Tuesday, 28 August 2007

With Friends Like These...

Once again Friends has begun its endless loop on one of Channel Four’s other channels.

When the show first aired, way back in something like 1995 or so, it was must see television – millions of people flocked to Channel Four every Friday night, following the exploits of the perennial 20-somethings always outliving their means and occasionally working when not quipping over coffee. It was a dream that many people wished to live. Discussions on a Monday in offices around the country were about Ross and Rachel, about who was funniest, about who’s nipples were most apparent throughout the episode.

The show lasted for longer than it seemed it could. Will-they-won’t-they became why are they and then will-they-won’t-they once more. Monkey Pipe’s interest in the show tailed off around the time that people started getting married for real in the show, and for some time I never saw the last episode. The looping of the show began, going round and around, and again and again I missed the show. I finally caught it this year, with it fizzling out, playing as some pictorial representation of oft read about and heard before stories and jokes. It was okay.

And so, once again Friends has begun its endless loop.

The problem with watching the earlier episodes, or in watching the loop again from the top is not just that the earlier episodes have dated worse than the first series of The X-Files. You can tell roughly what season you are in by a combination of the haircuts and Matthew Perry’s weight – a fair enough point in a show whose earliest writings and musings were often about the haircut of its leads – the more stylised the hair, the healthy Perry, the earlier the series. The problem for Monkey Pipe is the inconsistency of character.

I don’t ask much from my characters in sit-coms, just that they remain consistent. Not unchanging mind, I just want them to stand by their convictions.

And so we see in an early episode (season 3, perhaps) Rachel say ‘how can you not want to know the sex of your baby?’ when Ross’ gay wife finds out what they are expecting, and he chooses not to know. Cut forward to before Emma’s birth, when Ross and Rachel are offered to know, she refuses to find out.

Or we have the episode where Chandler and Monica discuss how to decorate the guest room. He offers up the notion of a classic arcade game being in there. Monica is adamant that there is no way that this is going to happen. Cut forward just a couple of seasons, and what does Phoebe present the happy couple as a belated wedding gift? The classic arcade game, Ms Pac-Man. Do we see a similar rant against the idea of it being in the house from Mrs Bing? No. She’s the first to want a go.

Perhaps it’s the condensing of so many years of writing into so short a period of time, watching the ten or more years of the six New Yorkers unfold in a couple of months, 2 episodes a day, three times a day. For me it highlights their lack of commitment in a way that all the will-they-won’t-theying never did.

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