I'm Re-Watching Friends and Have Some Further Thoughts on Friends

Ok it took me way too long to finish the first round of observations. When I started writing it, we were right at the end of the third season. When I posted it and then moved on to this next one, we were just starting the eighth season. So either I’m writing way too slow or we are watching way too much of this show. It’s possibly a little bit of both. Either way that now means I have a looooot more episodes to talk about than I did in the first one so I best get going on this now before we hit the end of the whole damn thing.

1)      These people steal money from one another a hell of a lot

It’s another one of those things I likely never would have noticed had I not been watching so many episodes in a row but my God are there ever a lot of beats where a character takes money from another person’s jacket/wallet/purse. Is that a thing friends typically do? Am I just not good enough friends with my friends because we don’t blatantly steal cash from one another? It’s so odd that even the studio audience never seems quite sure what to make of it. They laugh but it honestly sounds like an uncomfortable laugh where they’re not really sure what else to do.

Yes it has been established that a few of the characters, at this stage primarily Joey and Phoebe, are in a rougher place financially than the others. But the two characters who seem to do this the most are Rachel and Monica, who by this point in the series are both very well off. It’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things but it’s such an odd recurring bit that I had to touch on it.

 

2)      The writing is largely natural, making the one-liner set-ups far more noticeable

I do have to give Friends credit for largely having conversations that feel pretty natural. Yes all of the characters are constantly firing jokes and quips back and forth, but there’s a genuine flow to everything that helps it all work. Every now and then though, there’s a line you can tell the writers really wanted to cram in there and so they had to do some weird verbal gymnastics in order to force it into the scene. For example, we have the following exchange:

After leaving the bathroom, Rachel asks “Hey do I have any messages?”
Chandler – “You just thought of that while you were in there?”
Monica – “Sure. Nature called, she wanted to see who else did.”

Not an awful line but the whole exchange feels so forced and strange in order to get to it. That’s just one of many examples and while yes many sitcoms are nothing but set-ups for one-liners, I feel this show is largely more successful with avoiding that trope. As a result, moments like this are made far more jarring.

 

3)      Boy Monica your catchphrase sure is overused and irritating

To which she would no doubt respond, “I KNOW!”

Wow do the writers ever seem determined to force that down our throats. It started as an occasional thing but there was a spurt there where I swear we were privileged enough to get a dose of it every single episode. Lucky us, each time she does it seems louder and shriller than the previous time. What’s strange is that I don’t remember her ever doing this in the earlier seasons. I think it sprang up midrun of the show, around the time that the Monica character started to become a lot more shrill (more on that later). Yes other characters have phrases they go to a lot, such as Joey’s, “How you doin?”, but in the context of the show they make a lot more sense. Monica just seems like she is repeatedly saying this because she knows the audience expects her to.

4)      Rachel is a far worse person than I remember

In the last breakdown I went into the specifics of why I wasn’t a huge fan of the Ross character. He was my least favourite member of the core group when I first watched the show, and it would appear that opinion was to be retained during this revisiting. However, in this last batch of seasons it seemed Rachel was really giving it her all to steal that title away from Ross. You guys, I don’t think I like Rachel that much either.

Her character of course started out as the spoiled one but I thought she was supposed to be moving away from that as the series progressed. During this span of episodes, she seems to be getting worse and worse.

This downward spiral started right around the time she convinced Ross’s new girlfriend Bonnie to shave her head so that Ross would no longer be attracted to her. I realized in that moment just how many times during the course of the show, she makes Ross choose between her and another woman. There was Julie, now Bonnie and soon after it will be Emily. At this point in the show, almost every season ending cliffhanger has centered on whether or not Ross will pick Rachel, or his current girlfriend. He always picks Rachel and then things immediately go to shit. Every time. Eventually you would think he’d lean the other direction.

Of course we also have the whole business of Rachel going to London with the sole intent of fucking up Ross’s wedding to Emily. Sure she doesn’t go through with it in the end but that was her initial purpose so I can’t fully wipe the slate clean on that one.

Then there’s the whole thing with Tag, which never bothered me until now. Rachel hires an assistant who she finds attractive in place of an older woman who is ridiculously qualified for the position. She puts her job at risk cuz “oh my god so cute!” Knowing she can’t actually date him, she still then proceeds to threaten women who want to ask him out and also tells everyone he’s gay. Rachel Green may in fact be an actual crazy person.

Eventually they do start dating and it’s not long before she dumps him because he’s too young for her all of a sudden. We never hear from him again but we know this led to him presumably quitting his job at Ralph Lauren as Rachel doesn’t see him again until the following season. So poor Tag gets boned over pretty good in this whole situation.

If you take away the canned studio laughter and played it straight, I’m pretty sure Rachel Green would be the villain of this show.

5)      As I suspected, Monica and Chandler become less interesting once they get together

As separate entities I quite like Monica and Chandler but once they bring the two of them together they lose a lot of their appeal. Before they are officially a couple, Chandler is of course the sarcastic quippy one of the group and most of his humour comes from him being a smart-ass. We know Monica is a clean freak and ridiculously competitive, but it’s all at least within reason. Once they get together, Monica largely becomes an overbearing insane person who Chandler is completely terrified of. Yes they still have quite a few effective moments as a couple and I definitely like them better together than Ross and Rachel, but wow are there ever times where I can’t help but feel immensely sorry for Chandler. So many jokes revolve around him being afraid or Monica nagging and insulting him. Could all of this be a horribly biased opinion since I am a dude? Oh almost definitely. But I still think the writers go back to this well far too often. It doesn’t help that around season 6, the direction for Courtney Cox seemed to be, “Going forward, can you just shout all of your dialogue?” Also the rest of the group have some surprisingly mean comments about how Chandler doesn’t deserve to be with her and how she is slumming it. Not fully related, just something else I noticed.

6)      I miss Winona Ryder

That’s pretty much it. She’s in an episode and I was thinking man, haven’t seen too much of her lately. What the hell Hollywood? I need a higher dose of that Ryder.

7)      Soooooo many nipples

I’m certainly not alone in this observation but my god the nipples on this show! How cold was that set?! A few episodes in we debated started a drinking game where you take a drink upon each nipple sighting but it became real clear real fast that was a bad idea. We’d be drinking far more than not because hardly a sign goes by without some heavy nip action. Thanks to HD and lack of bras, I no longer need to wonder what any of the cast looks like topless as there is now no mystery left there.

That should do it for the second round of these things! We only have a few seasons left to go so one more of these and oh my god will I ever be ready to move on to a different show!