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Thursday, April 5, 2012

'Best Friends Forever' begins

NBC's newest comedy, premiering last night, is Best Friends Forever, which was created by its two female lead actresses. Jessica Black (Jessica St. Clair, Bridesmaids, Worst Week) is served divorce papers by her husband, so she runs home to seek comfort from her best friend, Lennon Walker (Lennon Parham, Funny or Die Presents..., Confessions of a Shopaholic). But Lennon has a live-in boyfriend now named Joe (Luka Jones), and soon, her priorities are split.

Best Friends Forever is an interesting set up. In most sitcoms, a visiting friend is in an annoyance who soon leaves. If a significant other enters into the picture and steals time away from close friends, a break up is imminent. The entire premise set up in the "Pilot" is exactly the opposite. The best friend is the one coming in and taking time away from the established significant other, and both opposing parties are here to stay.

Joe and Jessica seem to be about equally important to Lennon. While Jessica harks more from the past, since she hasn't been living nearby, Joe is Lennon's present. And Lennon is at ease with both, nurturing different parts of herself with each of them. They are complementary in her mind, and keeping them separate has worked out pretty well. Now, the worlds collide, and hilarity ensues.

Thankfully, Best Friends Forever doesn't harness itself to the cheapest, most expected stories. Jessica tries to push Joe out for only a short time in the "Pilot." Then she realizes the depth of Lennon's feelings for Joe, and that Joe is a good man. Immediately, there is a shift. This does not mean that Jessica and Joe are destined to be close pals anytime soon; they are completely different people, and not in an opposites-attract sort of way. Instead, they will learn to tolerate each other for the sake of Lennon.

So where does Best Friends Forever go from here? Jessica can't stay with Lennon and Joe forever, but she'll have to be close by. Will she begin dating again, while Lennon and Joe are adjusting to what being together in the long-term means? Or will the comedy focus more on the interactions between the three of them?

The three leads in Best Friends Forever are all very good. They each bring something different to the table, and their clashing chemistry is entertaining. They are joined by Rav (Stephen Schneider), a former love interest of Jessica's, who doesn't have a place in the larger group at the moment. Until he carves his niche, it's hard to see where he will fit in, other than as a short-term option for Jessica. The fifth cast member is Daija Owens as Queenetta, the young neighbor with a sharp wit. Kudos to Best Friends Forever for putting their token sass into the mouth of an adorable child. It feels like a fresh take on a sitcom staple. Which is an apt description for the show as a whole, too.

Most importantly, if the "Pilot" is anything to go by, Best Friends Forever is very funny. From blow up chairs, to big-boobed avatars, to impressions from Steel Magnolias, to bathroom confessions, joke after joke lands. Impressive for a first outing, which is tasked with setting up the entire story, not just defining a brand of humor. This episode does both.

Watch Best Friends Forever Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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