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
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. For the most part 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.
- Subtly implied with the titular character in Naruto. According to some supplemental material for "Road to Ninja," Naruto is often alone when not on a mission and was overjoyed when Lee convinced the other guys to invite him to simply hang out.
- The Sentry from Marvel comics was often stated to be best friends with nearly every hero especially Reed Richards and the Hulk going so far as being the best man at the wedding of the former. Yet The Sentry never displays any real friendship with any of them and it is all talk.
- In the X-Men, Wolverine is close friends with Nightcrawler, who in turn has a close connection with Colossus. Yet despite frequently working together with the Fastball Special, Wolverine and Colossus aren't particularly close on their own.
- Similarly, Hal Jordan counted both Barry Allen and Oliver Queen as his best friends, yet the Flash and Green Arrow rarely team up.
- 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. (Ironically, this is because Rider Strong and Will Friedle were such good friends off-camera, they'd have trouble getting through any takes together without corpsing. Even in the aforementioned scene, it's pretty obvious that both actors are struggling not to corpse.)
- Invoked by Cory in Season 6 with regards to Angela. He makes a deliberate attempt to get to know Angela better, which she initially rebuffs (for a few reasons, the least of which being that Cory is Shawn's best friend). She eventually relents, and the two characters share quite a few one-on-one scenes throughout the season.
- Other one-on-one interactions almost never seen during the show: Cory/Jack, Cory/Rachel, Shawn/Rachel, Angela/Jack and Angela/Eric. Note that all of these relationships involve a character introduced late in the show's run - there simply wasn't as much time to explore potential relationships, especially since a lot of time had to be devoted to establishing the ones that did happen (primarily Eric/Jack, Shawn/Angela, Eric/Rachel, Jack/Rachel, Topanga/Angela, and Angela/Rachel). The gulf between the "old guard" characters and the newer characters actually became a plot point in "The War" and "Seven the Hard Way" in the seventh season.
- In a variant on this trope, Angela is the only character in the core group of students who never has any one-on-one interactions with Mr. Feeny. This is made all the more jarring when her father visits Pennbrook in one episode and immediately makes a beeline to him, asking for advice about his daughter.
- 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. This becomes less true as they become something like Platonic Life Partners later in the show.
- 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.
- You never see much of Abed and Britta together until Season 3, after Britta decides to be Abed's therapist.
- One episode in Season 5 points out that Jeff and Duncan, despite being the two characters that have known each other for the longest, don't really act like friends. The episode ends with them making a more concerted effort in their friendship.
- 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.
- Glee: The Glee club consider eachother family, however with up to and sometimes over 12 kids in the Glee club at any given time, it would be downright impossible to develop strong friendships between all the characters.
- Blaine Anderson never seemed to hang out with anybody in the club upon his arrival in Season 3. He mainly hung around with boyfriend Kurt at the start of the year, only expanding his relationships with others in the last half of the season. By Season 4, he becomes very good friends with Sam & Tina as well as having friendly moments with Artie, Brittany, Ryder, Jake and Marley.
- Considerng they're meant to be in the Unholy Trinity together with Santana, the characters of Brittany and Quinn never really hung out
- Rachel and Puck become this in Season 3, which seemed strange as the first two seasons had developed an odd but charming friendship between the pair
- 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.
- Happy Endings had an episode in which siblings-in-law Brad and Alex have the exact same problem as Robin and Marshall; in this instance their interaction is encouraged by Jane, Brad's wife/Alex's sister.
- 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 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.
- Star Trek: The Original Series probably intended Sulu and Chekov to be buddies. These two characters weren't too dissimilar in age and attitudes. However, both seem to be grouped together due to the fact that they both suffer from being the original series' most prominent satellite characters. In most cases, either got paired up with Uhura instead of together. Expanded Universe rectifies this somewhat. Chekov eventually becomes Sulu's first officer. Also, in Star Trek: Generations, Chekov is shown to know more of Sulu in his private life as he's the one to introduce Demora Sulu (Hikaru's daughter) to Kirk, who was surprised to learn that Sulu had a family, and at the beginning of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Sulu and Chekov are shown to have been hiking in Yosemite together. They also don't seem to have been a part of Kirk, Spock, and Bones's campsite.
- Parks and Recreation:
- There was Ann and April. Which turned out to be consistently premeditated by April, who hated Ann for being Andy's ex. When Ann tried some forced "bonding time" with April, it didn't turn out particularly well.
- Donna has this with Leslie of all people: of all the Parks and Rec staff, they have the least interactions total, and the least amount of scenes (although there was one episode focused on the Leslie-Donna relationship).
- The Big Bang Theory:
- When Howard and Amy are paired together on a scavanger hunt, they point out that they had never been alone together before. Amy also rarely interacts with Leonard or Raj.
- Likewise Bernadette rarely interacts with anyone other than Howard and the other two girls.
- In general, any girl/guy pairing on the show qualifies, except the three couples (Leonard/Penny, Sheldon/Amy, Howard/Bernadette) and the Odd Friendship Sheldon/Penny.
- 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.
- Despite being in the Fellowship of the Ring together, Legolas is never seen interacting with any of the Hobbits very much, even though two of them are very fond of Elves. Boromir has less interaction with Sam than the rest.
- The Heroes of Olympus follows the journey of seven separate POV characters, plus their occasional Sixth Ranger (mostly Nico). This trope was bound to happen, and it does: while most of the demigods develop significant friendships and/or romantic relationships with each other, Frank and Piper have the least interaction. Hazel and Jason are a close second. Piper and Hazel would count if not for their last-minute bonding in House of Hades.
- The Stark family in A Song of Ice and Fire gets separated and scattered across all corners of Westeros (and Essos), starting about a quarter-way into the first book in an incredibly long series of Doorstoppers. With such a large part of the story taking place with them extremely far away from each other, it becomes jarring to re-read the chapters in which they did interact.
- Within the Stark siblings, there is no present-day interaction between Sansa and Bran, and Rickon doesn't really have anything to do with anyone but Bran. Sansa and Jon have little interaction because Sansa looks down on him as a Literal Bastard, though Sansa starts remembering her brother fondly a while later when she's forced to act the part of a bastard herself.
- Tyrion and Jaime Lannister are very important figures in each others' backstories, but are separated early in the War of Five Kings and thus have very little chance to interact on the page, having only one scene together after a certain point. The HBO version futzes with the timeline in such a way as to give them more chances to interact in Season 4.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there's only really one scene where Ford and Trillian directly interact one-on-one (when they're in the Magrathean catalog with an unconscious Zaphod). Perhaps it's because they both tend to be more competent and less quirky than the other characters, and therefore can pretty much happily ignore each other.
- 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.
- Mostly averted in Dragon Age II, where various characters can be seen hanging out at each other's places, and there are even moments indicating that they have interactions with lesser characters (for instance, if you save the little elf girl from the serial killer in Act 1, she ends up joining the city guard under Aveline in Act 3.)
- 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.
- In Homestuck, Rose and Jade are seen interacting far less than any other pair of beta kids. This is probably because they are the only two who a) aren't a server-client pair, and b) neither one of them is John (who as the protagonist gets the most screen time — especially in the earlier acts — and gets to talk a lot to everybody regardless of server/client status).
- Game Grumps has a few examples, but due to the fact that all of the players hang out regularly off-camera, all of these examples are simply informed attributes until fleshed out farther.
- The first few episodes of Steam Rolled team up Ross and Barry less out of actual chemistry and more out of the fact that Ross's regular partner Danny was too busy being Arin's partner. It didn't help that Barry had been an entirely off-camera presence up until that point, and the only person to have established chemistry with him was no longer on the channel.
- Danny and Suzy have had almost no interaction within the channel itself, as Steam Rolled has a 4-player maximum and Danny is at the lowest priority of attendance due to being the host of two other shows on the channel. The only episode where they're both playing at the same time was only half the length of a normal episode.
- Barry and Suzy are the hosts of Table Flip entirely because of fan demands, and even the fan demands were entirely because they were the only two players without their own show to host.
- Valentine's Day 2014 was dedicated to this, with the Game Grumps episodes of the day starring Arin and Suzy and the Steam Train episode starring Danny and Barry. This is less significant, as these pairs have had a lot of on-camera interactions and are married/roommates respectively, but these were the first episodes to have the pairs on their own without being distracted by other groups.
- 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.
- Brian often has storylines with everyone in the main cast, except for Chris.
- 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, although Kenny claims that he did this out of pity because Cartman alienates everyone else.
- Arguably Cartman probably does have more interactions with Kenny than the other boys via Running Gags. Cartman likes to rip on Kenny for being poor, while Kenny's less righteous personality sometimes leads to him siding with Cartman's schemes or finding his Jerkass pranks Actually Pretty Funny.
- Cartman and Stan have a storyline in "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow." Cartman enjoys hanging out with just Stan without "stupid Kyle" around, but they don't seem to do it much.
- 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.
- Sonic Sat AM has a case affecting the Spotlight-Stealing Squad in that Sonic rarely interacted with Bunnie, 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:
- 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.
- The same sometimes applies for Applejack and Fluttershy. And to a lesser extent, Rainbow Dash and Rarity.
- Interestingly, the first season acted as something of a positive 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"). Compare the way Pinkie Pie asks to hang out with Rainbow Dash in "Griffon The Brush Off" with how she asks in "Too Many Pinkies".
- 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).
- Word of God acknowledged this trope in Futurama and would occasionally find ways to remedy it, be it hilariously awkward, like Kif trying to make small talk with Fry while facing certain doom in The Beast With a Billion Backs, or genuine like Hermes and Bender in Lethal Inspection.
- X-Men: Evolution:
- Among the main cast, Jean and Kurt and Scott and Kitty probably had the least interaction among the characters, which becomes oddly noticeable thanks to the fact that Scott and Jean and Scott and Kurt were close relationships, as was Kurt and Kitty and, to a down-played extreme, Kitty and Jean. The first few episodes teased the idea of Jean and Kurt flirting a bit and Kitty gushing over how attractive Scott is, but after that, neither interact one-on-one much (especially notable given Scott's big-brother like protectiveness over his team, Kitty's status as everyone's little sister, and Kitty briefly dating his rival Avalanche, meaning they had potential for him to play a few older brother tropes that he never touched upon with Kitty).
- Averted with Rogue and everyone, as Scott, Jean, Kitty, and Kurt all have unique dynamics with Rogue, and played straight with Evan and everyone, to the point he borders on being The Friend Nobody Likes before being written out.