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I guess I just like liking things

My wife and I finished our run-through of Friends last night. I couldn’t tell you the exact date we started it, but we were in season 7  back in November, so it seems like we’ve made good time. It’s been less than 5 months, that much I know. I’ll keep better track of the next one, whatever that might be.

Being able to watch through the whole run of a show in not much time is both great and terrible. Storylines remain fresher, character arcs seem clearer, and self-references are easier to catch. On the other hand, though: clip shows.  When a show that runs for ten years shows clips from the previous years, it seems like a good idea at the time. It reminds the audience of some good times and it costs less to produce than a regular show. Everybody wins… until you’rs going through the show on DVD and the clips are of something you just saw last month. Our standard reaction quickly became, “Ugh, clip show!” And they sneak them in on you!  You can’t tell from the title of the episode, and the first few minutes seem normal, and then someone says, “This apartment’s seen a lot of good times” or “Remember when…” and bam, clip show.

And let me just say: when a show has run for ten years, sometimes the clip shows aren’t doing the actors any favors.  I still feel sorry for Matthew Perry any time I see clips from all the years of Friends put together, because he very clearly had some difficult times. If I ever got to meet him I’d probably want to hug him and say “I hope you’re doing better, man.”  And this is exactly why I don’t get to meet celebrities.

It’s strange to condense ten years down to 4-5 months. I’ve worked at my current job for almost ten years myself, and thinking back on how much I’ve changed in those ten years is crazy enough. In TV years, ten is more like fifty. Stuff has to happen in each episode, and even allowing for different episodes to focus on different characters, by the time you get to the end of the run, that stuff gets crazy multiplied.

You hear a lot about how some shows run too long and get terrible and yada yada yada, and that’s mostly true, I guess. For me, though, running through a whole show in a short amount of time boils it down to “this is their story,” so the lousy stuff gets mixed in and it all evens out.

The very end of Friends works pretty well for me. [Spoilers for a 10-year-old show follow, I guess, so be warned?] Monica & Chandler are moving, so that’s a good reason to pack up everything in the apartment, a nice symbol for us having to pack up the show. They’re leaving New York and leaving us, so we don’t get to visit this apartment any more. A more violent symbol is the dismantling of the foosball table in Joey’s apartment, and I couldn’t help wondering if the cast was trying to decide who got to take it home when filming was done, and this was King Solomon’s way of deciding it for them. Rachel & Ross back together bothered a lot of people, but I was glad to see it – plus there was an appearance on Rachel’s plane by Jim Rash, Community’s Dean Pelton! Phoebe & Mike was fine, whatever (Paul Rudd was, as always, wonderful). Joey went on to do two seasons of Joey, which I saw at least a season’s worth of. Monica & Chandler adopt twins and move, and  I said outloud that if there were ever a reunion show and they weren’t still together, I would fly out to L.A. and make a lot of writers’ lives very, very difficult for them.

It’s sad to say goodbye to real-life friends. It’s weirdly sad to also say goodbye TV friends. Those 5, 7, or 10 seasons are the only part of their story you get to hear, you enjoy their company like you would anyone else’s, and you get to know them over that span. There’s some comfort in having the story, but you still want to know how they ended up. Better a nebulous end than a specifically bad one, though, I guess.

My favorite things about Friends: Chandler. Monica & Chandler. Tom Selleck. The relationships among the six main characters.

My least favorite things: The monkey. Anything Ursula-related. Joey & Rachel as a couple. Phoebe being flat-out mean (which happens a lot more than I realized before this last watch-through).

That makes Scrubs, Seinfeld, and Friends my wife and I have been through together. She likes having a half-hour sitcom to unwind with a couple of episodes at the end of the day, so I’m trying to find the next show. I’m leaning towards Freaks & Geeks (I know it’s an hour-long show) or NewsRadio.





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