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Best Friend Manual

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Howard: [to Penny] Try telling him it's a non-optional social convention.
Penny: What?
Howard: Just do it!
Penny: [to Sheldon] It's a non-optional social convention.
Sheldon: Oh! Fair enough.
Howard: He came with a manual.

Plots would move more efficiently if difficult people had manuals. Convenient humanoid manuals, like best friends who know all the intricacies of their personality and are looking to clear the conflict up for the sake of their friend.


Often packaged as a convenient one-liner in response to a confused/abused expression or exclamation, the Manual Moment is a dialog device. It's a short, essential insight into understanding why someone is suddenly wanting to act out a chapter of "How to Deal with Difficult People," given by someone who can get inside their head.

Its three strengths are that it establishes a meaningful relationship between the Manual and the "Blinking VCR character"; it provides characterization for the VCR; and most importantly, it skips over the messy "coming to an understanding" process that would otherwise require awkward frustrated encounters and use up the time slot.

The Manual, usually a friend, ex-lover or family member, has already leveled up in the area of understanding that particular model of VCR. They're ready to shepherd the n00b around the traps and over-reactions into greener pastures with a simple and unintuitive insight. Compare Cloudcuckoolander's Minder.



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     Anime and Manga 
  • Gakuen Heaven sets characters up in neat pairs, so you don't have to reach far for the Manual. Omi/Saionji, King/Hideaki...
  • In Haikyuu!!, Akaashi has a list of weaknesses for his partner Bokuto, along with measures to counter them depending on the situation.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Kurama/Hiei after the gate of betrayal, to bystander Yuusuke.
    Yuusuke: You're a hell of an actor. Not everyone can pretend to laugh at their dying friends.
    Hiei: Friends are a crutch for the weak. I only saved you because I might need you later.
    Kurama: That's his way of saying 'You're welcome'. You will learn.
  • The Takumi-kun series has Akaike show up and dispense advice concerning Gii for Takumi.

  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has the mother let slip that Andie is the first girl Ben ever brought home. It's not exactly advice, but it's a "head's up" insight that lets her see the context.

  • Kill time or die trying
    • James acts as this for Dylan, and there is also a real manual which is circulated by email amongst new Warplings.
      James: You don't just wake him up! There's a procedure.
    • This trope is also lampshaded for Nathan.
      Brad: Isn't there a manual for him?
      James: It's in Chinese. Hence Chan.
  • Journey to Chaos: Eric spends the early parts of A Mage's Power studying his teammates' manuals because he likes puzzles. Thus, by the end of the adventure he's able to translate for others. For instance, when Tiza says, "You better do a good job healing (the patient) because I'm gonna beat them up later" what she really means to say is "I want (the patient) to be at full strength when I challenge them to an honorable duel".
  • Dr. Watson, in his own way, is this for Sherlock Holmes, which makes this Older Than Radio. He doesn't necessarily help other characters understand the Great Detective better, but he does help the readers understand him better.

     Live Action TV 
  • House
    • Much of the dialog is devoted to troubleshooting. They're not really manuals when throwing out conjectures, but House's ex-girlfriend and Wilson, and later his former team, have enough experience to strip him down sometimes.
    • House, being a character inspired by Sherlock Holmes (with his manipulative tendencies dialed way past eleven) owns a manual for every major character, patient of the week, clinic patient, and passer-by on the show.
      Dr. Chase: Do you have to do that?
      House: You mean cheapen everyone's attempt at a human moment by identifying the real calculations that go into it?
      Chase: Yeah.
      House: Yeah, I do.
  • Bones:
    • Angela often provides tips on dealing with the title character.
    • Booth is also a heartwarming reversal of sorts, being a personal interpreter for the socially incapable Temperance to successfully interact with the outside world.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley solicits advice from Willow on how best to approach the Slayer.
  • Frequently used in The Big Bang Theory regarding Sheldon - most often to Penny, but sometimes from Leonard to the other guys who aren't quite so used to him (as evidenced by the page quote). Justified in this case as Sheldon really did come with a manual, in the form of The Roommate Agreement which Leonard had to sign. It's full of various rules for their interactions, most of which let Leonard know not to do X thing that will annoy Sheldon sufficiently to make him unbearable.
    • Sheldon's mom also acts as a manual on occasion, since she's the only person who can handle Sheldon when he's acting particularly crazy.
    • Averted in later seasons, as Penny's finally gotten smart enough to just roll with Sheldon's quirks and not ask why.
      Leonard: [in regards to Sheldon's latest freak out] Aren't you going to ask?
      Penny: What is this, my first day?
  • Scrubs: Not just with the main Heterosexual Life-Partners JD and Turk, but other characters either start out close enough for this, or develop it as the series progresses.
  • Alex Eames is this for her police partner, Robert Goren, in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. She's the only person, possibly in his entire life, who cares for and understands him enough to really comprehend how he ticks. Goren, for his part, recognizes that he's "an acquired taste"; unlike some examples of the trope, he's actively aware that Eames functions in this capacity for him, and is grateful for her help.
  • Saturday Night Live has a skit with Reese Witherspoon and Leslie Jones. Reese Witherspoon helps Leslie Jones get through tough situations as a helpful white friend and vice versa.
  • The Office (US): As the Dunder-Mifflin crew become more chummy, the more socially adept characters like Jim and Pam help the more socially inept characters like Michael, Dwight, or Andy deal with stuff like heartbreak, bad relations, or PR disasters.
  • On The Tudors, Charles Brandon sometimes performs this role, advising other members of Henry VIII's court how best to deal with the unpredictable monarch. In particular, he attempts to help Anne of Cleves adjust to English customs when she arrives to become queen #4; the marriage doesn't work out, but she later thanks him for his advice and tutelage. Overlaps with Truth in Television, since Brandon was the real Henry VIII's most trusted friend.

    Video Games 
  • While their suggestions never come to pass, Lancer's two dads in Chapter 2 of Deltarune both show how much they care for Lancer by giving another character advice on how to deal with them. The first time, Rouxls Kaard is told that Lancer is unwell, and immediately suggests burping him and giving him ginger ale. The second time, the King suggests that if he ever cries, to bounce him up and down like a basketball; apparently, he likes it.

    Western Animation 
  • Young Justice (2010): Kaldur explains Wally's disbelief in magic to the rest of The Team. Kaldur is himself a practitioner, and he and Wally have known each other for years.