We’ve reached a saturation point in TV comedy with the “bearded best friend” character, as I’ve noted in some of my reviews. He’s that schlubby, awkward, often delusionally self-confident supporting male who is inspired by and almost totally derivative of the career and characters played by Zach Galifianakis (“Between Two Ferns”; “Bored to Death”; “The Hangover” movies). You know the BBF mainly by his hipster-geek thatch of facial hair.
Critics and reporters at this summer’s TV press tour asked some of this season’s bearded best friends if they felt like part of a trope. “I’m a chubby, bearded guy,” said John Gemberling, who plays the BBF on NBC’s “Marry Me.” “What can I do? . . . I didn’t always have a beard, but I found that I ended up getting more work with [it].”
Zack Pearlman, who has a supporting part on Fox’s “Mulaney” was asked what it takes to excel as a bearded best friend in this waning moment of bearded best friends. Pearlman listed two requirements: “Grow a beard,” he said. “And be a best friend.”
Here’s a guide to help viewers tell the difference:
1. John Gemberling as Gil on NBC’s “Marry Me”
BBF factor: Easily wounded by comments about his weight and general schlubbiness, but self-confidence quickly recovers. Always there in a Labrador-like way.
2. Henry Zebrowski as Stu on NBC’s “A to Z”
BBF factor: Ginger BBF. Hypersexual, socially inapprorpiate and yet remarkably successful with the ladies.
3. Nicolas Wright as David on ABC’s “Manhattan Love Story”
BBF factor: Okay, nearly disqualified for not being schlubby enough and for being a bearded brother of one of the main characters, but his dialogue in the pilot is pure BBF.
4. Zack Pearlman as Andre on Fox’s “Mulaney”
BBF factor: Another ginger BBF. Echoes of the immature trustafarian character played by Galifianakis in “The Hangover.”