The Friends Who Never Hang
"This is really important to me, Abed. Could you please go as my friend? My really good friend?" Abed:
"Well, I didn't realize we were really good friends. I figured we were more like Chandler and Phoebe;
they never really had stories together. ...Sure, I'll do it, Chandler."
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
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. To be fair, 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.
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. See also Satellite Character
, for when a character is designed to interact with only one cast member or fraction in particular.
Anime and Manga
- Rei and Minako in the Sailor Moon anime barely interact, aside from Rei occasionally getting exasperated with Minako. This is in stark contrast with the manga and live action, as Rei and Minako in those versions are Vitriolic Best Buds and rivals.
- Boy Meets World: In season 5, when Shawn, Jack, and Eric become roommates in the Pennbrook apartment, there are very few scenes with Shawn and Eric together. This gets lampshaded in a late season 6 episode when they do have a conversation and bring up their time living together.
- The page quote is from 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. They had many more plotlines together in later seasons.
- Shirley and Troy didn't have a B-Plot together until the fourth season. Yvette-Nicole Brown (Shirley's actress) noted this in the DVD commmentary for a season three episode where Troy gave a heartfelt goodbye to Shirley, although the two never spent time together on-screen. They also rarely spoke to one another directly even when the group was all together around the study room.
- 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 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.
- 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, he doesn't find Pierce all that compelling as a character.
- In season 2 Jeff tries to throw Abed a Pulp Fiction themed party for his birthday but is derailed by a special "My Dinner With Andre" dinner that Abed set up for just the two of them. Abed's reasoning for the dinner was that it seemed that he and Jeff hadn't spent much time together in their second year as opposed to their first year when they had more shenanigans with each other.
- Joey and Monica, which is ironic since they were meant to be the shows Official Couple.
- Chandler is most subject to this trope, having few stories with Phoebe for the entire series (due to their personalities), and Rachel from Season 5 onwards, with the cheesecake episode in season 7 being the only exception.. Early seasons have him almost exclusively paired with Joey and sometimes Ross. From Season 5 he's has storylines with Monica or is back with Joey. Somewhat explained in the commentary when the writers talk about the three most iconic relationships of the show (Ross/Rachel, Chandler/Monica and Chandler/Joey) and Chandler is tied up in two of them. Being part of two such significant dynamics meant Chandler's stories were more exclusive.
- 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.
- In early seasons Joey and Rachel played it straight but in the second half of the show they developed a much more significant relationship. Again makes sense as it coincided with the Chandler/Monica relationship and before then Joey/Chandler and Rachel/Monica were the two most common storyline pairs. The Chandler/Monica pairing up opened a obvious niche for them.
- Ross and Phoebe is also an example, especially in early seasons. Later in the series they hang out more often, especially in season 9, while still being kind of Vitriolic Best Buds. She does genuinely try to console him with a hug in the finale when Rachel decides to board the plane to Paris.
- Invoked in How I Met Your Mother that had an episode where Robin and Marshall hung out solely because they realized that they had never hung out one-on-one together.
- Its 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 a plot with just the two of them until the seventh and final season.
- There was an earlier episode in which this was lampshaded between Jeff and Jennifer who realized they never hung out until they go shopping for Megyn (in fact, Jeff does not even know Jennifer's last name). This is further lampshaded by Russell who admitted he rarely hung out with her too, mostly because he would always end up looking at her chest.
- 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.
- 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. Mansfield Park is the exception, which scenes between Sir Thomas and his son Tom where they discuss Tom's debts, Sir Thomas and his younger son Edmund talking about the theatre, Edmund's arguments with Tom over said theatre, etc.
- In Tales of Symphonia, while most pairs of main characters receive at least a few Z-skits of dialogue with each other, there is precious little interaction between Raine and Presea.
- 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.
- Teen Titans has episodes that pair in some way each of the Titans with another member, with the exception of Beast Boy and Robin.
- Family Guy:
- In the 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.
- Mostly because everyone else came back with new skills, a girlfriend, and/or character growth, and she wanted some of that too.
- 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.
- Played With: Cartman and Kenny generally don't interact much, but in one surprisingly poignant episode, Cartman admits that since Stan and Kyle were best friends, he always considered Kenny his best friend. Another episode reveals that they had declared themselves "Best Friends Forever" years before, though more realistically, Kenny claims that he did this out of pity because Cartman alienates everyone else.
- While there have at least been a few exceptions between the four boys, Kenny and Butters barely interact at all. This amusingly came into play in the episode "Going Native", where it is revealed Kenny is actually Butters' favorite friend and the two finally share an entire plot together.
- 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.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
- We rarely see Rarity and Rainbow Dash spend time together on-screen, let alone know what their relationship as friends are like. At most, they have a few snarky conversations and that's it. This is rather notable as this series mostly revolves around The Power of Friendship and True Companions.
- "Sonic Rainboom" was in fact an episode shared between the two characters; the plot barely required them to have a single conversation together.
- Fluttershy and Applejack also don't interact as much individually outside a few brief scenes (eg. the beginning of "Keep Calm and Flutter On").
- Pinkie Pie and Rarity rarely interact outside of their larger group; there's only one episode (Putting Your Hoof Down) that shows them together without the rest of the cast, and the show notably avoids trying to explain why they're hanging out.
- Interestingly, the first season acted as something of a Deconstruction of this, since the six ponies were implied to be acquaintances before but were only brought together due to their new found friendship with Twilight Sparkle, thus leading to many of them being put into situations together and gaining new bonds (eg. Applejack and Rarity in "Look Before You Sleep").
- In Scooby-Doo, the usual way the group divides is Fred and Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby, and Velma with either. This is lampshaded in one episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, where the group decides to split in a different way for once, with Fred splitting off with Shaggy, only to find they have absolutely no chemistry as a pair.
Fred: So... did you see the game last night?
Shaggy: Uh, I'm not really into sports.
Fred: Oh, right...
Shaggy: Wanna go get something to eat?
Fred: No thanks, I'm not hungry.
Fred: From now on let's split up like we normally do.
- On Recess, Gus and Vince hardly interact with each other, compared to them with the other members of the Recess Gang. The same goes with Mikey and Gretchen.
- With the exception of the Mickey/Donald/Goofy teamup, the stars of the Classic Disney Shorts barely interact with each other and characters like Chip N Dale and Humphrey the Bear are exclusively seen with Donald. Shorts on House of Mouse remedy this a bit by having Mickey share the screen with characters like Huey, Dewey and Louie ("Mickey's Remedy"), Chip 'n' Dale ("Mickey's Mixed Nuts") and Jose Carioca ("Mickey Tries to Cook").
- Minnie and Daisy were also more or less Satellite Characters to Mickey and Donald respectively until later revivals gave them more individual roles (the two in particular now spend several roles alongside each other).