Many American television shows have a main focal point where the majority of the episode occurs, but there is usually a secondary place outside the home or office where the characters can gather. This place has several different functions.
Firstly, it can act as a therapist’s couch. It can be a safe place to vent out problems that would otherwise be unsuitable for conversation in the main environment. This secondary space is usually in public, but not an overly noisy place, allowing the characters to both share intimate confidences as well as shout in anger, happiness, or just for fun.
Secondly, it equalizes ranks. If the characters of the show have a hierarchy, the meeting place temporarily voids those lines. It does the same for groups of friends who have very different careers. This is necessary for the personal characteristics of each individual to show. How the characters interact when the ranks have been dissolved says more about who the person is than when you know they’re merely conforming to the echelon, or rebelling against it.
Thirdly, it serves as a place of stability. When things at the office go badly, or the home life changes, or life in general just gets complicated and frustrating, the secondary space is a constant. The characters will have a specific table, couch, booth, bar stool, ect. that they will occupy. It might be that over the course of a series, the characters might sit somewhere else, but this is extremely temporary and happens only rarely.
So what are these others places and what do they serve for the individual show? The following is merely a very brief list. A full list would be far too extensive for anyone to be able to maintain interest.
Perhaps the most obvious secondary space is the very iconic couch in Central Perk in one of the most popular American television shows of all time: “Friends.” Through changing jobs, changing relationships, changing apartments, and changing lives, that couch was in almost every episode.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” developed a cult following in my generation, and what would the Scoobies be without their library? This place served as a sort of office, it’s true. And it’s rare for there to be work within the safe space, but due to the nature of the show, it was necessary, and most of the “action” took place elsewhere. When the library gets destroyed, the safe space moves to the magic shop and serves the same purpose.
Another show to receive a huge following is “How I Met Your Mother.” This show has an unusual circumstance as well. It actually has two special places. One is the booth of the bar beneath the apartment building, which functions in the same way as the couch in “Friends.” The other space is the couch where Ted tells his kids the story of how he met their mother. This couch is only seen in a comparative handful of episodes, but the purpose of it is the same. While this couch is, in fact, in a home, this home has yet to become the livable domicile that it is when Ted goes back to tell the stories.
As I stated before, the list could go on and on, but I’ll stop with three shows of widespread popularity and their peculiar differences.
All images taken from Google.