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The Column

Your Friends and Mine
5/9/04

By now anyone who cares about what happened on the last episode of Friends knows the results. I was a bit shocked – I didn't think the writers would have Ross end up with Monica.

Okay, so that didn't happen. Ross got together with Rachel again, which is lame cause it's happened several times already. Why not have Rachel and Monica declare THEIR love for each other? Now that'd be television.

I am a casual Friends viewer, meaning I only watch it when it's on in syndication seven times a day. I haven't been able to follow the storyline this season because I don't care, but I have noticed that having a Friend in a movie is usually the kiss of two thumbs down. (The Whole Nine Yards being the obvious exception). And now that the series is over, we may see more Friends appearing on the big screen. Hopefully without monkey co-stars (I'm looking at you, Matt LeBlanc).

I was working the night of the finale, so I only saw the last five minutes. Which was like watching the last five minutes of a basketball game. I pretty much figured out what happened earlier just by the last few shots. And the last episode of Friends had about as much plot as the next Bulls/Clippers game. (In which I fully expect Ross to end up with Rachel).

I should correct myself – the last five minutes of the finale of Friends were not completely important. Just that fifth to last minute. The final four minutes were spent having the cast look around the set and make obvious call backs to jokes from previous episodes.

I've seen the last episodes of a few other NBC shows – Seinfeld, Cheers, and Mad About You (I couldn't find the remote and I was REALLY sick).

I don't remember what happened on the final episode of Mad About You because I was concentrating on not dying. And Cheers ended marginally. It was cool that Diane came back, but the end was so anti-climactic I actually fell asleep. When I woke up, I said, "what happened?" and my brother responded, "nothing." I thought he was just messing with me, but I saw it again a few years later and he was right.

The merits of the final episode of Seinfeld have been debated ever since it aired. Some people loved it. Most hated it. But the big fans of the show, myself included, enjoyed it for a few reasons. We got to see all the characters we loved from previous episodes (even Keith Hernandez!) and the end was so bizarre that it was memorable. It would have been too easy to have the four stand around Jerry's apartment or Monk's Coffee Shop or some such set and say, "we're really going to miss it here." Aww, you're tapping into what the audience is obviously feeling. Not all that clever, albeit overdone.

Seinfeld fans also really liked the end because the conversation about George's button was the same conversation from the first episode. The writers recognized that the humor of the show was not in the ongoing plot, but in staying true to some of the most ridiculous characters ever created for public consumption. The writers of Friends instead relied on their viewership's desire to watch a soap opera with better jokes.

I usually enjoy watching Friends when I have no choice, and it is much better than a lot of the other "sitcoms" people like. Anyone could write the scripts for a full season of Will and Grace. Just watch the previous season and recycle the same jokes the writers already recycled from the season before that. But I am not sad that Friends is over. It did not change the sitcom format like Seinfeld did, and it should not be revered by any TV historians in the future, even while they're doing research projects to find out what happened to Matt LeBlanc's career. (I'm looking at you, monkey). Friends was on for ten years, and it was good, but that's it. It entertained us and now it's over, with not much of a lasting impression left.

We will eventually discover whether or not Friends was a good show by the actors' ability to get successful work afterwards. If you can move beyond a character, it wasn't all that memorable. The central Cheers and Seinfeld casts have done hardly anything following the end of their shows. (You can't count spin-offs, cartoons, or terrible shows named "Becker"). Mad About You, on the other hand, is not lasting. Helen Hunt is a major movie star because no one cares that she was Jamie Buckman. And I know what you're saying. Jamie who?

We'll wait and see if any of the Friends can break out of the roles they kind of successfully made us occasionally care about. And if not, there's always a reunion special.

I bet Ross will end up with Rachel.

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