November 22nd, 2010 by thetvchick
In a pack of weak freshman shows, “Better With You” stood out to me. It even made me laugh out loud a few times at the pilot, which is a rarity. The show centers around 3 couples — a married one, one who has been together a long time but has made a “valid life choice” not to be married, and a new couple who got engaged very fast. And of course, they are all related. Vicky and Joel are the parents of Mia and Maddie. Mia is newly pregnant and engaged to her not so long-term boyfriend Casey. And Maddie has been with Ben for nine years but they are choosing not to get married. The creator of the show is Shana Goldberg-Meehan, one of the Executive Producers of “Friends,” and this show is definitely reminiscent of one of my favorites. I recently had the chance to visit the set of Better With You, and chat with all the cast. Jennifer Finnigan and Josh Cookie (Maddie and Ben) teased the upcoming Thanksgiving episode, talked about really finding their characters’ voices and those pesky ratings that the entire cast pays attention to.
How do you feel you’ve grown the most in the first eleven episodes you’ve done of the show?
Jennifer Finnigan: I think our group chemistry has gotten stronger and stronger. I think for myself personally, it had been a while since I’d done a sitcom. It had been like five and a half years, so I was much less sure of myself when we started. And I’ve learned so much by watching my fellow actors and I love to learn and just watch. And now my level of confidence is higher, I like to take chances and be silly and I just think group-wise we’ve really solidified. And we kind of love each other. Right?
Josh Cooke: Mmm hmm, right sure.
Jennifer Finnigan: You do! You love us!
Josh Cooke: It’s finding the pairings and the rhythm’s within the group, within all the different cast members and what works in that way. I think the writers are probably really — they have developed so much, in watching us and what works for us and what doesn’t work in terms of what we can and cannot do.
JC: They very quickly learned to adapt to that. But just I think it is just everyone settling in, getting comfortable with each other.
JF: And we trust each other too. In comedy, trust is probably the most important element.
JC: We like to do trust falls every morning.
JF: (laughs) But it is. Because you want to know that that person can catch you (laughs) It’s true! It’s really true! If you’re going to take chances and make a total fool of yourself, you want to know that the people around you have your back. And I think we really do. We’re all just silly and stupid together. We trust each other.
JC: We’ve both gone that way in the sense that of just going like “Alright, let’s make fools of ourselves, let’s go for it!”
JF: Exactly, exactly. (laughs)
Are ratings something you all pay attention to?
JF: Yeah. [Kurt] most of all.
JC: He’s a nut. That guy!
JF: (laughs) Oh my God, yeah. He’s the one that e-mails us…
JC: I’d say Joanna [Garcia] pays attention to them in a business like way. Kurt [Fuller] in total neurotic fashion. Debra Jo [Rupp] in a slightly neurotic fashion — half neurotic, half business. You –
JF: Don’t understimate me, my friend.
JC: (laughs) She keeps it under wraps.
JF: I do!
JC: I told Jake when he first started — because he’s in the exact same position that I was on the first show that we did together, which was pretty much right out of college and first major job. So I said “Don’t read any reviews, don’t look at ratings…” and he didn’t listen to me. And he started doing stuff. I tried to avoid it completely. I tried not to.
JF: But then I’ll text him –
JC: And now my fiancee’s gotten super into it and she’s on all these websites. But she won’t tell me unless I ask her, which I very rarely do.
JF: That’s funny.
JC: But Kurt is so full of it. He’s obsessed.
Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp made it to seem like the boys are more panicked and the girls are cheerful and optimistic.
JF: We are. We got a back nine. I can only speak for myself, but I think this is kind of common as a TV viewer — There are so many new shows that come out in the fall, longevity doesn’t exist in television anymore. So as a viewer, it’s so hard to pick a new show and stick with it, because you’re living in fear that this show that you’re getting attached to is going to be off the air in three or four episodes, which happens a lot of the time.
JC: Several times this year.
JF: It happened several times this year, and we watched it. And so for us to get a full season not only gives us confidence, but it gives the audience confidence that they can invest their time in a television show and know that at least they have a season to really attach themselves to.
Getting back to the show a little bit, why do you think Maddie and Ben work so well and so hilariously as a TV couple?
JF: We’ve known each other forever.
JC: That definitely helps that.
JF: We have a good chemistry.
JC: But like we were saying earlier about kind of finding the rhythm and just being able to go completely out there. We talked the first few episodes, you were kind of like “I’m not sure what I’m doing…” this and that, and certain bits.
JF: Trying to find the character.
JC: We were both kind of going “I don’t know, does this work for you?” and kind of going back and checking in constantly. But I think we found the relationship works because it’s just at a place of total comfort-ability with each other, where there is no pretense, there’s no lying or faking anymore.
JF: We’ll ask each other what’s funnier. And that’s cool that we can do that. I never really had that so much on a show where cast members feel free to just ask each other or offer opinions without it being intrusive. And also, we’re not afraid of making a fools of ourselves.
JC: But it’s the same way that Maddie and Ben are — they are completely in love with the other one for who they are despite the many faults you see. And I think that’s why and instead of being irritated by those faults, there’s some kind of joy from it.
JF: (laughs) Yeah, I definitely get irritated. The amount of times I’ve given you the slow burn already. It’s just constant.
And important part of family is celebrating the holidays. You have a Thanksgiving episode, and a Christmas episode. Can you tease anything?
JF: The Thanksgiving episode is really fun especially for Josh and I. It kind of gives an insight into the past and our relationship and at one point, we — can I say it — I won’t go into the details, but at one point, we were briefly engaged.
JF: And you’ll see the unraveling of that and why we decided to stay as a –
JC: The episode also involves giant water gags, dance numbers…
JF: Swollen extremities?
JC: And a dance number of about 15.
JF: I’m thinking that’s a sweeps episode.
JC: Then there’s the Christmas episode which was also kind of fun. It involves everyone trying to escape each other. Everyone getting caught. And also involves me in a ladies’ turtleneck, so I’m just going to put that out there.
JF: It’s fitted and –
JC: Have you seen this?
JF: It contours every muscle.
JC: Every muscle that wants to be and is somewhere in there.
JF: Have you seen the preview of you in your towel?
JF: Using the body to get some ratings!
JC: I would like to say by the way. They told me that I was going to have my shirt off in [the last] episode, the week after I was away in Paris where I got engaged. I ate and drank a lot, and then I came back and they were like “Oh by the way, you’re shirtless.”
JF: You know what you do then? Two words: spray tan.
JC: No, I enjoy the white board look.
JC: They call me dry erase.
JF: You could be Canadian like me. My people.
JC: Don’t ever say that to me again.
JF: (laughs) Oh no you didn’t!
Will we ever get to see how Maddie and Ben met?
JC: I don’t know.
JF: I would love to see that.
JC: I would love to see that too.
JF: I think we could play that.
JC: I think so too.
JF: If they put a nylon on that lens, I could definitely play it.
JC: (laughs) A nylon!
JF: Or on my face.
JF: I could definitely look 18.
JC: We did see how Vicky and Joel met, but I don’t know if that’s aired or what’s going to happen. There was an episode that had that, I think they’re re-assembling. I don’t know what’s happening with that episode, because they decided to later on, they changed some of the sets. But we do see that. And we hear how — in the same episode — we heard how Mia and Casey met.
JF: That’s such an interesting episode.
JC: And we did hear in one of the episodes how we met, but we didn’t see it. But how we met was an interesting story.
JF: Yeah…Oh wait. How we met?
JC: Don’t you remember?
JF: Oh yes! Yes! Oh yeah, it’s really funny.
JC: We did do that, but that episode is sort of in limbo at the moment. We’re trying to figure out how to put it together.
Better With You airs Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on ABC.Tweet