sort of flat. Couldn't get into it. None of the other ones listed really interest me either. Better With You is clearly the better program.
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i really like better with you, it has gotten great and is sometimes the funniest wednsday comedy on abc, it is my fav. with cougar town. i'll watch some of the other ones if they are on a good time slot.
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I like HIMYM so I will probably give Mad Love a try.
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about traffic light, the name is a derect translation from the original show, from israel, and even if it sounds lame, the show is really succsesful in israel, and actually won the international emmy awards, so i think you should give it a chance
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Rom-coms. Suck. Now. TV should stop beating a dead horse. I have yet to see a new rom-com promo or pilot that looks even remotely passable or even watchable. Gag me with a spoon and pass the Boardwalk Empire, I need someone to get shot.
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They all sound assinine
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We Fear Change
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This is all kind of funny in a sick, sad way.
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yawn...
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I'd rather NOT !!
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I'd rather watch House diagnosis of glutius maximus acne fulminians !!
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I'd rather listen to the soothing tones of "Jay Leno sings the Blues" !!
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I'd rather see Dexter move to Sesame Street!!
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Worst Thing TV could ever do.
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Argh! Number one, I hate Julia Roberts. Two, I hate romantic comedies. Seen the pilot of Better With You and it's CRAP. Argh!
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I adore Judy Greer, so I might take a look at that one. Otherwise, I can pretty much guarantee that I will not be watching any of the rest. Of course I'm one of a handful of people who found Friends totally unwatchable.
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Why does everybody keep to trying to recreate "Friends"?
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better with you is a great comedy the recent episodes are much much much better than the first few eps. its improved greatly!
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Buying myself Friends on DVD for xmas. Just decided now.
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Just decided I'm buying Friends on DVD for xmas. Ugh muchly.
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I didn't last more than 2 episodes of Better With You, and I don't expect to do better with the others. I hope to be surprised though. I have to wonder what Olivia Munn is doing on a sitcom, especially one doesn't seem very witty or anything. Unless it turns out to be an awesome show, it might lessen her street cred.
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Fair enough :)
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These all sound really corny.
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Staff
@ tur42 - I'll give it a closer with your recommendation, but US adaptations of foreign shows have dismal records, so I'm scared of what US network execs will do to it.
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Gonna watch Love Bites, what a crew!
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"Better With You" is the proof that there /is/ a limit to what Jennifer Finnigan can make tolerable. :\
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I gave up on sitcoms over a decade ago. There's nothing original or clever about any of them. I'm tired of endless retelling of the same jokes from past sitcoms, or worse, cliche lines that people are suppose to laugh at.
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Uuugh. I HATE these types of shows, but I just might have to check out Mad Love. Judy Greer is my dream girl, and Tyler Labine is perfect in anything. But... it's on CBS. Which I hate.
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Boooooring, these kind of show are all the same :(
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Oh, and just to make it clear, I'm a guy. And I think most of the fans of this show in israel are guys. Seriously people, you should give Traffic Lights a try..
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Tim...No offence, but for a TV-dedicated website you dont do alot of research.. "Traffic Lights" is originally an israeli show (and the name sounds much better in hebrew), It won an international Emmy for best comedy show, is the most successfull scripted comedy in israel, and its HILARIOUS. Fox made a great decision in buying it, and as long as they copy and translate the script correctly (It looks like they did for the most part, based on that trailer) it will be a great show. I really recommend it.
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Wow really? Networks wonder why they are losing view. Take all these show and compare them to show from 10 years ago. I have no idea why all this chick flick shows are on a raise were is the action and comedy.
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happy endings look good ...rest blaahh.
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Lol @ vibrator jealousy...(reminds me of vagenda) Don't know what's funnier, that or the fact a show is really going to be called "Traffic Light." Going out on a limb here but I'm gonna bet that most, if not all these shows end up in Sons of Tusconville pretty soon.
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Vibrator jealousy? Really, Tim? Better With You is pretty bad, but it's in a cushy time slot. I don't want to change the channel between The Middle and Modern Family. Mad Love looks promising because of the cast. I would like to know if Jordana Spiro is really on Love Bites or not. I kind of hope they gave her the part again, since filming was postponed.
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What is up with the whole "six friends"?
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Traffic Light (horrible name) actually looks good! It's got that hilarious guy from the movie Love Actually, so i already like the cast. And Love Bites may have some potential too, although i'm finding it hard to believe Becki Newton as a virgin. She seems more suited to be the slutty sister.
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I think Mad Love might be the only show I'll give a shot, and that's just because of the cast. As far as stories go, they're all boring. Is it really that hard to make a more "complex" storyline to the rom-com?
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I hate these kind of shows. I'm not watching any of them.
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I like Better With You. It's not the best comedy I've seen by far, but it's good if you just want to watch something light.

I'll probably check out some of the other ones when they start to air.
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Eh, I might end up checking out *has to go back up in order to remember the generic names* ... Happy Endings and.. *checks again* Mad Love. I need to write these shows down somewhere..
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I agree, Happy Endings seems like the only watchable one!

But didn't you miss NBC's "Friends with benefits"???
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I guess I have low standards but I love these shows something fun and light. I will probably watch them at least once who knows?!
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better with you isn't that bad but nothing looks too special about the rest of them. none of them look like they could be the next how i met your mother, but who knows.
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