(Kruiser’s Permanote Description: This column is intended to be a lighthearted, short-form way to frequently connect with our cherished VIP readers. Sometimes it will be serious. Sometimes it will be fun. Sometimes it will be a cornucopia of intellectual curiosities and fascinations. OK, maybe not so much the last one. Anyway, as this is a departure for me, I’m including this explanation at the top of each post for a while. Also, non-subscribers can see the first couple of paragraphs so I am in desperate need of filler until we get to the private stuff (subscribe here). Please remember that there is a standing invitation to ask me anything in the comments. Once a week, I’ll answer.)
They’ll Be There for You
Another weekend, another blissful three days off of the social-media grid. It was wonderful.
Whilst working on my Morning Briefing into the wee hours last Friday I decided to re-watch the first few episodes of Friends. It’s my habit to have something on in the background when working on the MB and I was up against a deadline, so I wanted something I was familiar with and didn’t have to think about. I’d just posted something about the upcoming Friends reunion on HBO Max, so the show was on my mind.
I ended up binge-watching the first two-and-a-half seasons, which surprised me. I was on the road a lot when the show premiered in 1994, so I didn’t get to watch it regularly. In ancient times, one had to record such things on VHS tapes (use the Google machine, kids) so preserving television shows for posterity was a pain in the posterior. I’d catch a few episodes here and there, but I didn’t get to watch them straight through.
Of course, I was aware of the show. It was impossible not to be. Love it or hate it, Friends was a full-on television juggernaut from the first episode. The show came out of the gate as if it had been a hit for five years already. For the next five years, the unimaginative television execs kept trying to make the “next Friends,” which never worked.
I’ve met a few people who hate the show and, while no one knows that comedy is subjective more than a comedian, I still don’t get it. It’s goofy fun. It holds up surprisingly well in my opinion. It does, however, have that weird thing where it’s a relatively modern show but cell phones weren’t a thing yet. Once you notice that, you keep noticing it. I do anyway. Had cell phones been around, the show might have been called Six People Sitting in a Cafe Checking Twitter, which wouldn’t have been as entertaining.
I still consider Cheers to be the greatest sitcom of all time because the writing never faltered in ten years. The consistency was stunning. Friends kind of lost its way for a while because they had Ross and Rachel hook up just a little too early. The “Ross’s girlfriend” storylines in all the seasons before he and Rachel get back together are tedious. Then again, if they hadn’t had Ross and Rachel break up in season three, the Chandler/Monica thing wouldn’t have worked at all.
Joey actually got funnier with each season. He was the shallow character they began adding layers to, which is always great sitcom fodder. A recent example of that would be the Alexis character on Schitt’s Creek. Very often, characters in sitcom ensemble casts can become one-note. Unless that note is brilliant — think Sam Malone or Norm — it loses steam. The Joey and Alexis characters were able to have story arcs that created new ways to be funny season after season.
Anyway, it was an unexpectedly fun binge. I enjoyed it even more knowing that the show has been the target in recent years of retroactive cancel culture freaks who think it’s not woke enough. I mean, that really added to my viewing pleasure.
In case you missed it in the Briefing last week, here’s the trailer for the reunion show: