Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Friends in Need

The missus and I settled down Sunday night to watch a tape of last Thursday's first-run episode of Friends. What we saw confirmed my decision a couple of years ago to cease being a regular viewer of the show.

The plot revolved around Ross and Rachel's throwing a party to celebrate their daughter Emma's first birthday. And, get this -- snicker, snicker -- but the other characters had other things to do! Chandler and Monica, for example wanted to head to a Vermont inn to -- I'm choking back laughter here -- try out a sex move Chandler read about in Maxim!

Look, even in its heyday, Friends was hardly groundbreaking. But it was rarely so ordinary. What drew me to the show in the first place was a group of characters who were my age, who were stumbling through the dating and career minefield on their way to marriage, children, and real jobs, and who were portrayed, and who treated each other, with uncommon (for TV) sensitivity and affection.

Now, though, the characters -- like me -- are in their mid-30s, and -- like me -- just aren't as interesting as they used to be. They're too old for wacky sexual hijinks, too settled to worry about career choices, and too well known to foster wild new plotlines. ("You mean Ross never told you that we had a child together in college?"). That leaves a lot of pedestrian topics for the writers to explore. As they did last week.

David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, and Courtney Cox have been playing these folks for 10 years now. I'll miss their characters a bit when they're gone -- supposedly after this season -- but I'll also wish they had bowed out while they were still interesting.


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