Sitcoms aren’t shy about their underlying formula: take a protagonist who’s thoroughly average in every way, give her a colorful best friend, and set their pun-laden exchanges to a laugh track. Not all shows sink to those depths of formulaic cheesiness, but even the greatest ones know it’s hard to misstep with the one-two punch of a pair of strong characters made even better by the depth of their friendship. After the jump, check out our favorite sitcom besties and be sure to chime in with the the ones we missed in the comments.
Clarissa and Sam, Clarissa Explains It All
TV rarely dared to portray a guy and a girl as merely friends for some time, but it did it — and did it right — with Clarissa and Sam on the ’90s Nick classic Clarissa Explains It All. To be fair, they did go on one date, but it came more out of an innocent curiosity than anything romantic, and it ended terribly. Sam was your typical, go-with-the-flow teenage boy of the ’90s, with a most impressive haircut (check out the wave on that bad boy!), who checked Clarissa’s dramatic reactions to even the most minor daily disturbances. Plus, he always entered her room by climbing in on a ladder, which is pretty badass and, in retrospect, also kind of unsettling.
Classic Moment: BFFs in prison
Lindsay and Kim, Freaks and Geeks
Judd Apatow’s short-lived Freaks and Geeks did just about everything right, including the friendship that blossomed between brilliant-but-questioning teen Lindsay Weir and her new troublemaker friend Kim Kelly. Pretty, bossy, and a magnificent bitch, Kim wouldn’t stop bullying Lindsay for a while, but, slowly, the two became inseparable as they realized how much they needed each other — Lindsay’s stability and reassurance complementing Kim’s courage to break out of the mold. Of course, they also found in each other a much-needed break from the testosterone fest that was the rest of the freak posse.
Classic Moment: Dinner at the Kellys’
JD and Turk, Scrubs
A precursor to Community‘s Troy and Abed, Scrubs doctors JD and Turk popularized the over-the-top bromance (sorry, “guy love“). The two were perpetual seven-year-olds, which made for a lot of funny gags, until the show spent its final seasons forcing the friends to grow up and, you know, make room for their actual significant others. This development resulted in more tension than fun times in the relationship, but even at their most profoundly troubled, the BFFs managed to make us crack up with their trademark silliness.
Classic Moment: Multi-ethnic Siamese doctor
Kevin and Paul, The Wonder Years
Kevin and Paul were, in many ways, perfect friends: two boys who were inseparable through childhood but had to feel the strain of growing up to be very different people. As Kevin became cooler and more sure of himself, Paul stalled somewhat, wrestling with his nerdiness, intelligence, and allergies to almost everything. They eventually went to different colleges (Paul to Harvard, like all true TV nerds) and grew apart, but we give the show props for playing that friendship out as honest and complicated as any real one.
Classic Moment: The most boring phone call of all time
Daria and Jane, Daria
Where Freaks and Geeks made outcast culture accessible and tapped into the high school reject in all of us, Daria made no compromises in drawing the line between the in- and out-crowds and firmly planting its roots in the latter. But that’s not a bad thing, because it gave us Daria and Jane, two misanthropic, monotone teens who defined themselves around their friendship. Where Jane was lively and artistic, Daria was cynical and biting, and together they hung on just long enough to survive the suburban wasteland in which they resided.
Classic Moment: “What if the town blew away?”
Lucy and Ethel, I Love Lucy
Lucy and Ethel were two of the most fun best friends of all time and are still the gold standard for TV’s female friendships. Perpetually scheming and getting caught and fighting and making up, they felt real precisely because they were so imperfect. If you haven’t already seen it, their friendship song and dance — the icing on the cake of an already wonderful duo — is required viewing.
Classic Moment: The candy factory (duh!)
Joey and Chandler, Friends
It’s hard to make a list of TV’s most memorable friends without including Friends. While some of the characters were boring (Rachel) or whiny (Ross), we’ll admit the show had its moments. Turns out that most of those moments can be traced back to Joey and Chandler, the lovable airhead who popularized “How you doin’?” and the sarcastic roommate who had to put up with his silly antics. But despite their Odd Couple vibe, Chandler loved every minute of it, and so did we.
Classic Moment: Matching reclining chairs
Laverne and Shirley, Laverne and Shirley
Roommates and best friends living in Milwaukee, Laverne and Shirley were two ladies on the perpetual search for Mr. Right, but were also, in many ways, totally content having each other. Like Lucy and Ethel, they couldn’t help but find trouble around almost every corner. When hard times hit, however, from the death of a boyfriend to a pregnancy scare, there was nothing that the other couldn’t fix — especially when she came bearing Laverne’s favorite drink, Pepsi and milk. We aren’t big on knocking something until we try it, but we’re not sure even our best friend could convince us to try that bizarre concoction.
Classic Moment: Three-minute supermarket shopping spree
Jerry and George, Seinfeld
Seinfeld had Jerry swimming in a sea of everyday absurdities, and his best friend, George (or should we say “Art Vandelay“) rarely helped. George was a lovably hapless loser, cursed with bad luck and always digging himself deeper into his debacles. Jerry may not have been the most supportive best friend, but it’s not like George was looking for a shoulder to cry on. Shit would happen, and then Jerry and George would talk it out it over breakfast at the diner. Sounds like friendship to us!
Classic Moment: Reporter thinks Jerry and George are a gay couple