Monday, January 19, 2009

I'll be there for you...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The Rembrandts had it right. Friends will be there for you, and you'll be there for them, too.

I had to leave most of my DVDs in Melbourne when we moved to California, but 3 out of 4 of our seasons of Friends got shipped (the other one didn't get shipped because we couldn't find one of the discs when we were packing). And since they made it here last week, it feels oddly obvious that this 7-Emmy-winning series gets today's spotlight.

I think the weirdest thing about this show is that I was old enough to watch the entire show in its original run, yet I only saw two of the episodes back in the day. My now-husband used to have a roommate whose girlfriend was a big fan of the show, and so he saw pretty much every episode with them. After I moved in (part-time, LoL) we began watching them in syndication on weeknights, and now have gotten to the point of owning a few ourselves. I also picked up the Scene It : Friends Edition at a Waldenbooks right after the holidays a few years ago at around 80% off.

The show premiered in the fall of 1994, and ran for ten seasons, yielding 236 "The One With ...'s." It amuses me to no end that the episodes are named that way, mostly because of the familiarity factor... with other shows (like Full House) you never learn the names, you just say, "hey, have you seen the episode where Kimmy convinces Michelle to buy a donkey?" or "you know, the one with the pink bunnies!" With Friends, all of the episodes already point out the memorable moment for you.

I didn't have any close friends who watched the show in first-run, but I sure knew a lot of people who did. In fact, my very first program as a Resident Assistant was getting the girls together, ordering pizza, and watching the 10th season premiere in the lounge. This came about after gathering notecards the girls gave me, and 18 out of 40 of them listed Friends as their favorite television show. Having never seen it before, I had a heck of a time when asked to re-cap the finale from the previous Spring, but with the help of the front-desk receptionist (Mario was a big fan), it was do-able. I only vaguely remember the episode, mostly because I was busy trying to make sure I had ordered enough pizza, LoL. Funny enough, at the end of that season, my best friend and I were over at one of her friend's houses when the series finale came on. So, we stayed to watch it. I don't know why, but I remembered nothing at all from that episode until I saw it again years later. All I remembered was that Bethany and her mom were both tearing up as the end drew near.

Okay, enough of my personal experiences with the show, let's get down to the basics. There's Ross, my personal favorite. He's a paleontologist, often made fun of by the others, a good soon, and unlucky in love (three times divorced). His sister, Monica, is a chef, clearly second-tier in her parents' eyes, hungry for love (dates several people seriously before marrying), and obsessively compulsive about cleaning. She marries Chandler, who was Ross's college roommate. He works in business and later marketing, has a commitment phobia for the early seasons, and is the resident funny guy. His roommate pre-marriage is Joey, a struggling actor with a weird agent. He's Italian and has seven sisters, all of whom he is very protective. Rachel, Monica's childhood best friend and Ross's long-time crush, starts out a waitress and ends up in fashion. She's the one of her sisters who has stopped living off of "Daddy's money" and made a life for herself. While she has a few boyfriends throughout the series, she eventually has a baby with Ross (although they're not married at the time). And that leaves Phoebe, the most removed of the group, who works as a masseuse after having grown up on the street, an orphan. She's been married at least twice (possibly a third time when you consider her reaction at one point during "The One in Vegas), but only once was clearly for love.

Guest stars were plentiful throughout the series, and there were other semi-regular characters, including Gunther, who ran the coffee shop that the gang frequented. Central Perk, as the cafe was called, was a popular setting for the episodes, and probably the second-most filmed, aside from Monica's (grandmother's) apartment. The show was well-watched, and commercial slots during the series finale went for $2 million per 30 seconds.

I have a couple favorite episodes, and since they're long (and the top one has Asian subtitles), I'm going to provide links instead of embeds.

The One with the Lesbian Wedding : Carol (Ross's first wife) and Susan decide to tie the knot, and Ross ends up having to encourage Carol when her parents don't want to attend. Additionally, this is the beginning of Joey as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of our Lives. The best part is that there is a spirit haunting Phoebe, who only leaves after she's seen "everything."

The One with Ross's Tan : Ross decides to try a spray-tan place, but just can't seem to get it right (that's the funny part of the show). Joey and Rachel discuss dating each other, and Phoebe and Monica try to ditch a friend they don't like. I couldn't find a good full-length episode, but this has the tanning parts spliced together.
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