If you haven’t already watched the pilot for Best Friends Forever, which has been streaming online for the last week, I doubt you were planning on tuning in a week from tonight at 8:30 when it airs on NBC. Please read the following sentence very carefully: You should watch and watch it hard. Don’t have it on in the background whilst cutting onions because your lachrymal glands will become irritated and tears will obstruct your viewing. Watch it like you already watch your favorite comedies because Best Friends Forever might joins those ranks. I’m not exaggerating when I say, Best Friends Forever is the funniest and most fully realized sitcom pilot in over six years.
I will temper this statement a little (but only a little, don’t make me temper it more because I WILL NOT) by acknowledging comedy pilots generally stink. There has to be boatloads more exposition than would ever be found in a sitcom episode because people like to feel comfortable with the character before they laugh with a show. All of the unavoidable who’s that—where are they—what’s there thing (or thang) of pilots takes away from precious joke making time. Add in the fact that they’re written before the show is cast and the writers understand the comic voice of the actors, and it’s surprising if they can evoke even a couple chuckles. This was the case for most of the present day leaders in sitcomery – including but not limited to Happy Endings, Community, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock – who all had uneven albeit promising first episodes that were nowhere near indicative of the future quality of the shows. The last really great one was How I Met Your Mother all the way back in 2006 and it’s been varying degrees of fineness since.
Best Friends Forever bucks this trend – it bucks the fuck out of this trend. The writing is so sharp and economical that it’s able to establish the universe without losing sight of being funny. Take the absolute masterpiece of a first scene:
In the span of 1 minute and 24 seconds you get a sense of who each of these characters are, the nature of their relationships, how they speak to one another, the fundamental conflict of the series, and a bunch of laughs. They revealed more about what the show is going to be like in that brief scene than any of the year’s other new comedies did with their first five episodes. I could easily pick any scene from the rest of the pilot to display how they trenchantly unveil more and more about these characters and their world but I don’t want to hinder your initial viewing.
Improv is generally given too much credit when it comes to sitcoms’ irreverent non-equators and punchlines; however, with Best Friends Forever writers/creators/stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair use their background performing at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre to inform their scripting of the rhythms and flow of how friends talk. The impact of this is multiplied by the fact that the two are actual, real-life best friends (presumably forevers). In an interview with Elle, the duo revealed that they tape-record themselves improvising as the basis for scenes, which imbues the show with a rare naturalism that is able to both feel genuine and not preclude silliness. It’s how the show can pull-off both calling a non-manicured pubic region “fur shorts” and later a heartfelt group-hugging scene in the bathroom (let’s just say my lachrymal glands weren’t irritated but it sure looked like they were).
There are those pilots like Arrested Development or How I Met Your Mother that knock you on your ass with how wholly different they feel from any comedy that came before it – Best Friends Forever is not that. No, this pilot is closer to that of Cheers in its flawless execution of the standard sitcom pilot everyone else tries to do. It’s the same beats just hit cleaner and harder and funnier. There is no way to say for sure that Best Friends Forever will continue to be this good – a lot can happen when the show’s creators turn much of the heavy lifting over to their writing staff – but if I haven’t made it clear in the previous 739 words of fawning, it’s off to a truly wonderful start. However, considering their late March debut and aggravating lack of promotion, I’m scared we will never get to find out if it can maintain this level of great-funny-amazingness, so watch it next week, please. Thank you.