Marty McFly: Hey, Doc, we better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to 88.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in the time-travel classic film Back to the Future (1985)
The term may be recent, but TV has caught up fast with the closest of male friendships. Do you have a favourite? Here are mine.
It isn’t just any male friendship that has a company press statement denying both characters are gay and that they are in fact, “just good friends”. But then not just any bromance leads to regular cultural references in shows like Friends, Family Guy and Saturday Night Live. Since their introduction to Sesame Street in 1969, this muppet pair have been an inseparable double act, with Bernie the long-suffering straight man and Ernie the wacky funnyman. With many scenes set in their shared bedroom (and with Ernie even sharing Bert’s bed when he feels scared), and their bath habits well known to each other, the friendship is incredibly close. Ernie’s short concentration span, madcap theories and fondness for his “rubber duckie” provide a lot of the duo’s humour, as does the regular exasperation of the long suffering Bert. But for all the frustration, the unexciting Bert, with his love of pigeons and paperclips, is really fond of his maverick pal, and couldn’t manage without him. Even if he would get far more sleep.
In many ways, the definitive bromance. Going above and beyond the Richter Scale for traditional boundaries of male friendship, the medical duo share more than just the Sacred Heart Hospital workplace. Sharing feelings, pet names and countless in-jokes, their mutual love for each other is a longstanding joke to everyone else. This is summed up when two female interns do a mocking skit of their behaviour and end it by passionately kissing. Not to mention when Carla and Turk get back from their honeymoon. Turk and JD ecstatically run into each other’s arms and she wistfully says of her husband: “Maybe one day he will love me like that”. Unable to stay apart for any significant length of time, the friendship survives all possible challenges. JD kissing Carla, Turk’s competitive nature and his settling down with Carla, as well as occasional professional differences of opinion, only seem to strengthen the friendship. JD and his “brown bear” are high school sweethearts that have no interest in graduating.
Before creating Scrubs, sitcom guru Bill Lawrence helped to come up with a different angle of the close buddy friendship. Spin City told of the adventures of the fictional PR team behind a bumbling New York Mayor. Though Michael J Fox was the show’s star and lead character, the most hilarious moments tended to come from scenes between Chief of Staff Stuart and Head of Minority Affairs Carter. With Carter an erudite, stylish and charming black homosexual, and Stuart a sleazy womaniser who shoots from the proverbial hip, the dynamic spark jumped off the screen. As well as generating all kinds of laughs, the relationship even gained praise for its positive portrayal of a character being both black and confident of his sexuality, and how two such seemingly different characters in Carter and Stuart could become such genuinely close friends. Getting jealous and over protective of each other’s dating choices, and even sounding like an old married couple with all their bickering, they really are sitcom’s “Odd Couple”.
Amidst Jennifer Anniston’s haircuts, the Ross and Rachel storyline, Monica’s dreams of culinary recognition and Pheobe’s ever-peculiar familiar history, there was always Joey and Chandler’s friendship. Meeting after Joey answered Chandler’s advert looking for a flatmate, the pair soon embraced each other and became the closest of friends. Chandler may have been smarter, funnier and had the well-paid job that no one could quite name, but it was Joey who really brought the fun to the party. He may know how to bring a girl back to his flat, win a game of foosball (table football) and make the perfect sandwich, but it was his fierce loyalty and good humour through his acting struggles that made him so endearing. The fact that Joey knew exactly what Chandler looked like in the shower, was happy to wear his flatmate’s clothes and laugh at Chandler’s attempts at dating, makes the friendship all the sweeter.
What do you get if you throw an uptight, dull, history lover and a hedonistic DJ who is usually unemployed and flat broke? The “El Dude Brothers” of course! As much as Croydon’s favourite misfits are secretly relieved not to have the lifestyle of the other, they’d be lost without the reassurance their best friend provides. What makes it so much of it funny is the desperate lengths they will go to in order to hide all their insecurities from everyone else, but are happy to tell each other absolutely anything, no matter how bad it sounds. The fact that Jeremy actually slept with Mark’s original dream girl and eventual wife Sophie shows that though the friendship is rock solid, they do cross the line sometimes. But the madness is probably best summed up when both characters are hoping that their best friend was in fact the one that got Sophie pregnant, so as to avoid taking any parental responsibility. And with the eighth series out later this year, long may that madness continue.
Bret and Jermaine may only have been in 22 episodes, but the New Zealand digi-folk duo has more than made an imprint on the bromance scene. After all, there can’t be many friendships where the two friends spend quite so much time together. Flat broke and miles away from home in New York, the musical pair are inseparable. It’s just as well, as the two would be even worse off alone, or worse still, with their incompetent manager Murray, or obsessive fan Mel. As with all bromances, outside romantic influences do threaten to get in the way. The pair are initially delighted when they are offered the chance of a threesome with two hot girls, but dismayed when they realise the threesome involves the two of them and only one of the girls. To paraphrase the Bard himself, the course of true bromance never did run smooth.
With episode titles like “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” and “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire”, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is far from your traditional comedy. With seemingly no topic matter being off-limits, its irreverent and playful tone on controversial issues such as serial killers, abortion, capital punishment, paedophilia and terrorism, makes the show Seinfeld’s natural heir. So, no surprise then, that the conventional bromance has a twist, with three buddies instead of the regular two. Co-workers as well as friends, Dennis, Mac and Charlie blur all the rules of friendship as nothing can break it, not even Dennis sleeping with Charlie’s dreaming girl, or Charlie pretending to have cancer to get sympathy sex. No opinion is off limits, and however badly they sell each other out for money or a hot girl, they are still there as each other’s wingman. There’s no need to share sex secrets, Mac and Charlie are quite happy looking at the tapes Dennis secretly uses of his encounters. Not to mention the favourite angle he uses to position the camera and his scoring system out of three stars.
Now filming its fifth season, cult comedy Community has its own offering to the bromance arena, and a reminder of just what it can achieve. The nerdy and detached Abed is quite content to watch the action from the sidelines, until his friendship with Troy brings him more into the action. Indeed, the transformation of Troy from being a jock to becoming a geek could make a Hollywood storyline. The impromptu musical performances which usually end each episode are homage to their friendship, and just how comfortable they feel in each other’s company. So much so that during Halloween, and in costumes, Abed is even happy to tell Troy how good looking he is. Troy’s response: “I knew it!” Naïve Annie even gives up her long-held crush on Troy as she realises she could never compete with his affections for Abed. Someone really should tell Abed that’s not how a wingman is supposed to work!