Flocking Together

It’s no secret that I love television. It’s also well-established that many of my favorite shows are those that revolve around a group or pair of friends: How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, Glee I could go on, but I might start embarrassing myself.

These are also the shows that make people worry about the current state of their social lives. If we don’t have a BFF who can read our minds like Will, brunch with us every Sunday like Miranda or Samantha, or guess what we bought at the store on a Saturday morning a la Chandler and Joey in my most favorite episode of Friends (“The One with the Embryos”), then we’re not complete.

On Friday, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed about these TV shows, which he labels “Flock Comedies.” TV is apparently moving away from the family sitcom and going the buddy route. Why? According to Brooks, the friendly focus of these shows is actually a response to changes in American society. “With people delaying marriage and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes,” he says.

But that’s not all these shows are good for, Brooks adds. Because when those once-young people eventually do get married, they make room for baby (and work) by sacrificing friendship. So flock comedies “appeal to people who want to watch fictional characters enjoying the long, uninterrupted bonding experiences that they no longer have time or energy for.”

I think Brooks has it right, but I see it from a different angle. The reason I watch buddy comedies is not to see what I don’t have (even if that realization is a side effect). Quite the opposite. I watch to remember what I have had. Living across the hall from your best friends may not be totally realistic after college, but watching a bit of banter on Friends reminds me of my own Monica-Phoebe-Rachel caliber friendships. When I started watching How I Met Your Mother, I was convinced the writers must be living inside my head. The gang had such familiar conversations—the absurd arguments and ridiculous theories—in their MacLaren’s booth that I was immediately transported back to my college days. It’s comforting to relive that every Monday night.

So I’d say the reason flock comedies are successful is because the relationships can be so genuine, not because they give us a mini-escape into a life we can’t have.

Also because Phoebe and Chandler are brilliant.

What is your favorite flock comedy? Why do you think they are so popular?

14 Comments

Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Old Days

14 responses to “Flocking Together

  1. I have stopped by a couple of times and this post really hit a cord with me.

    Agree on both the rationales.

    Nice post.

  2. Lorrie Paige

    I only have two favorites:

    thirtysomething (sic). I read psychologists have suggested this TV show to their clients for them to learn more about relationships. thirtysomething has a lot of angst in it, but it’s a brilliant show with a wonderful cast. Unfortunately, it seems to be the forgotten buddy TV show.

    Sex and the City.

    I’ve never watched any of the other shows you mentioned probably because I find most sitcoms to be poorly written and just not funny, so I prefer dramas instead. Maybe I’ll watch Friends one of these days though, to find out why so many people love that show so much.

    For me, a show has to have something more going for it than just a show about friends. Plus, with cable, I’m sure there must be dozens of shows on TV about friendships. I just don’t have the time to watch that much TV.

    I’m a sucker for character study buddy films!! :))

    I agree with David Brooks’ comments about why “Flock Comedies” are so popular.

  3. Suzannah

    I think in modern society….as the perimeters of family is being re-defined, friendships is easily understood….we all enjoy our friendships….they are the powered sugar, whipped cream, & candy sprinkles of life!!!

  4. I’m with you on How I Met Your Mother. When the show started, I related to it because I felt like a female Ted – watching everyone around me getting married while going on terrible, yet hilarious, dates in hopes of finding the right person. But I love how many different angles of friendship they manage to cover – things like introducing a new friend to the group (Robin), break-ups within the group (Lily dumping Marshall early in the series), friends working together (when Marshall goes to work with Barney) and so forth. You could probably start another friendship blog based entirely on the lessons from HIMYM.

    One of my favorite newer shows about friendship is Community. I love that the central group of characters are all kind of rejected on their own, but together they’re an awesome group that seems to be envied by people on campus.

    Since you’ve got me thinking about this, I realized that I watch a lot of shows where the main characters don’t really have friends, like Mad Men, House or Dexter.

  5. Adelle

    I hereby challenge you to a Friends trivia contest!! I am the person you want to be your lifeline should you ever be on some “Who Wants to be a Millionaire Friends-watcher” hybrid show.

    I foresee snowy winter days/nights with some wine and a marathon!!

    BTW, my fave episode is the quiz show when they compete for the apt/chicken.

    • Husband

      I know I’m a day late here, but I wouldn’t go there Adelle. Unless you’ve watched each epsiode 87 times, like Rachel has.

      • Usually I do not read post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very feocrd me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very great post.

  6. Noel

    Actually, my sister and I are were talking one time about how people on TV don’t really seem to have very many friends and that actually seems kind of nice. I love Gilmore Girls, and the main characters primarily had just one friend (besides each other). Their lives don’t seem so hectic the way real life is. They just have one friend (or maybe a few) that they love to hang out with and are always available. Seems much easier than all my various groups of friends, acquaintances that can never seem to get together b/c of our crazy schedules.

  7. Sarah

    I love HIMYM too, but I think my favorite right now is The Big Bang Theory, because the characters remind me of my group of friends (my husband was a physics major)

  8. Virginia

    I love Psych. I’m not sure if it’s a “flock” comedy, since it’s about two BFFs, but they are hilarious and always there for each other.

    My friends and I can always relate our dating/ relationship situation back to SATC. It sounds crazy, but they covered all of the bases… it was realistic and fun, it was nice to see women being supportive. There were so many reasons that show was great! It just seems relevant, which ties in with Suzannah’s point about families- I agree that there’s not one typical family structure now. If you write about a nuclear family a lot of people will not relate. Everyone knows what it’s like to have friends. Maybe the new shows are just a reflection of changes in society.

  9. Suzannah

    Oh how can this post pass…without remembering the “Facts of Life”…..you take the good , you take the bad ,take ‘em both and there you have the facts of life!!!
    If that was a flock comedy , it will always be my favorite:-)…….

  10. Emily

    I like Desperate Housewives…take away all the out-there drama and you have neighbors who seem to have to time to have weekly poker parties. I would love to live in a neighborhood like Wisteria Lane (murderers and crazy people excluded). They really love each other and are ultimately there for each other.
    As for Friends episodes, I honestly don’t know if I can pick just one favorite! I do love when Pheobe is wearing Santa Claus’ pants as maternity pants! And any episode with Chandler’s crazy roommate, Eddie!

  11. Pingback: Adult Cliques: Are They Even Possible? | MWF Seeking BFF

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