Best Friends Forever Recap: “Pilot”
Not many shows get the straight out the gate (or str8 out the g8) recap treatment so why am I writing this and why are you reading this? Sure, having three-for-three UCB leads (see: poet — know it) helps but we’re here mostly because the Best Friends Forever pilot was like weirdly awesome. I say weirdly because comedy pilots tend to stink like monster chili and I say awesome because it was awesome, I was in awe, I possessed some — if not a lot of — awe.
Admittedly, the show has a mundane premise — best friend moves in with other best friend and her boyfriend — but it works because the writing and performances are as genuine as they are hilarious. The show’s creators/writers/stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair are real-life best friends and the show is the manifestation of that relationship. If you followed their Twitter accounts last night like a nerd me, they revealed that many of the episode’s funny specifics — khaki ownership, Hugh Grant haircuts, loving Brigadoon — are facts about themselves. As a result, the characters feel as lived in as any who’ve been on television for years. Kudos also goes to Luka Jones, who had the tall order of replacing Adam Pally as Joe and brought an endearing big-lugness to the character that would’ve otherwise bordered on being a cliché slovenly oaf.
Still, it’s the writing that separates the pilot from really any network sitcom pilot in years. It is so sharp, so economical, so natural. They effortlessly establish the universe, leaving plenty of time for yuks and heart and heartfelt yuks. To highlight this, instead of full-on plot summary, I wanted to focus on three pivotal scenes in the episode:
Scene: Opening Videochat
This is the first scene of the series and its near perfect. In the first forty seconds, they establish so much without it feeling like they are. Primarily, with how Jess and Lenn talk, we learn the nature of their relationship and how comfortable they are with each other. The discussion of waxing and vaginas is not a cheap ploy meant for shock value; it’s silly and honest and also draws a divide with the show’s third lead, Joe, who is forced to shout his opinions from the background. In forty seconds, the show’s fundamental conflict is crystal clear and the game of the scene is in place so when Jess receives divorce papers, they heighten it and bring out some really funny bits (i.e. her ex-husband mailing the documents UPS 2-day ground, her breaking the papers). The scene ends with Joe trying to be supportive, offering up, “On the plus side Jess, you can put the fur shorts back on.” It was a funny line because he didn’t say it like a person trying to be funny but as a person unsure what his place in the relationship is. So in a minute and twenty seconds, the audience knows the show’s essence and what is going to make it funny. More is conveyed about the characters and their universe in this preface than in the first five episodes of New Girl, Up All Night, 2 Broke Girls, or Whitney.
Scene: Bar/Introduction of Rav
I love this scene because what potentially could’ve weighed down the episode, was handled deftly by being somewhat avoided. Rav sits down wanting to apologize and Jess has already moved on, creating a fun tension. The two characters obviously have history but it’s better to show than tell. Yes, it’s revealed that Rav tried to prevent Jess from getting married but it was more revealing to just see how the two interact. They argue for the entirety of the minute and a half and it’s very funny and beautifully contrasted with Lenn and Joe lovingly playing pool in the background. By including broad laughs, like the cutaway to Miami Ink or the long pause as the two watch Lenn mimic a walrus via nostril French fries, the scene never feels forced. Sitcom pilots are eternally plagued by the need to shoehorn exposition into dialogue; this scene shows how to do it without losing the comedy.
Scene: Bathroom Love
In a time where cynicism isn’t caught within 25 miles (the distance between Two and a Hale Men’s Malibu and Modern Family’s suburb LA) of quality sitcoms, the happy ending is a complicated beast. Often great episodes of Community become merely good ones because of how forced the group hug feels. Well, guys, this scene was real-deal touching. By not downplaying the drama throughout the episode — there was a great deal more screaming than the usual breezy sitcom pilot — this moment was wholly satisfying. All the while, there was this delicate dramatic/comedic balance, illustrated best by Lenn’s eyes starting to water at the absurdity of all the little details of their Medieval Times date (who wouldn’t want to marry a woman who eats three turkey legs on a first date!). Also, simply Jess awkwardly standing there brought a necessary silliness. It’s a scene you can easily imagine many shows messing up by playing it too comedy mask or tragedy mask. Parham and St. Clair’s improv background provided them with a gifted ear for naturalism, allowing them to pull off a tone unlike really any other show on television.
Distinct from most pilots, there is a strong sense of what BFF is going to be; however, there is less certainty over if it’s going to get to meet that potential. A six episode run in April isn’t the most heartening situation until you think back to April 2011 and the equally overlooked, equally as UCB-rooted Happy Endings or 2009 and the equally underrated, equally as UCB-rooted Parks & Recreation. The deck might be stacked against them but they have something in their favor very few shows have, a super great pilot.
What did you think? Is it your favorite show too? Did you cry at that bathroom scene? Not saying that I cried. Shut up, you cried. You’re the baby. See you next week — I’ll bring the scoops, you also bring the scoops, and we’ll have lots of scoops, yay.
Jesse David Fox’s new best friend forever is this pilot.