Friday, May 07, 2004

I’ll Be There for Yuck – Friends Finally Ends  

Seinfeld, the Johnny Depp to Friends’ Tom Cruise during the nineties, was famously considered ground-breaking in terms of the TV sitcom genre because Seinfeld was, famously, “a show about nothing.” In years to come, once the glamour has dissipated from Friends’ remains, scholars will discover that Friends too was unique in its way, it being a “comedy without jokes.”

If the tide of our times needed a metaphor for how remarkably shallow we have become, the ten year popularity of Friends, the show without jokes, wins the watch. It’s shocking how popular that awful thing was.

Was there every a bigger pain in the ass than Ross in Friends? The only thing that made sense about the whine-Gellar was that he was palaeontologist by profession – who else but one who studies bones professionally could possibly be related to so scrawny a woman as Courtney Cox? I’m not saying you can count her ribs, but the woman is in severe danger of kidnapping by skiffle bands looking for a new washboard. And she was so lovely, and so normal, in Scream and the first Ace Ventura movie. Such a shame.

Tony LeBlanc is clearly a poor man’s Tony Danza, and more to be pitied than censured. The biggest lug of the six of them has to be Matthew Perry, who does more mugging than the average citizen of Tallaghtfornia. The man is shocking – it’s as if, when he sees a punchline in his script, it has a physical effect on him, rather like the passing of four of five bags of Portland cement might. He quivers, he shakes, he delivers his line and then he shivers to a halt, like a jelly doing a regular sixty miles an hour that has suddenly spotted a radar gun.

Why? It’s not as if he didn’t know that a joke was coming. Friends has (or more correctly, “had” – what joy to use a past participle in relation to Friends at last!) the most telegraphed jokes in the world. First you hear a distant rumble as the joke approaches, rather like someone rolling a bowling pin through an air-conditioning vent in a many-storied office. Then the regular boom-boom-boom begins as the joke nears, a sound not dissimilar to the start of the Rapture I believe. Finally, the Big Funny arrives, soundtracked by Aaron’s Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, the tune that so bothered the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Matthew Perry does his little St Vitus Dance, and then, thirty seconds later, the man in the air-conditioning reaches for his second bowl, and so the long day rolls on.

Friends has contributed one sentence to our lingua franca. It is this: “So, I was, like, Oh my God!”

You’ll notice that this seven word sentence means precisely nothing, which is an achievement in composition in itself, although one of dubious merit. You’ll also notice that two of the seven words, or twenty-eight and one half per cent of the sentence, relate to the first person; the first person nominative, “I,” and the first person possessive pronoun, “my.” This says a lot about the axis around which the world of a Friend revolves.

Friends was never about comedy; it was about narcissism, the tyranny of beauty and the joys of self-love. It will not be missed.