Too often I think TV viewers focus on romantic relationships and too little on relationships. Since TV at its best is long form story telling there is just as much opportunity to tell stories of great friends. Here are ten of my favorite examples of friendship.
10. Bobby Cobb and Andy Torres – Cougar Town
What bonds these two adults together is that they are more man-children than they are man. As members of the cul-de-sac crew they are part of a larger group of friends, but their friendship has always seemed to be more full of unconditional love than Jules (the main character) has with either her friends or her recent husband Grayson. Andy is willing to overlook Bobby’s faults and would never nag him for living on a boat that is parked in a parking lot. In some ways his love for Bobby is more pure than even for his wife, who lets face it, can be a bit difficult at times. As sweet as their man love is, it is the wacky hijinx that drives a lot of the show’s comedy that gets them in the top ten.
9. Admiral Adama and Saul Tighe – Battlestar Galactica
This is perhaps the ultimate example of how war can bond two people beyond a normal friendship. Neither man was perfect, particularly in Saul’s case. Saul’s tendancy to let alcohol intefere with his duty was overlooked by his old buddy Adama. In return Adama had a loyal officer that he could trust to stand by him. This was called somewhat into question when it was discovered that Saul was actually an original cylon, but their friendship was able to transcend even that. This list deserves some representation of the bond of soldier, and this example has been possibly my favorite.
8. John Crichton and D’Argo – Farscape
John, right before facing possible death, acknowledges how fun it had been to hang with D’Argo. They certainly had some good times together and some rougher patches. Both prone to immaturity and short fuses (especially D’Argo being prone to go into hyper rages) they more than once knocked heads. There was a great episode that started with them getting kicked off their ship (Moya) due to their bickering that detailed their misadventrous planet side. Another great episode featured D’Argo nearly killing John in a rage and the majority of the episode playing out in coyote/roadrunner cartoon form. Despite those trials things always came out to them sharing a sense of humor and the camraderie having been put through the ringer multiple times.
7. Dan Ridell and Casey McCall – Sports Night
In the pilot it is set up that the two broadcasting partners go way back. They had been a team long before jumping to a struggling all sports network, and they would continue to be best friends no matter what. The two had great chemistry both as friends, but especially working together as anchors of their show. They didn’t always see eye to eye, and it got ugly once after Dan showed Casey up mid-show. Their quick, but earned recovery as friends and co-workers is probably the best example of how strong their bond was.
6. Leslie Knope and Anne Perkins – Parks and Recreation
The nature of TV tends to put more male characters in leading roles tha woman. In addition to that, being a guy, I tend to identify with the male bond more than the female. So this list is going to lean guy heavy, and the ladies of Sex and the City will have to look elsewhere for a home. All that being said, I am completely enamored with how great Leslie and Anne are together as friends. Leslie is easy to get. I want to be friends with Leslie. All she does is go out of her way to make her buddies lives better. In many cases she is surrounded by guys though, and Anne is her great female best friend who she can’t stop complimenting for her beauty. Anne of course is no slacker either, as she is firmly in Leslie’s corner no matter what the situation. My favorite part of Parks and Rec is how they always nail the genuine and human moments, and the friendship of these two always plays as sweet in a real way.
5. Abed and Troy – Community
When Community began it seemed unlikely that these two would find such a strong friendship. Troy was presented as the cool, athletic type and Abed as a weird dude that fell somewhere on the autism spectrum. As Community became the weird little gem it turned into it was revealed that Troy was way more weird than at first blush. He seemed captivated by Abed’s ability to imagine the world as a more interesting place. Abed in turn was delighted to meet someone who understood him as much as any person could. As we enter the new season without Dan Harmon writing these characters it will be intersting to see if their friendship will be as wonderful as it was. Even if the new season doesn’t live up to previous ones, I will always be able to return to one of the more compelling friendships I’ve ever seen presented on TV.
4. Chuck Bartowski and Morgan Grimes – Chuck
This is a more conventional style of friendship than presented in Community. It is the classic, best friends from childhood, together forever. What makes this work beyond the stereotype is how hard the writers worked to keep Chuck grounded no matter where his secret spy life was taking him. Morgan was key in keeping Chuck rooted in nerdom, even as he was evolving into a super spy. It took a while before Morgan learned Chuck’s secret, but when it finally came out it was about as rewarding as any of the many, many scenes TV character X finds out TV character Y’s big secret. Morgan’s friendship with Casey became comedy gold later in the series, but Chuck as a show always did great work defining what it means to be best friends.
3. JD and Turk – Scrubs
Another fantastic pairing of best friends, Scrubs always got a lot of mileage out of presenting JD and Turk’s relationship as deeper than the women who they fell in love with. I always appreciated how they treated their difference in races. It was always acknowledged that Turk came from a different culture than the extremely caucasian one JD emerged from, but the common ground they shared was never forced. It was always presented as these guys aren’t exactly the same, but you can see why they like each other so much. Watching them pay tribute together to all the TV shows they grew up with was one of the better running gags, especially when they performed the Stanford and Son theme song together.
2. Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy – 30 Rock
As 30 Rock just concluded I am reminded how much I respect this friendship. The normal TV show format is to put to people together who don’t have a lot in common and humerous conflict results from those differences. Check. 30 Rock did that. The next step is to then have the man and woman fall in love. Not check. 30 Rock is better than that. From the very beginning of the series Donaghy and Lemon clashed in background, worldview, gender, and whatever else you can thnk of. Yet they had a deep respect for someone. Jack wanted someone who truly needed a mentor to mentor, and respected that Liz would always be around with an honest opinion. Liz was a bit of a mess in her personal life and Jack’s advice was often quite good. I wish more TV shows had the integrity to resist putting their main characters together romantically. Friendships can sometimes be even more rewarding as TV relationships.
1. President Bartlett and Leo McGarry – The West Wing
Aaron Sorkin was often criticized for not having more romance in The West Wing. His response was that the romance was there, it was just between Bartlett and McGarry. Of course he didn’t mean anything romantic, just that the love that these two characters had for each other transcended anything else Sorkin had written. The depth of their love doesn’t come right away. Leo is clearly a trusted confidant who has the important job of running his best friends White House. Later on, through flashback the scope of their relationship was revealed. First with McGarry writing Bartlett for America on a cocktail napkin in an attempt to get him to run for office and later (and much more powerfuly) Bartlett returning that same napkin, framed. That was one of the most heart melting and touching moments I’ve ever watched on TV. It again showed how TV doesn’t have follow convention and have the guy and the girl get together as the most important relationship. It can show two, much older men, and how their relationship serves not just to support each other, but allows them to do achieve great things.