Some days everything just goes wrong, and you need to complain about your spouse, your family, your co-workers, your kids. So obviously you can’t talk to any of them. Who do you need to talk to? You need to talk to someone who always listens, who is always on your side (even before they hear any other sides), who is there with some reassurance, a hug, maybe even a beer or a glass of wine. You need your best friend.
But best friends have complex lives of their own, and they’re not always available. So what do you do when you’re missing your best friend? You keep calm and watch some British TV, particularly those programs which focus on the types of “besties” friendships we all find hard to describe but absolutely necessary to have.
Absolutely Fabulous is the gold standard of programs featuring best friends who are so into each other, they don’t notice that they are each absolutely abhorrent to everyone else. But Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) don’t really need anyone else in their lives, because they have each other, and have had, since the swinging 1960s, when they came of drug-addled age together. Somehow they have managed to claw their way into success, Edina (Eddie) as the head of her own PR firm (perfect, with her love of celebrities, couture, and all things surface) and Patsy as an editor at a fashion magazine, but their careers are really secondary to their first love: hanging out with one another.
While watching this series you might feel badly for anyone who gets within firing range of the women’s caustic remarks (particularly Eddie’s daughter, Saffron, who lives with her and regularly has to act, along with Eddie’s mother, as somewhat of a caretaker or at least the voice of common sense), but you never really feel badly for Edina and Patsy, even at their most self-deluded, or self-anesthetized with drugs and alcohol, or both. It may be the most co-dependent relationship you’ve ever seen, but you’ll still envy it a bit. They may not have inner peace or beautiful souls, but by damn, they have each other.
(And if the entire 39-episode series isn’t enough for you, you can also treat yourself to a feature film!)
Okay, technically, Gavin & Stacey probably counts as a relationship sitcom. It is, after all, about a woman from Wales (Stacey, played by Joanna Page) and a man from Essex (Gavin, played by Mathew Horne) who meet at their respective jobs (over the phone), pursue a long-distance relationship, and decide they are madly in love after one meeting.
But the true glories of this program are the friendships: the one between Gavin and Smithy (played by James Corden, who also co-wrote the series), the one between Stacey and Nessa (played by Ruth Jones, who wrote the program with Corden; are you still with me?), and even the one between Gavin and Stacey. They may be in love, but they’re also friends: when still separated by most of southern England, they talk and giggle on the phone at their respective workplaces like teenagers.
But nothing will remind you that it’s time to call your best bud and have a night out like listening to Gavin and Smithy greet one another with their childhood nicknames: Gavlar! Smithsta! (Not to mention their secret childhood secret handshake/chant.)
Purists might quibble with me that Jeeves & Wooster (based on the novels by P.G. Wodehouse) is a show about an employee and his employer; a valet and his gentleman; the mastermind and his stooge.
But I say it’s a show about friendship. From the very moment the inimitable Jeeves (played by Stephen Fry) shows up in Bertie Wooster’s (Hugh Laurie) flat, offering him his top-secret hangover cure, Jeeves does for Bertie what all best friends, down through the ages, have done for each other: he makes him feel better. But that’s not all he does: he also makes all the tea (thank heavens; in one episode we see Bertie reading Mrs. Beeton’s household manual to try and make himself a cuppa, and it’s so painful), keep Bertie’s wardrobe in order (with an iron hand; most episodes feature him taking obvious issue with one or another of Bertie’s sartorial choices), and oh yes, rescues his boss from all manner of poorly conceived hijinks and, even more frighteningly, the threat of marriage to any number of highborn and eligible bachelorettes.
We should all be so lucky to have such a friend, whether we have to employ them or not.
So. What programs have I missed? What are your favorite UK shows that feature fabulous friendships?