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The Friends Who Rarely Hang
An Limited Social Circle cast has two main characters who never have storylines together.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-02-27 07:10:44 sponsor: thewriter (last reply: 2013-08-29 00:11:43)

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A series is shown to have an ensemble cast with a Limited Social Circle group of friends as its main characters. Naturally an ensemble cast allows for several different smaller pairings within the larger grouping. This mixing and matching allows for the audience to see the interconnectivity of each of the characters' lives on one another. It also allows for different storylines to showcase how one character may relate to another by giving them their own subplot, even if its just for an episode or two.

But then there are those two characters within the same group of friends who almost never seem to hang out. When the group (who are almost always True Companions) is all sitting around on The Couch in their Social Semi-Circle, these two friends will converse and talk with one another, and may even talk about funny things they've done in the past together, revealing how well they actually know each other, but on-screen, to the actual audience, they never have plots together or seem to do anything with each other. They claim to be best of friends, but in practice they don't spend time with one another. This is usually due to the writers being stumped on what to do with the two characters when they're alone together because they lack a certain chemistry. Maybe it's because of the way that the two characters are crafted in that they are too dissimilar from each other to be plausible Those Two Guys, Heterosexual Life-Partners, or Love Interest, but not so different that they could make an interesting Odd Couple, Vitriolic Best Buds, or just Foils in general.

Alternatively, maybe these two characters don't interact because they are too similar. Having two characters that are essentially the same could be rather boring to make a plot from because they'll have similar responses to certain situations instead of creating entertaining conflict for the audience to watch.

This trope seems particularly relevant for early seasons of a TV show, whereas by later seasons the writers are more willing to try (and exhaust) all combinations of characters.

Instances of this trope can be especially detrimental if one of more characters become a Spotlight-Stealing Squad, and as a result only the cast members they usually interact with are utilized as foils while those they failed to gain chemistry with are ultimately Demoted to Extra due to not having enough relation to the usual recurring cast.

It's only in TV-land that people with full-time jobs (be it as a professional or as a housewife) can hang out together all the time. In real life, you have to actively make time for that.

See also Satellite Character, for when a character is designed to interact with only one cast member or fraction in particular.

Examples

Live-Action TV
  • Community
    • Shirley and Troy have never really had plots with just the two of them. Yvette-Nicole Brown pointed this out more than once and she says that she is eager to have an adventure with Donald Glover's character.
    • Season Four finally has Shirley and Troy have a B-Plot together.
    • Shirley and Jeff intentionally invoke this because it was established in their first episode together that they were really toxic to one another. This is brought to light in again in season 2 where the two almost conspired to get Chang imprisoned for the rest of his life. The third season episode "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" had a Jeff and Shirley pairing that seemed to resolve their issues and later in the season the two spend an episode together without resulting in them becoming horrible people.
    • Also Abed and Pierce haven't spent too much time together, but this seems to be at least partially intentional on Abed's end because, as Abed puts it, as a character, he doesn't find Pierce all that compelling.
    • In Season 1's Social Psychology, Abed lampshades the lack of plotlines between him and Annie using Phoebe and Chandler as an example. Although this is somewhat of a parody of the trope seeing as this episode was only the fourth in the entire series.
  • Friends
    • The show has Chandler and Phoebe who rarely had plotlines together due to their personalities.
    • Also, despite being brother and sister, Ross and Monica rarely had stories with just the two of them after Monica begins dating Chandler. This is most probably due to the fact that they knew each other well having grown up together so there really wasn't much of a place you could take their relationship.
  • Invoked in How I Met Your Mother that had an episode where Robin and Marshall hung out solely because they realized that they (supposedly) never hung out together.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dennis and Charlie rarely have storylines together without Mac or Frank acting as an intermediary between the two. Averted by Charlie and Dee whose personalities you would think would lead to this, but according to Word of God they actually got many scenes together because Dee's actress was the only one able to be in a scene with Charlie's antics without cracking up.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Dog" from Season 3, for one of the first times George and Elaine have to interact without Jerry as a buffer, and they realize that they have nothing in common. They manage to overcome their awkwardness only by gossipping about Jerry, but that quickly grows old.
    • In later seasons George and Elaine have a number of storylines featuring just the two of them.
  • On the The Dick Van Dyke Show Laura and Richie have very little contact with each other despite being mother and son. It's so bad that there's a joke that the two never talk, although they do... on occasion.
  • Rimmer and the Cat almost never interacted in the early seasons of Red Dwarf: Rimmer didn't think of the Cat as a person, and the Cat, before he got more domesticated later on, had no interest in a man who couldn't feed him.
  • The O.C. has Ryan and Summer, and Seth and Marissa. This is largely due to the fact that their personalities clash, and they mostly have scenes with other people. Interestingly enough, the friendship of Seth/Summer/Ryan/Marissa works out pretty well.
  • Eric and Jackie barely had any storylines with only the two of them in That '70s Show. While Jackie started out as The Friend Nobody Likes, eventually the entire gang warmed up to her, and she eventually shared storylines with pretty much all of them... except for Eric, who kept wanting to have nothing to do with her throughout the series.
  • On Rules of Engagement Russell and Jennifer don't have plot with just the two of them until the seventh and final season.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer Anya and Tara had barely any close personal interaction despite hanging out together for years in the Scooby Gang and their love interests being best friends with each other, possibly due to their vividly contrasting personalities.

Literature
  • In all of the novels of Jane Austen, there is no scene where two male characters are alone together without a woman present. Austen didn't want to speculate on how men behaved on their own.
    • There is actually one exception to the Jane Austen rule: there's a scene between Sir Thomas and his son Tom early in Mansfield Park, where they discuss Tom's debts.

Web Comics
  • Piro and Largo from Megatokyo, while initially they were together most of the time, as the time went on , their storylines started do diverge greatly, with Largo's focusing more on Being "The Great Teacher Largo", random shenanigans, fighitng zombies a building f34rb0ts, piro's went to the exploration of relationships, comparing the reality of it when compared to fiction, dealing with his emotional baggage and previous relationship with Miho, and just dealing with everyday's life, to the point they rarely talked to each other, and when they did they were basically having two different conversations on two diferent worlds, however recently seems like this trend is getting reversed as recent strips are basically HAMMERING Largo's world existance right into Piro's face, basically forcing him to deal(and interact) with Largo's side of the plot.

Western Animation
  • Teen Titans has episodes that pair in some way each of the Titans with another member, with the exception of Beast Boy and Robin.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Eight Simple Rules For Buying My Teenage Daughter", while Meg is babysitting Stewie, he lampshades that the two generally don't interact much in an awkward attempt at making conversation.
    • Lampshaded again in "And Then There Were Fewer" the party of guests divide into couples to search the mansion. Peter makes groups, among them choosing Dr Hartman and Seamus since they may be interesting as a new chemistry.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph lampshades the fact she never got to go on a journey with Zuko, unlike everyone else.
  • In South Park, the relationship between Cartman and Stan and between Kyle and Kenny is never really developed as compared to relationships between Cartman and Kyle or Kyle and Stan. Honestly, though, Kenny doesn't have too many plots tying him too closely with any of the other boys in the group.
  • Regarding a case affecting Spotlight-Stealing Squad, Sonic rarely interacted with Bunnie in Sonic Satam, while Sally replaced Rotor as his confidant and foil, making them more this. As such the two ended up Demoted to Extra in Season Two. This is also evident in the Archie comic series, albeit to a lesser degree.
  • Most of the "Steam Team" in Thomas the Tank Engine have had an episode together within the long run. Edward and Emily have had very little interaction however. Edward also rarely interacts with Toby, likely due to similarities in character (and even being Flanderized in a similar manner).
  • Par some of the feature length specials, Sandy is rarely involved in the antics going on at the Krusty Krab in SpongeBob SquarePants, so is not seen interacting with Mr Krabs or Squidward much individually, and is rarely placed against Plankton.
  • Pildit and Spildit in The Dreamstone, to the point they are never even in a scene together, something that can seem somewhat odd given they are supposedly cousins.
  • Most of the Looney Tunes cast have had a short together, sometimes leading to unique dynamics, however, due to some being director specific, a few key stars have not interacted. Special "all star" projects such as the live action movies and The Bugs Bunny Show remedied a few of these.
  • In "The Looney Tunes Show", Bugs and Tina barely interacted in the show and when they do interact it was brief. There hasn't been an episode where it focuses on them together although their Distaff Counterparts, Daffy and Lola,do.

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