Ah, the sitcom. TV's faithful jester.

It's a simple formula, really. Gather a motley group of specifically defined characters, throw them into various situations, and crank up the laugh track.

Related stories

Done well, i.e., with a talented cast and consistently clever writing, it is an imperishable pleasure, from The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Big Bang Theory.

Absent those elements, the sitcom can be singularly tiresome.

Which brings us to the new CBS series Friends with Better Lives. (After debuting at 9 p.m. Monday, the show will air in subsequent weeks - assuming there are any - at 8:30 p.m.)

A gaggle of grown-up college pals represent the gamut of adult relationships.

Kevin Connolly (Entourage) and Majandra Delfino (State of Georgia) are longtime marrieds with an infant. They feel, with good reason, that all the romance and excitement has evaporated from their lives.

James Van Der Beek (Dawson!) is newly separated and deluding himself that a reconciliation is imminent. Although he's a successful ob-gyn, he is, for some reason, bunking with Connolly and Delfino. In fact, though most in this crowd have demanding careers, they spend a suspicious amount of time in the couple's living room.

Zoe Lister-Jones (Whitney) is the cynic fed up with dating loser guys. And it's killing her that she's still single.

Brooklyn Decker (Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl) is a starry-eyed romantic who always thinks the guy she's dating is the one. But this time, with Aussie charmer Rick Donald, she just may be right. What's not to love about a Buddhist/surfer/vegetarian?

The hook is that everyone's got problems. They all want to be in the shoes of someone else in the group. Except Donald (who looks like soap stud Ingo Rademacher). He's pretty happy with his lot, racking up frequent flier miles with Decker.

The humor is decidedly caustic and surprisingly smutty. This might work as a cable comedy, where they could be explicit. On a network, it just seems insolently self-satisfied.


Friends with Better Lives

9 p.m. Monday on CBS3