Sunday, 14 May 2017

I'll Be There For You - A look Back at F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Three boys, three girls, New York City, a coffee shop and lots of laughs.  F.R.I.E.N.D.S was a huge phenomenon in so many countries.  I always seem to remember a time when it was on, even now it’s constantly on repeat and it’s nice sometimes to just turn on the tv and catch a random episode.  It’s like coming home to family, remembering the crazy antics of Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Ross (David Schwimmer), Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry).

Everyone had their favourite Friend, the one they either related to or just found the funniest.  I always considered Chandler to be my favourite, his one liners were legendary and he always found something funny to say or in some cases it was funnier when he didn’t say anything, just because you expected him to.  However once I watched every episode (yes I have the box set and yes I watch it from start to finish) I found myself with a new favourite Friend.  For me, Chandler became less funny once he started dating Monica and eventually got married. He still had his one liners but he grew up, he became normal, or as normal as one can be living with Monica.  I still have a soft spot for early seasons Chandler but my favourite Friend has to be Joey Tribbiani.  He’s the struggling actor, the womaniser, the food fanatic.  He comes up with so many madcap ideas that you just have to love him for it.  He was kind and caring towards the others, he was always there for them in a tight spot, and although he was less intelligent than his peers, he knew the important stuff. His character remained pretty steady throughout the whole ten series, the only time he ever changed was when he fell in love with Rachel and even then I wanted that relationship to happen, they were just so sweet together.  

The other four characters whilst all funny in their own way just have flaws that drive me crazy.  Rachel is too self centred, but she does mature as the series go on especially when she becomes a mother but even then it’s all about her and her baby.  Phoebe is just crazy, I mean it’s funny to start with but after a while she kind of gets on your nerves.   Monica, she’s probably my least favourite character, her funniest scenes are the flashbacks when she was a fat high school girl.  Ross is better when he’s not in a relationship.  Whether it’s Rachel, Emily, Elizabeth, Mona or Charlie, he’s just annoying. He is a good character however when he’s just Ross, not Ross and whoever.

The series featured many locations but the primary locations were Monica’s apartment, which became the meeting place for most of them, Joey’s apartment across the hall which all six characters lived in at some point during the series. The other primary location is Central Perk, the local coffee shop where they all hang out and somehow seem to snag the main couch more often than not.  In fact it’s even highlighted as a joke when they all walk in chatting away then see another group of people all sitting there so they turn and walk out again.  There are other locations, we do see Ross’ apartment regularly either his first apartment after his divorce from Carole, or after he moved into Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment across the street from Monica’s building.  We also see Phoebe’s apartment occasionally especially after Rachel moves in following Chandler moving in with Monica.

Apart from the main cast of six, there are notable recurring character such as Carole (Ross’ ex wife) and Susan (her new wife), Jack and Judy Geller (Ross and Monica’s parents), Janice (Chandler’s most annoying ex girlfriend), David (Phoebe’s scientist boyfriend), Richard (Monica’s most serious relationship before Chandler), Mike (Phoebe’s boyfriend and then husband) and Gunther (the manager of Central Perk).

The list of guest star appearances on Friends is HUGE. You always know it’s someone famous because the audience always cheers when they walk in.  There are some very memorable ones such as Tom Selleck who played Richard, Hank Azaria who played David and Paul Rudd who played Mike.  But then there are those who only appeared in one or maybe two episodes.  The ones that stand out for me are George Clooney (playing a doctor treating Rachel), Bruce Willis (playing the father of Ross’ girlfriend Elizabeth), David Arquette (playing a stalker who ends up dating Phoebe) and the most memorable for me was Brad Pitt. The cheer he got almost took the roof off. He was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time which made his performance all the funnier.  He played an old high school friend of Monica and Ross and he absolutely hated Rachel during high school and still held a grudge against her when he joined them all for Thanksgiving that year.  I’m not a Brad Pitt fan but I do love this episode, it almost made it as my favourite for series 8 but was just edged out.

So that brings me to my favourite episodes.  I was never going to be able to pick an overall favourite episode so I’ve selected my favourite from each series.  Even this was hard as there were so many great episodes in every series, especially in the later series.  However here is my rundown of my top 10 favourite Friends episodes.

Series One - The One With The Butt

Joey finally gets the showbiz gig he’s been waiting for, a part in the latest Al Pacino movie.  However the part is Al Pacino’s butt double.  Still, he’s very excited about the movie, despite all his Friends making very obvious butt jokes.  Unfortunately for Joey, he manages to lose the job due to overacting with his butt (only Joey could manage this feat).  The reason this stands out as my favourite episode is the opening scene before the credits.  The reason Joey got the movie job was thanks to an agent spotting his performance in Freud! This is a play he’s starring in with not only an appalling German accent but the fact it’s a musical and he’s singing about penis envy. Oh and tries to dance as well.

Series Two - The One Where Eddie Won’t Go

When Joey gets a steady job as Dr Drake Ramoray in soap opera Days of our Lives, he moves out into his own apartment and Chandler gets himself a new roommate Eddie. However Eddie is not quite the ideal roomie that Chandler expected.  He assumes Chandler has slept with his ex girlfriend, he hates Foosball and Baywatch, he plays with dehydrated fruits and keeps a fish shaped cracker in a fishtank.  He also watches Chandler sleep without his knowledge which scares him to the point he asks Eddie to leave.   Eddie agrees and says he’ll be gone but it’s not that easy.  Eddie just doesn’t seem to take the hint and completely fabricates a whole story and seemingly forgets everything Chandler told him about leaving.  So Chandler and the newly fired Joey come up with a plan to play him at his own game, which means Joey moves back in and they pretend to Eddie that he never moved out and Eddie never lived there.  I just love this episode as Eddie is just delightfully nuts, even Phoebe starts to like him and Chandler freaking out is always fun to watch.

Series Three - The One With The Hypnosis Tape

I love this episode despite the parts with Phoebe’s brother Frank.  For some reason he always creeps me out, especially when he’s with Alice, his home ec teacher/wife.  I know this was the whole joke but I just can’t watch their bits without cringing.  No, the thing that makes this episode for me is the hypnosis tape.  It’s a Chandler based episode and he’s trying to quit smoking so Rachel lends him a hypnosis tape that she says helped a friend of hers quit smoking.  Unfortunately for Chandler it’s aimed at women and throughout the course of the episode Chandler becomes more and more feminine, such as commenting on how stunning Rachel’s blouse is, telling Monica just because her new boyfriend buys her dinner doesn’t mean she owes him anything, applying chapstick like a lipstick and coming out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his full body, not just from the waist down and second towel on his head.  It’s also seeing Joey’s reaction to the things Chandler is doing then when he discovers the cause of it (the tape) he records over it trying to convince him to make him a cheese sandwich.  It’s just wonderfully slapstick and silly but that’s what makes a good episode.

Series Four - The One With The Embryos

When Lisa Kudrow became pregnant in real life, it was interesting how they fitted her pregnancy into the show given that Phoebe was never in a steady relationship.  Of course they could always have done the single mother bit with her but the writers chose a really unique way to incorporate her pregnancy.  By becoming a surrogate for her brother and his wife, this created a new side to Phoebe yet retaining the kookiness to her, never one to do anything by the book is Phoebe.  The scene where she’s talking to embryos in the petri dish before they are implanted is sweet and shows just how selfless Phoebe is.
The other story in this episode is the ‘Who Knows Who Best’ quiz between the boys and the girls.  Starting as a bet on Rachel’s shopping bag  contents, it quickly escalates into a full blown contest with extremely high stakes, either the boys lose their birds or the girls lose their apartment.  Monica’s highly competitive nature finally backfires on her as the question ‘What is Chandler Bing’s job?’ finally gets the better of them and a wild wrong guess by Rachel hands the apartment over to the boys who cannot contain their delight.  Much bickering ensues with the girls not wanting to leave and honestly I’m with Rachel in blaming Ross for this.  I mean does anyone actually know what Chandler does for a living? (It’s actually Statistical Analysis and Data Reconfiguration).  The bickering finally ends when Phoebe announces she is pregnant and the mood changes to total joy.

Series Five - The One Where Everybody Finds Out

Following Monica and Chandler getting together in London, they are still trying to keep the others from finding out, knowing it’s such a big change in the group.  Joey is the first to find out but this was about 9 episodes earlier and has been covering for them.  Next to find out is Rachel and again this happens three episodes prior to this one.  However this episode shows Phoebe finding out when she catches them making out at Monica’s place whilst she is viewing Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment with Ross and Rachel.  Rachel admits she already knows.  When they tell Joey he hopes it means they can stop all the secrecy because it’s killing him but Rachel and Phoebe decide to mess with Monica and Chandler by having Phoebe start flirting with Chandler.  Monica then realises that they know and decide to play them at their own game by convincing Chandler to play along and flirt back with Phoebe.   This keeps going on and on until it finally comes to a head when Phoebe and Chandler have to kiss each other but Chandler is the first to back down and confesses he’s in love with Monica.  Monica confesses the same feelings for Chandler and Joey is finally relieved it’s over until Monica reminds him that Ross still doesn’t know.   The episode ends with Ross in his new apartment, having succeeded in winning the tenancy from Ugly Naked Guy, and catching Monica and Chandler through the window, just as Phoebe had, and screaming at them in anger.   This continues in the next episode as he confronts them but he accepts the relationship quite easily.   I love this episode due to the constant battle of wills between Phoebe/Rachel and Monica/Chandler with poor Joey stuck in the middle (‘They don’t know that we know that they know etc’)

Series Six - The One With The Routine

This episode is so hilarious, I just know I would have been friends with the Gellers as kids.  They are just as much of a geek as I am.  Joey’s new dancer roommate Janine (Elle MacPherson) invites them and Joey to a recording of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, a dance show for his live New Years show.  Joey is hoping it will lead to a romance starting with Janine, despite her refusing his advances and best moves so far.  But it’s the Gellers that steal the show.  They are determined to get on the tv but the producer won’t put them on the podium, probably because despite what they think, they can’t dance.  So they decide to do a routine from their childhood to get the producers attention which it does for all the wrong reasons (it’s going on the blooper reel). The routine is hysterically funny and awful at the same time but great performances by Schwimmer and Cox.

Series Seven - The One With Monica and Chandler’s Wedding

The big Friends wedding. We’d seen other weddings before but this one was going to be huge because it was two of the six Friends getting married.  But of course nothing was going to go smoothly for them, this is comedy. Chandler goes missing and freaks out over his old commitment issues.  Everyone thinks Monica is pregnant because Phoebe finds a positive pregnancy test in the bin (it’s later confirmed to be Rachel’s though).  Kathleen Turner is great as Chandler’s transvestite father getting all catty with his ex wife.  But for me one of the best bits is Joey.  He’s in the middle of shooting a film with a famous actor Richard Crosby (a wonderful cameo from Gary Oldman here).  He experiences difficulties on the first day of shooting as Richard keeps spitting on him when he says his lines.  Then he finds out he has to work on the day of the wedding and Richard is drunk so the filming is running late.  He only just makes it to the wedding on time to officiate the wedding, not having time to change out of his costume so he leads the ceremony as a WW1 soldier.   This episode combines well the romantic elements that Monica and Chandler deserve but never loses any of the familiar Friends humour that the show depends on.

Series Eight - The One Where Rachel Is Late

Rachel is finally about to have her baby girl but her due date has gone over by a week and throughout the episode she gets more and more irritable.  It’s not just Rachel in this episode that makes it funny, it’s all the Friends reacting around her.  Ross gets the brunt of it, although you can’t really blame her for that one.   Monica and Phoebe having bets on when she will actually have the baby is also funny, especially when Monica loses again.  For someone with such a competitive streak, she really doesn’t win much unless it’s an argument with Chandler.  This episode for me just slightly edged out the Thanksgiving episode with Brad Pitt and also the one where Rachel actually gives birth, just because it gives Rachel free reign to be her usual spoilt selfish self but this time with good reason, and it’s funny rather than just irritating.

Series Nine - The One With The Lottery

The Friends pool their money together to buy dozens of tickets for a big lottery jackpot whilst Chandler waits to hear if he’s been offered a job in advertising.   As they wait for the winning numbers to be announced, they all start to think of how they’ll spend their winnings but this soon leads to bickering and arguing about who gets what. In a desperate attempt to stop the fighting Phoebe threatens to throw all the tickets off the balcony to teach them all a lesson but ends up actually dropping the bowl when a pigeon scares her and sends the tickets scattering over the streets below.  They rush down to retrieve as many as they can and when they come back up Chandler has a message from a colleague telling him he got the last job offer which meant Chandler lost out.  However he shortly receives a call from the boss offering him a better job as he was too good for just an internship.  Also one of the lottery tickets Phoebe finds is a winner although it’s for just $3 which the Friends generously give the full share to Phoebe because she’s so excited about winning something, albeit grudgingly by Mr Miser Ross.  The Friends are then dismayed to hear from Gunther that although no-one won the lottery jackpot, somebody from the neighbourhood found a ticket on the street and won $10,000, obviously one of their lost tickets.

Series Ten - The One With Phoebe’s Wedding

Although the last episode is amazing with everything that happens to tie up all loose ends and give the Friends all happy endings, I prefer the episode where Phoebe gets married.  As with Chandler and Monica, you knew it wasn’t going to run smoothly.  Phoebe and Monica fall out as Monica drives Phoebe insane with her strict schedule as wedding planner and in the end Phoebe fires her.  However she is forced to reconsider as a freak blizzard means all the pre planned arrangements are cancelled and emergency measures are taken.  Joey once again officiates and Chandler walks Phoebe down the aisle. Instead of a church, Phoebe marries Mike in the snow outside Central Perk in the most romantic scenes of the whole series.  This is my favourite because it gives Phoebe a sense of belonging which she’s never had before and she finally someone to grow old with. She was never the traditional type but her wedding was a delicate blend of kooky and traditional which was just adorable.

So those are my favourite Friends episodes.  I love how this series is still such a popular franchise yet it is such a simple idea.  Six friends and their daily lives in New York.  To this day you can find an episode on the TV at almost any time of the day and there are Central Perks all over the world paying tribute to this amazing show. Lauren and I checked out the one in Liverpool a few years ago although sadly it’s no longer there.

There’s no doubt that Friends launched the careers of the six main leads and by the final two series they were earning $1million per episode. During the 10 years the six actors had equal recognition, equal status on the show, equal pay and always appeared as a group in promotional photos.  They were close friends off screen as they were on.

Such was the popularity of Friends that rumours constantly surface around a reunion episode or a film but this has so far been rejected by one or all of the case members. Whilst it would be nice to see them all back together again, I think the last episode tied everything up with nothing left open to return to.

Just remember though they’ll always be there for us because we’re there for them too.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! And well worth the wait hehe. I'm glad we visited when we did if it's not there anymore!