Written by Standard Issue


Solid platonics

“This is not an invitation to scale bone mountain.” Sunday is National Friendship Day, which seems the perfect time to celebrate TV pals who embrace the platonic – rather than each other in a sexy way.

One bridge that will never be crossed: Martin and Saga. Photo: Carolina Romare/Filmlance International.

One bridge that will never be crossed: Martin and Saga. Photo: Carolina Romare/Filmlance International.

It’s the oldest trick in the TV book: get two characters you don’t really know what else to do with and make them a couple. You know, exactly what doesn’t happen in real life.

But some programmes get it right and ahead of National Friendship Day on Sunday, we’d like to celebrate their fortitude in the face of so much fan ‘shipping.

These pairings weren’t previously in a sexual relationship and aren’t ever going to be in one, and they’re not just two people from a group of chums the writers haven’t got round to making bang yet. They are friends. Who love each other. Bravo.

30 Rock's Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy. Photo: NBC.

Photo: NBC.

Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

Tina Fey always said these two would never be a couple and, perhaps to ram that point home (although it was also proper amusing), Jack repeatedly told Liz she was unattractive. And yet there remained a clamour to see the pair get it on.

And thank the hammer of Thor they didn’t, because in seven seasons, Liz’s boss went from being her tormentor to her mentor to her closest ally and, finally, her dearest friend. All of which was incredibly charming and laugh-out-loud funny. Not least their final scene together in which he gave her that lecture on the meaning of love:

Jack: Lemon, there is a word, a once special word that’s been tragically co-opted by the romance industrial complex, and I would hate to use it here and have you think that I am suggesting any type of romantic sentiment, let alone an invitation to scale bone mountain. It’s a word that comes to us by way of the old high German ‘luba’ from the Latin ‘lubera’ meaning ‘to be pleasing’. So I’m going to use this word to describe how I feel about you in the way that our Anglo-Saxon forefathers would have used it in reference to, say, ‘hot bowl of bear meat’ or ‘your enemy’s skull split’.

Liz: I love you too.

Don Draper and Peggy Olson, Mad Men

Much like Liz and Jack, this relationship started off as a mentor/mentee thing and grew to become the beating heart of the series. Because while Don might have put his hands on a lot of women during the eight years Mad Men was on screen, there’s nothing as heart-swelling as the rare times he touches Peggy.

One of the most realistic things about their friendship is how often they fight and how genuinely upsetting it is for both of them, and indeed the viewer, when it happens.

There’s so many truly gorgeous Don and Peggy moments it’s near impossible to choose a favourite: when he visits her in hospital; when she hands in her notice; almost everything that happens in The Suitcase; when they dance to My Way.

So, here’s Don trying to persuade his protege to join SCDP with him, which is as lovely a scene they share as any. *sobs*

Saga Norén and Martin Rhode, The Bridge

Probably the most surprising thing about this relationship is that it stays platonic, given Saga’s attitude to casual sex and Martin’s inability to keep it in his pants.

But the writers knew what they were doing when they restricted this to an above-the-waist relationship. Saga had never really had a friend before and Martin had never really respected women, so that pay-off at the end of the first series, when he thanked her for her help and she hugged him was so much more rewarding than anything that would’ve happened south of the belt line. *applause*

Photo: Channel 4.

Photo: Channel 4.

Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner, Spaced

Ah Spaced. While Tim and Daisy started the series pretending to be a couple, it seemed unlikely their relationship would ever stray into that territory. And it didn’t (even if they did share a bit of a moment, once).

Because while it seemed, on the surface, the flat-sharers would be perfect for each other, real life tells us that that’s often not enough. Sometimes it’s best to just sit on the same beanbag and watch Robot Wars. Hoorah.

Doggett and Boo, Orange Is The New Black

If we were compiling a list of the TV’s best odd couples, these two would end up on the list too. Doggett is a former meth-head, bible-thumping homophobe and Boo is a well-read and wise-cracking lesbian, but when circumstances force them together they form a friendship that’s among the most touching things in the prison series.

OK, Doggett isn’t into women, but it would be easy to make her ‘gay for the stay’, something the writers have done with other characters and resisted so far here. Long may that continue.

Alma Garret and Whitney Ellsworth, Deadwood

Yes, of course, any dirt-poor gold panner would take one look at Molly Parker’s society widow and fall a little bit in love with her, but this weird and wonderful relationship is one of the best examples of platonic friendship TV’s ever given us.

Photo: HBO.

Photo: HBO.

The clipped manners of the 19th century means so much about their so-obviously-mismatched relationship remains unsaid, even if the rest of the town can’t stop talking about it. But the joke’s on everyone else, who can but dream of such a love and respect-filled union.

Bernard Black and Fran Katzenjammer, Black Books

Come on, really, who would want to hang around with Bernard Black? He’s rude, he’s selfish, he’s got poor hygiene. Enter Fran, his not-without-her-own-foibles best friend whom – despite his pretence at being an island – he’s so dependent on he once ran into a glass door trying to get to her.

If there was ever a time these two were going to get together, it was long before the series started (they once had sex, while drunk, and it’s long forgotten; in Bernard’s case, literally).

Besides, he should be so lucky.

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Written by Standard Issue