Having exhibited promise in supporting roles, former Upright Citizens Brigade castmates Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham have created their own sitcom vehicle, “Best Friends Forever,” exploring the seemingly relevant topic of what happens to a pair of “BFFs” when one has a man in her life and the other doesn’t. Yet if networks are often guilty of being too easily wooed by high-concept pitches, there’s also such a thing as too low. Although the leads are appealing, this nondescript NBC comedy spins on a familiar third-wheel premise more suited to indie-feature territory than to surviving a TV season.
In the opening moments, Jessica (St. Clair) gets served with divorce papers, and in a weak moment, agrees to come back to stay with best pal Lennon (Parham) in Brooklyn. Only Lennon is living with her boyfriend, Joe (Luka Jones, another UCB graduate), and having a teary-eyed Jessica around becomes the ultimate impediment.
Granted, there’s something relatable about the close bond women enjoy and what a romantic relationship can do to upset that dynamic — including the tension, potentially, between said significant other and the friend.
As constructed, though, the series has no teeth, and a sensibility that’s slim even for cable. One could go in various directions with this sitcom set-up — screwball, even mildly dark — but instead, almost every choice is understated and bland. And given that Lennon and Joe, however geeky their relationship might be, appear to adore each other, it’s hard to envision how Jessica can hang around indefinitely, sniping and interfering, without the audience becoming more irritated with her than he is.
The only unorthodox wrinkle is also the show’s most contrived: a wildly precocious 9-year-old neighbor (Daija Owens) with whom Jessica keeps engaging in verbal tiffs. Beware of sitcoms resorting to adorable kids or dogs this early on.
In addition to “Bridesmaids,” St. Clair co-starred in “In the Motherhood,” while Parham stood out in another primetime also-ran, CBS’ “Accidentally on Purpose.” They’re to be forgiven, in essence, for taking matters into their own hands by trying to conjure a starring showcase for themselves. If that was the goal, the two could benefit from a ride with more accessories.
“Best Friends Forever” is just the latest in a string of NBC comedies built around female characters, but coming near season’s end — and rather improbably slated to follow “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” — there’s a certain spring-cleaning aspect to its scheduling.
In other words, if you’re interested in “BFF,” better watch ASAP.