When "Boston Legal" ended its run last week, the series finale also marked the end of one of prime time's most poignant "bromances."
The deep friendship between William Shatner's Denny Crane and James Spader's Alan Shore, marked by their regular dates for cigars and scotch at the end of the day, was a touchstone of the David E. Kelley dramedy, bringing out-there storylines back down to a human level.
But as Denny and Alan ride off into the sunset, television will still have plenty of bromances.
Never heard the term? It describes a friendship between two men that's nonsexual but intimate and even (can we say it, guys?) loving. A bromance differs from a man-crush (think back to "Seinfeld" and Jerry's tizzy over Keith Hernandez) in that the object of a man-crush might be oblivious, while a bromance is mutual, like a close friendship between two women.
Except with guys.
The fact that this is something of a golden age for the TV bromance shows how much our ideas about gender have evolved. Today's manly man isn't afraid of intimacy, and his friendships involve more than talking sports. Today's manly man might even cry.
He'll certainly open up to his BFF - bro friend forever. Consider these current TV bromances that are pivotal to the shows on which they're found.
_ House and Wilson
The most enduring relationship on "House" is marked by bickering, jealousy, co-dependence and ultimate loyalty. Of course, we're talking about House (Hugh Laurie) and his best friend, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), reluctant life partners whose relationship has survived multiple marriages (Wilson's) and countless episodes of bad behavior (almost all House's).
If they were a man and a woman, House and Wilson would be spouses; instead, they're BFFs.
_ Ted and Barney
"How I Met Your Mother"
Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is a full-blown cad, with sexual exploits (he once slept with a woman while posing as his own evil twin) that are legendary. But Barney's loyalty to his friend Ted (Josh Radnor) is just as legendary; he's so dedicated to finding his friend a mate that his catchphrase in Season 1 became, "Have you met Ted?"
And when Ted broke off their friendship last season, the split couldn't endure; the BFFs got back together after Barney was run over by a bus while rushing to make sure Ted was OK.
_ J.D. and Turk
J.D. (Zach Braff) and his best friend, Turk (Donald Faison), have been friends and roommates since college, and their history is as much intertwined as if they were husband and husband.
"We're a little married," Turk even admitted in one episode of "Scrubs," moving to ABC next month. Now that Turk actually is married, J.D. has had to get used to being apart, although Turk's wife, Carla (Judy Reyes), still thinks of J.D. as Turk's "boyfriend."
_ Vince and Eric
Eric is Vince's manager, but their relationship, dating to childhood in Brooklyn, is so much more than that. Eric (Kevin Connolly) has supported Vince (Adrian Grenier) through career choices good and bad and through romances ill-advised and more ill-advised.
Vince has a brother, but "E" is more like his spouse, or his mommy, always there and always nurturing. Minus Vince, Eric might survive, but minus Eric, Vince would be lost.
_ Hiro and Ando
They were best pals when both were comic-loving office drones in Tokyo, and Hiro and Ando (Masi Oka and James Kyson Lee) remain best pals now that Hiro has mastered time and space and saved the world twice. So far, the friendship has endured the fact that Hiro, in the future, saw Ando killing him with lightning bolts, and that Ando for the time being has no powers of his own.
"Release unspecial Ando," Hiro once commanded kidnappers, offering to give himself up instead - a bromantic sacrifice of the heroic kind.
Get ready for reality TV to get into the game. "Bromance" is the title of a new MTV series, arriving Dec. 29, in which Brody Jenner (son of Bruce and stepbrother of the Kardashians) tries to find a new BFF. A bromance, as MTV defines it, is "a bond between you and your go-to guy. No games, no BS, someone that just keeps it real with you."
About that bond: On the "Boston Legal" series finale, Denny and Alan kept it real by taking their bromance to the next level - marriage. (What's next, you ask - House and Wilson have a baby?) Marriage, which would seem to violate the parameters of the bromance, but here, the marriage was prompted by the men's need to care and be cared for. And isn't that what the bromance is all about? *