I like TV and [some people say] I watch a lot of TV. And I really love talking to people about TV. I like a lot of different types of shows, some dramas and lots of comedies. And, FINE, plenty of procedurals, some that you might consider “old-people shows.” (I only watch one of the NCIS shows, okay?! Just one of them! I’m not old!)
But the show I have raved about more than any other this year is Playing House on USA.
Playing House is a half-hour sitcom about two best friends. Written by the show’s stars (Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham), this show is the best portrayal of friendship I have ever seen. St. Clair and Parham have fantastic chemistry and a solid grasp on what makes female friendships tick. And the rhythm of their banter is so natural that nobody’s ever surprised to learn they are long-time best friends in real life, too.
Also? IT IS HILARIOUS.
What’s it about? In short, one friend is pregnant and finds out her husband is a cheating weirdo. So her best friend quits her fancy job in China, moves back to their small hometown in Connecticut, and moves in to help raise the baby. Strangely enough after a description like that, hijinks ensue. I laugh so hard every time I watch it, but honestly, it really does have a lot to teach us about friendship.
10 Things I Learned about Friendship from Playing House
1. Real friends are well aware of each other’s craziness.
The pilot opens with Emma giving a presentation to her Chinese clients, while a text and phone call from Maggie remind her to wrap it up and get to the airport. Even though they’re separated by miles, they know each other so well that Maggie is well aware that workaholic Emma is running late and Emma knows without a doubt that the sound she heard through the phone was headstrong Maggie using power tools to assemble a crib in the middle of the night.
Then when Emma finds Maggie using power tools in the middle of the night AGAIN, she talks her off the ledge (okay, a ladder) and then rounds up friends to help complete the anxious mama-to-be’s to-do list.
2. Sometimes real friends love you so much it hurts.
Yeah, this is in the show. Face-punching. And hedgehog cupcakes. Are you sold yet?
3. Real friends are familiar with your comfort zone – and will push you right out of it.
Whether it’s forcing your friend to watch Silence of the Lambs (a funny scene in episode 2, but definitely NOT on my personal list of good friend characteristics!!), encouraging her to stand up to her ex-husband, or helping her through that last push in childbirth, good friends will stretch you.
4. Real friends will get in your space – or your tiny playhouse.
At various times in the first season, Emma and Maggie track down the other one and find her hiding (and crying) in the backyard playhouse. And even though it’s awkward and uncomfortable (and possibly dangerous since raccoons are holed up in the house at one point), the friends climb right in with each other to talk and encourage and listen and comfort. It’s a beautiful metaphor and also a funny visual. Because, you know, big people in a little house…it’s funny!
5. Real friends will go the extra mile when you need them.
The premise of the show is a big gesture of love, really. Emma quits her job to move across the globe the the hometown she’s successfully avoided for years, just to help Maggie raise her baby. But every episode shows the friends helping each other out, proving that the big gesture was not out of character for these friends at all.
6. Real friends will fight for you.
When Maggie goes to the hospital to deliver the baby, Emma is right beside her. She knows her role as Maggie’s support system, cheerleader and advocate, and she will fight anyone who gets in their way.
And when Maggie decides she wants an epidural after all, Emma is determined to make it happen:
M: Is that okay?
E: Oh, you’re gonna have whatever you want. I don’t care. I’ll go Shirley MacLaine on these people.
M: Shirley MacLaine? From Steele Magnolias?
E: No. Terms of Endearment, honey. Terms! Of! Endearment!
7. Real friends will make you face the truth.
Poor Maggie. Who could be strong in the face of four pounds of delicious cheese, man? Who?
8. Real friends are committed.
Whether that means commitment to being honest about hairstyles, to sharing the burden of raising a newborn, or to a bit, friends will COMMIT. Even if that bit brings out the Bosephus in a girl…
9. Real friends know what you’re capable of – even when you don’t.
You guys. This show is so stinking funny, with two weirdos and their weird families and weird friends acting like crazy people in a way that feels totally real and normal. But in the episode where Maggie finally delivers her baby? I SOBBED LIKE THAT BABY. Seriously. You need to watch it. Now. Go! I’m not even kidding.
10. Real friends make sweet, sweet harmony.
Well, really. Can you honestly resist a little bit of Kenny Loggins? Of course not.
If I still haven’t convinced you that Playing House is “totes kewl” (it makes sense if you’ve watched the show!) and must-see TV, then you probably need to watch the entire first season to get right. Lucky for you, USA is playing all 10 episodes this Saturday before the second season begins on Tuesday, August 4. Or you can watch on the USA website or on Hulu.