Dana Klein has no reason to feel bad about her life.
She’s a writer-producer with a new sitcom, Friends With Better Lives, launching at 8 p.m. Monday on CBS. She’s married to actor Mark Feuerstein, the star of USA Network’s Royal Pains, and they’ve got three kids.
But every time Klein checks out Facebook and reads her friends’ posts, she can’t help feeling twinges of jealousy and depression.
“I can barely open my computer without feeling like I failed in a million different ways,” she says, only partly in jest. “Someone’s got the perfect family, the perfect kids, the perfect job, the perfect body.”
It is impossible, Klein has concluded, “not to compare ourselves to our friends and to secretly, sometimes not so secretly, wonder if the friends have it better.”
That is the premise of Friends With Better Lives, which examines friendship through a “grass is always greener on the other side” lens.
The show premieres after the one-hour How I Met Your Mother series finale, then moves to a 7:30 time slot April 7.
The ensemble cast includes Kevin Connolly (formerly of Entourage), Majandra Delfino (Roswell) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek).
Klein says the show was inspired by an eye-opening visit from a college friend.
“When we met in college, we were at the exact same place in our lives,” Klein recalls. “We were both single. We were students at Duke. We didn’t know what we were going to do with our lives.
“Then she came to visit. I was married with my three kids. My daughter, who was 4 at the time, said to her, ‘Who do you live with?’ And my friend said she lived with no one. My daughter thought it was so sad. She was like, ‘Who do you have breakfast with?’ And my friend was like, ‘No one.’
“My daughter actually started to cry. Then my friend started to cry. It was incredibly awkward. And I actually pitied her in that moment.”
But a month later, the tables were turned.
“She calls me and she is dating this new guy, a football player at Duke,” Klein continues. “He’s 6 foot 3 and gorgeous and they’re going on a romantic getaway. And I’m there covered in baby vomit, haven’t slept, haven’t lost my baby weight, and I didn’t pity her anymore. I envied her.
“That’s sort of what friendship is. It’s this constantly moving pendulum between pity and envy.”
She’s not proud of it, but she won’t deny having these feelings.
Delfino, who plays Andi, a young wife and mother, says she can relate.
Delfino has two kids in real life. The youngest is 4 months old. Delfino is a successful actress, with an actor husband (David Walton, star of NBC’s About a Boy), yet she can’t help feeling that co-stars Zoe Lister-Jones and Brooklyn Decker somehow have more exciting lives.
“There’s a lot of me pushing Zoe and Brooklyn to have babies — you kind of want to drag people down with you,” she jokes. “You want them to know your moments of misery.
“Most of your moments are that of feeling so grateful, like you have the best life. But I’ll get a text from Brooklyn, who will be traveling and doing something fantastic, and I’m trying so hard not to write back, ‘Take me with you!’ ”
It’s worth noting that Delfino, Connolly (who plays Bobby, Andi’s husband) and Van Der Beek (who plays Will, Bobby and Andi’s suddenly single friend) find it easy to play buddies because they’ve known each other for years. They all starred in TV shows at the same time on the old WB network.
“Kevin [whose WB sitcom was Unhappily Ever After] was also in the very first movie I ever did [1995’s Angus],” Van Der Beek adds. “He was the one who taught me how to hit a mark, how to find your light, how to find the lens, how to show up for work on time. I was 17.”
“It’s full circle,” Connolly says. “He still doesn’t know where his mark is.”
“I just don’t really care,” Van Der Beek jokes. “There are four cameras. One is bound to find me.”