The Wry Friend

The wry friend plays a similar role to the wry outsider (see Spike and Crowley): he or she comments ironically or bemusedly on the behavior of the main characters. However, unlike the outsider, the wry friend does not represent the edge of society/civilization--rather he or she represents the middle-of-the-road.

Wry friends are not particularly moral or immoral. They are not strange. They don't stand out. Unlike the outsider, who scorns the hero and heroine  for trying to fit in (think Christian Slater's role in Heathers), the wry friend points out when and how far the hero and heroine stray from the middle, which, by the way, the wry friend considers a good place to be.

The wry friend's basic philosophy could be summed up as "Boy, you folks are weird." And since we, the viewers, sometimes feel weird and sometimes think other people are weirder, we know why the wry friend is saying what he is saying.

Three Wry Friends
Pete (Joe Murray) in Dharma & Greg
Pete (above image) is Greg's lazy lawyer friend who finds the whole Dharma-Greg soap opera amusing in the extreme. He tries instant love himself with Dharma's friend Jane, but he isn't cut out for it (most people aren't) and goes back to shaking his head at not only the antics of his friend and friend's wife but the eccentricities of their in-laws.
Mark Addy is seated.
D.C. Boyle (Mark Addy) in Thin Blue Line 
Thin Blue Line is my favorite Rowan Atkinson production. He gets to combine physical performance, as with Mr. Bean, with wry commentary, as with Blackadder. The role-playing sequences in Thin Blue Line are some of the funniest clips I've ever watched.

Mark Addy appears in the second season of Thin Blue Line as D.C. Boyle. Unlike the incredibly funny, malaprop-er D.C. Grim (David Haig), Boyle is not particularly invested in arguing with Inspector Fowler (Rowan Atkinson) or defending himself. His morals are indifferent at best. He will side with Fowler's subordinates as smoothly as he will side with Grim. Since he is more intelligent than Grim (like everyone at the station), he rarely gets pulled completely into Grim's antics. He also doesn't get upset when D.C. Maggie Habib (Mina Anwar) tells him off. He shrugs his shoulders, makes a wry remark, and keeps going.

Judge Watkins (John McMartin) in Coach
Judge Watkins, who appears in the second season episode of Coach "Poodle Springs" (one of the funniest episodes on record), is not anyone's friend. But I love his function in this episode. Unlike the grumpy Hayden Fox, confused Dauber, high strung Judy and her mother, and peacemaker Christine, Judge Watkins goes along with whatever is happening in the moment. He and Hayden do have a moment of perfect agreement since both men are outsiders to the event (the poodle's possible death) yet insiders to the participants. They both take a rather sardonic, jaundiced view of everyone else's reactions.
Unlike Coach Fox, however, Judge Watkins leaves the impression that he is always like this: watching the upheavals of others not with chew-the-scenery overreaction (Coach Fox) or outsider coolness (Crowley) but with droll bemusement. And when he questions why anyone would (1) get so upset about a dog that isn't even dead; (2) enjoy airport gift shops; (3) call his brother in prison during a meal, he echoes the mainstream, non-eccentric part of all of us.

No comments: