David Brooks has an insightful column today about the changing nature of friendship in American life. Ever since Seinfeld, the most popular comedies on television have been about a bunch of friends “hanging out.” Brooks writes:
For most of television history, sitcoms have been about families. From “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to “All in the Family” to “The Cosby Show,” TV shows have generally featured husbands and wives, parents and kids.
But over the past several years, things have shifted. Today’s shows are often about groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene.
As Neal Gabler wrote in The Los Angeles Times this week,
“Over the last 20 years, beginning with ‘Seinfeld,’ and moving on through ‘Friends,’ ‘Sex and the City’ and more recently ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘Cougartown’ and at least a half-dozen other shows, including this season’s newbies ‘Raising Hope’ and ‘Better With You,’ television has become a kind of friendship machine dispensing groups of people in constant and intimate contact with one another.”
Brooks then wonders if these kind of “flocking friendships”–in real life– are more satisfying than traditional one-on-one friendships.
I guess there's always going to be an exception, but I don't see a mention here of the top new comedy on television, “Modern Family,” which is, of course, all about family.