There are plenty of obviously healthy friendships on TV, and plenty of obviously unhealthy ones. Sometimes on TV, it's clear that one friend is taking advantage of the other, or that there's little equality between them. Other times, though, a TV friendship is toxic in more subtle ways. In these relationships, it may seem like the two characters are supporting one another, even if they really aren't. Usually, these friendships are pretty one-sided.
Viewers are willing to ignore these one-sided relationships a lot of the time because the person doing all the taking is the show's main character. After all, it's their drama we're wrapped up in, and the supporting character is there to support. Still, like in life, these characters should have rich lives of their own. Sometimes they do, but most of the time they're not just there to help — they're in toxic TV friendships.
Everyone on Gossip Girl is at least a little toxic, but the friendship between Serena and Blair is at the root of everything. On paper, they seem like to well-off socialites who support one another and root for each other's growth. Occasionally, that's actually the case.
More often, though, the two of them are too wrapped up in their own drama to ever have a friendship that's truly caring. Blair and Serena both have a number of other toxic relationships over the course of the show's run, but their friendship, and the constant jealousy and backstabbing that comes with it, is plenty toxic on its own.
Barb is so nice to Nancy. There's a reason she became a hashtag after her untimely death during the first season of Stranger Things. She deserved better than the quick death that she got at the hands of the Demogorgon.
Thankfully, Nancy does eventually feel some regret over the way she treated her friend in the days leading up to her death. Still, while Barb was alive, Nancy was willing to toss her aside whenever a pretty boy came along, and that's just wrong. No friend deserves to be treated that way, especially not one as nice and smart as Barb was.
Paris Gellar is a singular television character worth celebrating, but that doesn't mean that she and Rory have the best friendship on TV. In fact, quite the opposite. For a while, Paris is jealous and suspicious of Rory, in part because Rory is a threat to Paris's status as the smartest person in Chilton.
The two eventually become best friends, but between Rory's constant obsession with her own drama and the men in her life and Paris's apathy about that drama, the two have an occasionally dysfunctional relationship. They might be better off without one another, but we're pretty sure that's never going to happen.
Paula is one of the sweetest TV characters ever created, and Rebecca doesn't deserve her. From the very start of the series, she's willing to help Rebecca as she attempts to woo the man of her dreams. The only problem is that Rebecca never even pretends to do anything for her. Paula is almost like a surrogate mother for Rebecca, but the two of them rarely have anything close to a healthy relationship.
Eventually, this gets brought up explicitly on the show. Before that revelation, though, it would be all too easy to focus on Rebecca's journey and ignore Paula's — even if doing that would be a mistake.
For most of Girls' run, it felt like a show about four millennial friends trying to find themselves in Brooklyn. Eventually, though, all of them realize that they might not be friends at all. Most of the time, they seem like they can barely tolerate one another, and there are few scenes in the show's run where all four just hang out.
That's in sharp contrast to shows like Sex and the City, where the women were equally self-centered, but also seemed to genuinely enjoy one another's company. On Girls, the friendships were never really there at all because nobody was interested in developing them.
Rachel is a very needy person. Monica Geller is an independent New York woman when Rachel waltzes into her life. Quite quickly, Rachel becomes very dependent on Monica, and it's years before Friends gives the two of them any kind of equality.
Most of the time, Rachel's reliance on Monica is played for laughs, and it is often quite amusing. Even so, it's hard to ignore the way Rachel seems content to simply take from Monica instead of doing things on her own. Rachel eventually gets there, but Monica never gets the respect she deserves for getting her through some dark times.
This is one of the oldest toxic friendships in existence, but that doesn't make it any better. On Sherlock, some effort is made to show how grateful Sherlock is to have John as his friend. For the most part, though, their relationship is the same as it always was. Sherlock belittles John's intelligence and fails to consider how his friend might be feeling at every turn.
Nevertheless, John continues to help his friend whenever and however he can. The two of them may have plenty of exciting adventures, but their friendship is far from healthy. Instead of helping one another, they simply enable each other.
One of the best stories on The Office is the way brutish, insensitive Michael Scott slowly grows into someone more sensitive and innocent. One of the last steps on his journey is the realization that his friend Todd Packer is a truly terrible influence. He's rude, insensitive, and not very funny.
Before that, though, Michael thinks Packer's hilarious. Whenever he shows up on the show, he and Michael have a great time together, even as it's clear that everyone else is made uncomfortable by his presence. Packer sucks, and when Michael realizes that, we realize how far he's come since we first met him.
In general, Veronica tries to be a good person. She fights for people that most of those around her choose to ignore. When it comes to her own relationships, though, Veronica can be a bit of a mess. That's definitely true of her friendship with Wallace. Although she charms him, she constantly asks him for favors, and never bothers to explain why she needs them.
Veronica keeps too many secrets to be a good friend, but Wallace remains loyal for a long time. He's the supportive friend that she so desperately needs, even if she in no way deserves him.
It's hard when your girlfriend cheats on you with your best friend. It's even harder when the best friend gets her pregnant. Remarkably, Finn and Puck eventually manage to work through the fact that Puck did all of this. Because it's Glee, they sing a song and realize why they were friends to begin with.
In reality, things would likely be a little bit more complicated. Puck's anger issues and Finn's insecurity should have driven a permanent wedge between them. Instead, they continued to remain friends until Finn's death. Finn was a good person, and in general Puck really wasn't, but on Glee, that barely mattered.
On The Vampire Diaries, being a vampire makes everything more complicated. That includes the relationship between Elena and Caroline, who grew up best friends, but dealt with quite a bit of drama in their adult lives. That drama came for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it was about dating an ex. Other times, it had more to do with saving the world.
Whatever the reasons might have been, these two caused more issues for each other than it was worth. Both Caroline and Elena would likely have been happier without one another, but The Vampire Diaries may have been slightly worse as a result.
Look, everyone on Beverly Hills 90210 has moments when they are truly terrible. Even so, there's no real excuse for sleeping with your best friend's boyfriend, and that's exactly what Kelly does to Brenda. For most of the series, the two are good friends, but Brenda and Dylan were the closest thing the show had to true love.
Of course, the cheating is Dylan's fault, but that doesn't excuse Kelly, who knew how this would hurt her friend and did it anyway. Dylan was a bad boyfriend, but Kelly was also a bad friend, and one fact does not excuse the other in the slightest.
Lorelai is one of those people that could be on this list at least a dozen times, but her relationship with Sookie is certainly one of the more toxic. Lorelai never really seems at all interested in what Sookie, her best friend, is doing with her life. Instead, she inevitably steers their conversations towards her own romantic drama.
It's true, of course, that Lorelai is a very charming person in many ways. Even so, that doesn't mean she should walk over a friend who is there to support her whenever she needs it, even though she has children of her own to take care of.
For much of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow is the embodiment of goodness and light. Eventually, that changes, but during those early seasons, Xander is taking advantage of her almost constantly. Even though he knows that Willow's in love with him, he won't shut up about how much he wants to ask Buffy out. Xander eventually wakes up and smells the hottie, but he definitely could have been more considerate around her when Buffy joins their clique.
Eventually, Xander and Willow develop a healthier bond. But before Willow realizes she's gay, it's tough to watch Xander treat his supposed BFF like she doesn't matter at all, even though she's way cooler than him.
Just because the women on Sex and the City generally enjoyed one another doesn't mean they were particularly good friends. Carrie Bradshaw, the show's central character, could be downright awful to her friends, putting them in situations that were downright terrible.
That's especially true of Miranda, her closest confidante, who she didn't help when she slipped a disk or when she was thinking about having an abortion. As was always the case, Carrie was too caught up in her own drama to bother with thinking about what other people were going through. If she had thought about Miranda for even just a sec, she would have been an infinitely better friend.
Jeff and Britta have a bad relationship with each other, but they're also bad friends to pretty much everyone else in their friend group. Both characters are hugely self-centered and fairly arrogant. Jeff has a haughty, cool-guy air about him that is clearly just an act, and Britta pretends to care about other people way more than she actually does.
These qualities don't go unobserved by Community, but that doesn't mean the show's relationships are healthy ones. Friendship is a two way street, and neither Britta nor Jeff seem to be at all aware that that's the case. They just take and take.
Everyone on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a toxic mess. That's basically the point of the show, and it's often very effective in showing us how terrible these people are. Still, they remain friends with one another, and that should not be the case. If nothing else, it's clear that these people are not good for one another or anyone else who happens about their motley crew.
In fact, they seem to constantly be enabling one another's bad behaviors. Still, if it ain't broke, you shouldn't worry about fixing it. While the characters on It's Always Sunny may be horribly broken, the show itself keeps finding new ways to make viewers cringe and laugh at the same time.
The entire point of Pretty Little Liars is that none of the girls on the show realized how toxic their relationships were. In particular, their friendship with Ali was the definition of toxic. Ali put every single one of them down, and put them through years of misery that none of them really deserved.
The show's genius was in its willingness to put the idea of toxic friendships at the foreground. Even on TV, there are people that we're just better off without, even if they rely on us in some way. In the end, toxic friendships just aren't worth it but it takes us a while to figure that out.