The long-awaited Friends reunion and why it is so vital for the comic and television industry.
PSYCHE! It's not! It is the worst thing in TV history and needs scrubbing, not celebrating. It has the dubious honour of being both objectively AND subjectively the worst idea since kale-stuffed-crust pizzas.
The idea is bad enough for just the case of a reunion show. The cast is haggard, old, and bitter at the gargantuan descent all of their careers made post Friends. It has not worked for any other TV show, so it will not work for this one either. After all, what is the goal? This is the argument for all shows from a purely operational standpoint. Using historical evidence, statistical bias, and professional advice, but really the actual answer lies in the actual subject matter. Oh yes those who know me will vouch for how long this has been coming...
What is "Friends"
Friends was a mid-nineties studio-set sitcom about six hateful, cliquey, sexually dysfunctional, financial anomalies that lived in New York and inhabited a closed-down bar that was re-opened as a coffee shop.
Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, and Joey. The show was the child of Marta Kauffman and aired weekly. It became a powerhouse and had a fandom that no sitcom before or since has. This was indeterminable. The show had the worst script ever written, it is no exaggeration to say that almost every joke could be seen coming and guessed at by anyone with half a brain (so, rarely by its demographic). It was about the most unlikeable people you could ever imagine and was so monoethnic it was like a KKK alumni prospectus. In the most cosmopolitan city on earth, the cast was all white and it stayed white. Their idea of diversity was to have the character Joey being Italian. The supporting cast was white, and while I am not one for positive discrimination. this took the piss. It is Song of the South for the coffee-shop generation.
The writing is abysmal. Particular highlights being the Ross/Rachel romance that is used as a viewing spike-prod, or the engagement of Joey and Rachel which is meant to be situational hi-jinx leading to a humourous misunderstanding. It isn't. It is clumsy and implausible. Watch the episode where Rachel has the baby, it tries to be antics and madcap and it achieves nothing more that a moment that was not in any way the cleverly inescapable label it was wearing.
It had an endless stream of establishing shots with the same god-awful intro music over each of them. It was incredibly smug and had a postmodenit meta approach that was pre-teen at best. Each episode was titled "The One Where..." with a brief synopsis of what they categorised it to be. They rarely used an honest one. There was never "The one where Rachel shows how terrible an actress she is trying to play drunk" or "The One Where These Six Arseholes are Rude and Abusive to Anyone Outside Their Circle." They were showing they were whimsical with the self-referential episode titles but would also show how they had a playful side in episodes such as "The One with the Boobies" which is remarkable as this episode shows less of Jennifer Aniston's tits than the rest did.
It's saccharine beigeness was so prevalent it was synchronised in all of them like periods in a convent. In one episode they all plan to go to a concert, so they had to decide on a band for these guys to see. Who do they go with? Hootie and the fucking Blowfish. It had to be a safe, mid-road, non-eclectic dreary family-friendly band didn't it. It was always going to be them or They Might be Giants. Why could they not have shown some spirit? No, to please the sponsors it had to be a wetbacked, no-politics, no drink or drugs, no backbone pisspot. I was not expecting them to use GG Allin but at least show some mettle.
There was nothing to save it. However, as with all terrible US sitcoms, the real grit of it is the cast of characters. So let us delve:
The intellect in the group. The favoured brother to Monica (somehow; considering the clearly different creeds) A sad droopy paleontologist with aggressive gender-equality hatred and the most self-pitying whine you have ever heard. Later in the series, he develops a tougher facade, however, rather than making him assertive and confident he becomes sinister and sociopathic.
Someone once created a video of Ross and his segments and muted the laugh track. Try and watch it. He is the sort of person if your daughter bought him home as a boyfriend, any father would smile, nod, say goodbye, and then move his family to California.
An eerie whingeing loser that dates schoolgirls and hates his son for playing with feminine toys
Doesn't wear a bra. Coughs before every sentence. Borderline sex-addict. Can't act drunk,
Has a relationship with Ross where they bang in an exhibit in the museum he curates. They are discovered naked in a post-coital embrace under a fur rug by a group of schoolchildren. Somehow Ross still works there.
She ends up having a baby and in the delivery episode, she and Ross remind us all how vile they are. A peripheral character called Janice comes in, she has a well-known loud Brooklynese accent. She is kind and complimentary to them but as they have always done they just make nasty, personal, snide comments about her and her husband while she has a baby.
Hugh Laurie tries to show her what a terrible person she is and it is treated as a gag, but he is right. She is just the worst. Ran out on her husband to be because she thought he was too ugly but then fucks him when he is engaged to another girl years later (the girl is also Rachel's best friend)
In short, she is a walking vagina with a God complex and probably more dormant STIs than the rest of New York combined. We are told she goes from a job as a (terrible) waitress to an assistant buyer for a high fashion firm. more of Kaufmann's awfulness.
Also, you can end up hyperventilating by hearing her "ahem" before every sentence.
The funny one. This is because he once said "Rock...hard place....(inserting his head in the gap)…ME!" Purely comic gold.
Cynical and about as transphobic as you can get. He is best friends with Joey (who likes women and food) Allows his on-off girlfriend Janice to be bullied by his friends until he marries Monica.
Comes back the next season as a bloated red junkie with an inflated face.
The ethically anomalous sister of Ross and grandmother to the rest. Inexplicably is residing in a piece of prime Manhattan real-estate worth approx $14,ooo per month when she is a restaurant chef.
Anally retentive and psychic (knows Joey has undressed in her apartment in their first meet before she sees him) she is the eldest (by far) and often takes on the role of de-facto decision-maker.
Ends up knobbing Tom Selleck which is supposed to be shocking even though they look nearly the same age.
She also is a big fan of sex and we are told this a lot.
Likes women and food
Has a catchphrase
That is all
Has a spin-off
Had a spin-off
Yet oddly, this openly misogynistic dumbo is the most likeable of all.
Tries to be kooky and weird by saying "oh no" in a funny way and ending her sentences with the final words said really quickly. However, like most people who try to be leftfield and zany, is rather boring and two-dimensional.
Has an evil sister and a brother who is also weird but as he is portrayed by a far superior actor, he actually pulls it off.
Although she is responsible for my favourite moment. When dating a psychiatrist, she is told exactly how she and her pals appear to the world. In the most bizarrely self-aware moment, this character delivers a hilarious and accurate appraisal of the "Friends" in a cutting and marvellous way. His take on the coffee cups is my favourite. So thank you Phoebe for giving me one entertaining moment and only getting paid $60 million to do it. Trooper.
So please, take your reunion show and put it in Gunther's pot, and boil it.
It was okay for thick people but it holds zero artistic merit and needs to be forgotten, not remembered. Do the honourable thing, for once.