They’re the people we come home to after a hard day, knowing they’ll always be around. They’re the people we turn to with our troubles, who we know will never let us down. They’re our beloved TV best friends.
Junkee’s resident TV nerds Alasdair Duncan and Caitlin Welsh have compiled their favourite sets of TV besties — lovable friends who stick together through thick and thin, friends who banter and joke, friends who help friends avoid witch-magic apocalypses, and friends who generally make television a more fun place to be.
Ryan Atwood & Seth Cohen from The O.C.
This list about TV besties was inspired by the 10-year anniversary of teen drama The O.C. — you can read our list of the five best episodes right here — so it’s only right that we start out with the two friends who formed the core of that show, Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) and Seth (Adam Brody).
Ryan was a smart yet troubled kid from the rough part of town; Seth was a sheltered nerd who was happy to sit at home playing video games and listening to sad music while the love of his life remained blissfully unaware of his existence. The two met when Seth’s wealthy parents took Ryan in, and bonded over the fact that they both felt like outcasts in ritzy Newport Beach.
This sense of not fitting in was barely the half of it, though, as over the course of their friendship, the two filled in a lot of the missing parts in eachother. Ryan taught his nerdy protégé how to stick up for himself; within days of his new brother’s arrival, Seth was thrilled to have gone to his first real party and gotten in his first real fight, and eventually gained the confidence to go after his crush, Summer (Rachel Bilson). Meanwhile, Seth was able to break through Ryan’s broody exterior, offering him his first real experience of friendship, and reminding him that, in spite of his troubled past, it was still okay for him to be a kid sometimes.
The two fell out from time to time — The O.C. was a teen drama after all, and had certain standards to maintain — but through Chrismukkahs, Bar Mitzvukkahs and Death Cab concerts, their friendship remained one of the constants on the witty, much-missed show. (AD)
Daria Morgendorffer & Jane Lane from Daria
It’s not like Daria Morgendorffer has a lot of options when it comes to finding friends in Lawndale, the grimly normal Everytown USA where her eponymous series is set. Everyone else is a mindless drone who’s bought into the flimsy narratives of school spirit and nuclear families and malls that prop up suburban life and are anathema to ’90s misfits. But like a moth to a flame, the two deadpan girls in combat boots find one another in the archetype soup that is Lawndale High, and Jane Lane becomes Daria’s best friend.
Jane’s sense of humour is wryer and (relatively speaking) warmer than Daria’s, and her outlook slightly less bleak. While they both exist in a state of near-constant disdain for their peers and teachers, having one another to bounce off does them both good: Jane is forced to be a voice of positivity when Daria’s being particularly grim, and in turn, Daria is forced to listen to that voice. On the rare occasion when Daria indulges in a little self-examination, it’s Jane who’s there to hold up a mirror, like in the brilliant third-season episode ‘Through A Lens Darkly’, where Daria ditches the coke-bottle specs for contacts and discovers that her practiced lack of vanity is its own kind of vanity.
Perhaps their best storyline, though, comes when Jane gets a boyfriend, Tom. His very existence disrupts the girls’ easy dynamic for months, but when that relationship fizzles, Tom starts falling for Daria. It’s a beautifully written, emotionally honest arc that unfolds over fourteen episodes and a special, and shows that when female friendship hits a rocky patch over a guy, it doesn’t always end in mud wrestling and/or everything going totally back to normal. Not bad for a show that started as a Beavis & Butthead spin-off. (CW)
Nurse Jackie & Dr. O’Hara from Nurse Jackie
Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) and Eleanor O’Hara (Eve Best) come from completely different worlds. Jackie is a working class mother of two, who commutes to the city from the outer boroughs and tries hard to hold any semblance of a normal life together. O’Hara is unattached and fabulously wealthy, with a droll British sense of humour and a seemingly cavalier attitude to any problem that comes her way. The two, however, are the closest of confidantes, and escape the grind of hospital life at their regular lunches together — even if, at said lunches, O’Hara is always draped in something stylish and chic, while Jackie usually just throws an old cardigan over her hospital clothes.
Superficial differences aside, the two are actually very much alike. Both are smart and strong-willed, both have very highly-tuned bullshit detectors. O’Hara respects Jackie for her pluck and courage, offering to help her kids out with their education, and refusing to judge her for her affair with Eddie The Pharmacist. For Jackie, O’Hara represents stability, friendship and a reliable drinking buddy, especially when the men in her life make things so complicated. The two even have a common enemy in the jock-y, supremely overconfident Dr Cooper (Peter Facinelli).
O’Hara took a reduced role in Nurse Jackie’s recent fifth season — actress Eve Best reportedly wanted to move back to England with her daughter, so her O’Hara character, by then a single mother, did the same. At least we’ll have four years of solid Jackie and O’Hara banter to watch over and over on DVD. (AD)
Jed Bartlet & Leo McGarry from The West Wing
The West Wing was never just about politics. As with so much Sorkin, at its heart is a struggle between the righteous and the pragmatic, about good people trying to do great things in a terrible world. Much of this struggle is demonstrated by the relationship between President Bartlet (the high-minded, ideological economics professor, played by Martin Sheen) and his chief of staff, Leo McGarry (a decorated war veteran and tenacious political warrior, played by John Spencer), and their philosophical and political arguments are some of the best scenes in the entire show.
But at the heart of their relationship is a deep and abiding love, even though they had only been close friends for about a decade before the show is set. It was Leo who convinced Bartlet to run for President; it was Bartlett who looked after Leo during his years fighting alcoholism. And when the President is giving last-minute advice to the Secretary of Agriculture (in the unlikely event that the State of the Union, and most of Congress, gets blown up), Bartlet asks three simple questions: “Have you got a best friend? Is he smarter than you? Would you trust him with your life? That’s your Chief of Staff.” (CW)
Turk & J.D. from Scrubs
College roommates and lifelong buddies Turk (Donald Faison) and J.D. (Zach Braff) stretched the bonds of platonic friendship to their very breaking point and then way, way beyond. They hugged and cried together, they danced down the corridors of Sacred Heart Hospital in elaborately choreographed fantasy sequences together, and they even occasionally crashed eachother’s honeymoons. They were closer than best friends — hell, they were basically an old married couple — but they took everyone’s teasing in stride, because they knew what they had was special. Their signature song ‘Guy Love’ explains it all:
Scrubs had two gears — one broad and wacky, the other sappy and sentimental — and the show would switch wildly between them in the space of a single episode. The tonal shifts made total sense in the context of the story, though. As interns in a busy hospital, Turk and J.D. often felt overworked and overwhelmed, and would retreat into their world of shared, wacky humour to make things easier. As they grew older and found themselves faced with increasingly serious life and career choices, this shared humour, once again, gave them a safe place to just be stupid for a while.
I’ve never actually seen the ill-fated, rebooted Scrubs: Med School, eventually released as the shortened, ninth season of the show, so for me, Turk and JD’s swansong was the montage at the end of Season 8, set to Peter Gabriel’s cover of ‘The Book Of Love’. It still actually makes me cry ever time. (AD)
Troy Barnes & Abed Nadir from Community
Community creator Dan Harmon originally intended for high school jock Troy (Donald Glover) to become best friends with un-PC retiree Pierce (Chevy Chase) rather than Abed (Danny Pudi), but even The Great And Glorious Harmon couldn’t resist the bromance that quickly developed between Glover and Pudi. He wrote them the ‘Biblioteca rap‘ after catching them trading verses on set, and the rest was history. Now they navigate every challenge Greendale throws at them with a combination of genre-savviness, blithe optimism and possible telepathy, and also rap and host a morning show with no cameras and start civil wars over manchester.
Troy desperately wants to be seen as a grown-up man, and Abed wishes he could be a little more “normal”, mostly because he senses how uncomfortable his forthrightness and stream of meta-commentary makes others. In each other, they have an outlet for their most cartoonish impulses, as well as feelings they used to force down out of social anxiety.
The show’s third season saw them dealing with some surprisingly real issues in their friendship, in particular the anxiety that Troy might outgrow Abed or tire of being the sidekick to a man of such great vision. The alleged “fourth season” pretty much took a steaming, corn-flecked dump on Troy’s character and all the nuance of their relationship, although Glover and Pudi both turned in some seriously wonderful work in the body-switch episode, each nailing the other’s character (not like that) down to every physical quirk.
Sadly, Glover will only return for five episodes of the real fourth fifth season, leaving Abed to spend the remainder of the show patting his sternum forlornly and muttering darkly about Inspector Spacetime casting decisions. (CW)
Rory & Lorelai from Gilmore Girls
The Gilmore girls — of the small, idyllic town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut — were mother and daughter, but they were also the very bestest of best friends. Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Lorelai’s (Lauren Graham) bond was based around love, a healthy scepticism for those around them, take away pizza, coffee, and banter — so much banter. The dialogue in Gilmore Girls was fast-paced and loaded with all kinds of pop culture references (a trademark of creator Amy Sherman Palladino), but the show was fortunate to find two actresses such as Graham and Bledel, who could deliver it with such panache.
FYI: It’s actually very hard to find clips of Rory and Lorelai that aren’t accompanied by cheery, upbeat pop songs, so it was either this or Taylor Swift.
In the show, characters would often remark on the fact that Rory and Lorelai looked so similar, they could have been sisters. In fact, Lorelai was only 16 when she gave birth to Rory, the same age as Rory at the beginning of the show’s first season. This brought an interesting dynamic to their relationship, as Lorelai — while fanatically focused on making sure her daughter got a good education and stayed out of trouble with boys — often found herself facing similar life and relationship troubles to her young offspring.
Gilmore Girls was great for a lot of reasons — c’mon, this is the show that gave Melissa McCarthy her start — but best of all was the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. It was refreshing to see a TV teen and her mother treat one another like adults, joking around together and regarding eachother with amused, world-weary respect. In later seasons, the show found silly reasons to keep them apart (that whole business with the yacht), but they always came back together. Gilmore Girls was and still remains an instant mood-elevator, and you have Rory and Lorelai to thank for that. (AD)
Xander Harris & Willow Rosenberg from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Some platonic male-female friendships get dunked in chocolate and candy hearts because writers are lazy and viewers are suckers for sexual tension and makeouts. But the lifelong friendship between sweet, dorky Sunnydale High outcasts Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) oscillates between romantic and platonic over the course of Buffy’s seven seasons, and it never feels cheap. Creator Joss Whedon and his talented writing staff had enormous respect for the emotional depth of which only teenagers are capable, and recognised that when you’re 16, having a friend who’s known you for your whole life makes you feel far less weird and alone.
Their relationship survived the flashes of romantic entanglement for the same reason those entanglements happened in the first place — because of the depth and strength of their love, which just sometimes happened to make them want to mash faces.
Buffy was a show that indulged in ‘Power Of Love’ denouements and plot twists with a regularity you could set your watch by, but the sixth-season finale pulls it off in devastating fashion: Xander reminds Willow, a grief-mad, veiny-faced lesbian witch bent on destroying the world, that she’s still the same person who cried because she broke a crayon on the first day of kindergarten.
Willow: Is this the master plan? You’re gonna stop me by telling me you love me?
Xander: Well, I was gonna walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kind of cartoony.
Only a true best friend will stop you bringing about the witch-magic apocalypse with the power of love, and also do the Snoopy dance when you watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. (CW)
Alasdair Duncan is an author, freelance writer and video game-lover who has had work published in Crikey, The Drum, The Brag, Beat, Rip It Up, The Music Network, Rave Magazine, AXN Cult and Star Observer.
Caitlin Welsh is a freelance writer. She has written for The BRAG, Mess + Noise, FasterLouder, Cosmopolitan, TheVine, Beat, dB, X-Press, and Moshcam.