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?