Better With You: Season 1, Episode 10 “Better with Christmas Crap” (B+)
It’s interesting to see how this show has managed to hold on to its definitive format at the beginning while managing to morph it slightly over the course of a few episodes. Many shows start out with gimmicks and either lose them along the way or introduce new staples as they go on, like “Six Feet Under” and “NCIS.” In this episode, we have the three couples compared to one another, but rather than explicitly noting the lengths of their relationships, it’s explained via the way they prepare to leave for their vacations. The flashback device works well enough because it provides a fun opening that’s actually related to the rest of the episode, and the mystery of how they get to where they are is fun enough and sustainable for the ten or fifteen minutes it needs to be. Though this comedy (which I constantly feel like I’m defending because I never see anything written about it) may not be as hilarious or winning as “Modern Family,” it still does a good job of representing family tropes and presenting a realistic and believable set of Christmas family traditions. I do love how Ben’s employ at the hotel is constantly referenced and used in this episode for not one but two great punchlines, the first from Maddy – “Working at a hotel doesn’t make you an expert on everything” – and the second from Ben himself, decrying the release of “The Shining” as setting the hotel industry back a number of years.