Friday, 18 September 2015

18/09/15 - Friends, etc

On August 24th, Twitter user @strnks posted a proposal for how he would have ended the final episode of Friends. It went unexpectedly viral, appearing in news outlets across the globe, and it messed with a few people’s perceptions of the show… here’s the concept as tweeted:

‘I’d have ended Friends by revealing that it was all the meth-addled fantasy of a homeless Phoebe as she stared through the window of Central Perk.
Each kooky aside, each time she made everything about her, each example of how she’s an outsider… it all makes sense. All 10 seasons were merely her fevered imagination, projecting herself into the lives of the others. All she ever wanted was… Friends.
The final scene would be Phoebe walking away from Central Perk, with the Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler and Monica characters making a reference to ‘the crazy lady who always stares at us’. They all have different names and personalities.
Phoebe walks past a furniture store and catches her reflection in a mirror. The name of the store? ‘Ursula’.
Finally she returns to the park where she sleeps in front of the fountain. A broken lamp stands next to her bench. It starts to rain. From behind, we see her put up six dirty but brightly coloured umbrellas.
Fade to black.’

Now, this came as a rather timely post for me, as I’d just finished watching every single episode of Friends in chronological order. Not back-to-back, obviously, I started in about February or March and steadily worked through the boxsets. Why? Because I felt that enough time had passed for the show to stop being a ubiquitous cliché and to pass into the annals of all-time great comedies. However cheesy or throwaway you may think Friends was, it’s inarguable that it was brilliantly written and superbly cast. It threw a lot of phrases and behaviours into everyday use, and it proved that ‘filmed before a studio audience’ didn’t have to mean ‘unnecessary laughter after every line’. If you haven’t watched it for a while, it’s probably time to revisit.

But you probably can’t be arsed to watch all ten seasons. That’s 236 episodes. Thankfully for you, my extensive research (yes, I have spent about 79 hours this year watching Friends) has led me to cherrypick the very best episodes so you can enjoy the cream on the top of a very delicious, er telly-cake. Or something. So here we are, in no particular order, the best of Friends…

The One With The Rumor
Ross’s schoolfriend Will comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Will is played by Brad Pitt – Friends loved a cameo actor, he was one of many – and he demonstrates a hilariously vicious hatred for Rachel, who teased him at school, but now doesn’t remember him (because he, like Monica, used to be fat but is now fit). We learn that Will and Ross used to have an ‘I Hate Rachel Green’ club, who had spread a schoolyard rumour that she was a hermaphrodite. Hilarity ensues.

The One Where Ross Got High
Ross and Monica’s parents have never liked Chandler. This causes issues, as Chandler is dating Monica. We learn that the reason for them not liking him is that the Gellers had come to visit Ross at college when he’d just been smoking pot; they smelled it, and he blamed it on Chandler. This is an entertaining storyline. But the real beauty of this episode is Rachel’s attempt to make a traditional English trifle from a recipe book which, unbeknownst to her, has its pages stuck together. The trifle has roast beef and peas in it.
The One With Chandler In A Box
Chandler kissed Joey’s girlfriend. As punishment, he agrees to spend Thanksgiving inside a sealed wooden crate. It’s a surprisingly sweet episode.

The One Where No-one’s Ready
They’re all getting ready to go to a function, and Ross is frustrated that everyone’s taking ages to get dressed. This is a brilliantly written bottle episode, the whole narrative taking place in one room in real time. Chandler, for convoluted reasons, steals all of Joey’s underwear, so Joey puts on every item of clothing that Chandler owns. And then does some lunges. A classic Friends moment.

The One Where Joey Speaks French
Joey lied on his CV and said he could speak French. Phoebe offers to teach him. Joey is hilariously bad at it, and just makes up random noises that sound French.

The One With The Football
Yet another Thanksgiving episode, this one sees them all going out to play American football while they wait for dinner to be ready. It features some excellent arguing, and someone doing a really poor Dutch accent.

The One Where Heckles Dies
Monica and Rachel’s downstairs neighbour, who they’d always assumed hated them, dies and leaves them all of his possessions. The process of working through the stuff in his empty apartment is a voyage of discovery for all of the Friends. (…is how a shit bargain-basement biography would put it, sorry.)

The One With The Jellyfish
They go to the beach. Monica gets stung by a jellyfish. Joey wees on her. There is much awkwardness.

The One With Ross’s Sandwich
Ross’s character occasionally slips into caricaturistic pastiche, but this isn’t always a bad thing. His descent into madness when a colleague eats his sandwich is a masterpiece.
This episode also features the sequence in which Joey is helping to hide Monica and Chandler’s secret relationship by pretending he’s been leaving his underwear everywhere. “I’m Joey. I’m disgusting.” Great stuff.
The One With The Holiday Armadillo
Ross wants to get his son Ben excited about Hanukkah. To achieve this, he borrows an armadillo costume and pretends to be the Holiday Armadillo. It is exactly as strange as it sounds.

The One With Joey’s Fridge
Joey’s fridge breaks, and he can’t afford to buy a new one. One of the greatest ever moments of Friends slapstick comes when he shoves Ross into the fridge, then immediately claims he’s broken it and has to replace it. It’s magnificent.

The One Where Eddie Moves In / The One Where Eddie Won’t Go
Joey moves out, and Chandler gets a new roommate, Eddie. Eddie is a psycho. In the second of these episodes, Chandler asks him to move out, but he refuses. Because he is a psycho. They eventually get Eddie to leave by convincing him that he never lived there in the first place. A positively Wodehousian tactic.

The One With The Bullies
Some bullies in Central Perk steal Chandler’s hat. After a bit of back-and-forth, they go outside to have a fight. But then they end up having a fight with someone else. They become friends. The bullies still refuse to give back the hat. Funnier than it sounds.

The One With The Baby On The Bus
Joey and Chandler are babysitting Ben. They think he’ll be a good hook to pick up girls… but then they leave Ben on the bus. Which is pretty much frowned upon in parenting circles.

The One With The Mugging
A brilliant series of revelations here. Ross and Phoebe get mugged, and it turns out that Phoebe knows the mugger. We then learn that Phoebe used to be a mugger. And then, that Phoebe mugged Ross when they were younger. A spiralling web of deceit that brings us nicely back to the meth fantasy we were talking about earlier.

OK, good – so if you haven’t seen those episodes before, that’ll make no sense and sound sort of crap. Sorry. But if you have, you’ve got some 1990s nostalgia to indulge in this weekend. You’re welcome.

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