Ethel Mertz, I Love Lucy
Ethel is the greatest best friend of all the great best friends, and I’ll tell you why. Being friends with Lucy Ricardo cannot be easy — she is conniving, manipulative and scatterbrained, always coming up with one more plan to a) make more money b) impress the girls in the club or c) get in the show. Her best attempts at all of the above usually require one or more confidants and, despite careful planning, usually end in disaster. Who is the main confidant to Lucy’s famously hair-brained schemes? Ethel, of course. And while Ethel is guilty of willingly getting in on the ground floor to some of the most catastrophic plans (selling Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing, buying an entire side of beef for their secret meat locker, getting jobs at Kramer’s Candy Kitchen…) she was just as often coerced. Still, Lucy and Ethel love each other like sisters and can never keep from talking to each other for more than, well, a single episode. A woman with the patience, strength and courage to embarrass herself and drive her husband batty in the lifelong effort to keep her friend happy is the best display of fictional friendship I have ever seen.
Cory Matthews, Boy Meets World
Arguably, Cory has some undeniable best friend flaws. He’s often busy worrying about his First World Problems while his best friend Shawn is wondering which of his parents is going to walk out on him next or how many brothers he’s actually has (does anyone else remember the random brother from the trailer park before Jack showed up seasons later, or is it just me?) Also, he basically had a serious girlfriend from the time he was about 12 until the rest of eternity, meaning that his attention was always somewhat divided. But, still Cory would have done anything for Shawn and put his neck on the line numerous times to insure his safety — from letting Shawn crash at his place to encouraging him to go to college and basically saving him from an incredibly creepy cult that one time (although Mr. Turner’s never-resolved motorcycle crash probably had more to do with that; but I digress). If it weren’t for Cory’s good-guy influence, Shawn would’ve been lost to the trailer park life he so desperately wanted to escape many times. What’s the mark of a superb best friend but bringing out the very best in you — and believing in you even when you don’t believe in yourself?
Lane Kim, Gilmore Girls
I love Rory, you love Rory, we all love Rory. But, an incredible best friend she is not. Constantly wrapped up in her studies, or various dramas of the boyfriend, grandparent, dad (and yes, even occasionally mom) variety, Rory didn’t have much time to really be there for Lane. Especially after she moved away from tiny Stars Hollow and into the fancy ivy covered halls of Yale, Lane was often stuck dealing with her tyrannical mother, her first major break up, musical aspirations, being kicked out of her house (sure, Rory let Lane stay in her dorm for a while, but she also kicked her out before she had anywhere else to go), a young marriage and becoming pregnant — with twins — the first time she ever had sex. That’s a lot for one girl to get through without a best friend by her side but what makes Lane even more amazing is that she never held a grudge against Rory for her essentially leaving her behind. Whenever she needed a shoulder to cry on Lane was there without any bad feelings no judgments and applauded every single one of Rory’s successes without any hint of jealously. Lane might just go down as the most understanding fictional friend in history.
Landry Clarke, Friday Night Lights
When star quarterback Jason Street suffered an injury that ended his football career forever, unsuspecting second stringer Matt Saracen became the Dilon Panthers’ only hope of making playoffs that year. Of course, this was the catalyst for change that affected every single character on the show, but I want to focus on one in particular — Saracen’s best friend, Landry Clarke. Landry was just a sweet, nerdy kid before Matt became QB1 and, for all intents and purposes, stayed exactly the same throughout the entire series. He stuck with Matt through his extreme family drama (see: absentee mother, emotionally distant military father, amnesiac grandmother) and even more extreme football drama (see: losing HELLA games at the beginning of his first season, falling for the coach’s daughter, being benched for a newcomer named, unfortunately, Voodoo) while also dealing with his fair share of craziness — including trying desperately to make Crucifictorious happen, becoming a slightly untalented football player himself and, lest we forget, accidentally murdering a potential rapist and having his cop father cover it up while being loved, ignored, loved and ignored again by Miss Tyra Collette, who also most definitely reaped the benefits of Landry’s super sweet nature. Landry is the kind of guy you can always count on to make sure you don’t get too big for your britches, and I think most, if not all of us, could use that quality in a bestie.
Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
Does your best friend ever call you a beautiful tropical fish? Do you wish they did? Enter Leslie Knope. Leslie has been called a steamroller by her best friend Ann Perkins, and we’ve seen it time and time again — Leslie always does exactly what she thinks is best for her friends, regardless of what they say they actually want. And while anyone can see why that would be annoying, Leslie is also the kind of friend that you could call anytime, for any reason, and she’ll be there with lots of waffles and whipped cream to drown your sorrows in, already formulating a plan for bigger and better things to look forward to. She never forgets her friends’ birthdays (well, expect Jerry’s but she did totally try to make up for it with a disastrous Sweet 16 party) and always makes special little gifts for them (who can forget Tom’s “Baller Time” pocket watch?) If you think a best friend is someone to back your new entrepreneurial venture or spend her entire Valentine’s Day trying to find you a date or just makes sure that you don’t ever have to talk to people about anything, you can surely appreciate the epicness of Leslie. She just genuinely cares about the people in her life and will do anything to support and better them; the perfect recipe for a great best friend.