Saturday, August 1, 2009

Flashbacks & Sweaters

Originally Posted 8-8-08

I'm not keeping a very close count of who has a history of being a worse dresser, Chandler or Joey. It's been pretty neck and neck. I'm not counting the outfits Chandler wears in the flashbacks where the joke is clearly, "Oh, look, Chandler is wearing an outfit from 19xx, and it's funny," which I will get to later. First there's Joey. What the hell is he wearing here?

I mean besides the turkey.

Most people look at this picture and see a turkey on a guy's head. I see this picture, and I see a turkey on the head of some guy wearing yet another leather vest. Granted, this is 1992, but he's not wearing that vest as a 'look how funny it is, it's 1992, and he's wearing a leather vest' joke. The joke is the turkey, little to no attention is supposed to be paid to the vest. I really think that we should notice the vest. The sad part is that this probably is a good representation of 1992, for Joey anyway, and I want to point this out that this was a big mistake. The early nineties were a bad time for fashion, we, as a society, should not go through a retro early-nineties phase. Joey's leather vest is a prime example why.

Thanksgiving flashbacks continue, and we're whisked away to Long Island, NY in 1987. I've mentioned how I hate the studio audience—hopefully real—of this show. Monica comes out in fat suit, and it's all laughs. I'm not quite sure why, because 1) fat suits aren't funny, and 2) if you're in the studio audience of Friends, then you're probably pretty familiar with the characters' histories. Monica was fat in high school. You've heard the jokes, you've seen the prom video. Seeing her in a fat suit shouldn't be a surprise, so there's no reason to laugh because, like I said, fat suits aren't funny.

That is, if, it actually was a studio audience. This is a question I posed in the last post, and I seem to be concentrating pretty deeply on it here as well, but not enough to actually look into it.

In walk college roommates Ross and Chandler. I notice whenever we see these two in the '80s, the show seems to take a Wedding Singer approach of hitting you over the head with a mallet several times to let you know that it's the '80s. This includes not necessarily getting all of the references specific to the year it's supposed to take place, because apparently, everything in the '80s all became popular at once, maintained its grip on society for a solid decade, until its acclaim came tumbling down with the Berlin Wall.

Take, for example, Chandler's Flock of Seagulls hair. Evidently, there is no other way to illustrate the fact that it's the '80s except for giving at least one character Flock of Seagulls hair. Again, I point to The Wedding Singer.

As if any airline would allow an employee to help customers with that haircut, regardless of the year.

Back to Chandler and Ross. Yes, mention the fact that they're in a band. They're in a band, it's the '80s, clearly Flock of Seagulls hair is necessary. Too bad Flock of Seagulls had already been broken up for over a year at this point, and I'm going to go out on a limb by saying that the hairstyles they sported around '82 and '83 probably weren't being ridden out until the band broke up.

Ross' Members Only jacket brings up a similar issue. Those things were big around '81 and then they became a joke. C'mon, people weren't wearing Hypercolor shirts in 1998, why make someone wear a Members Only jacket in 1987?

Another flashback to the following year. The guys are dressed out of Miami Vice. Again, seems a little off, but at least that show was still being aired in 1988. It was in its last season, and its popularity was waning. I'd say people who were late to adopt fads would probably be just catching on to the Miami Vice craze at this time, so I guess it kind of makes sense for them to be all decked out like Crockett and Stubbs.

A couple of interesting things about these two flashbacks: Before this episode, Rachel and Chandler supposedly met in '93—a year before she was supposed to get married—in the episode that took place a year before the pilot. They met at the bar that is now Central Perk. I'm pretty sure they hooked up. If you have two Thanksgiving dinners with someone, one of those times, your friend accidentally severs that person's toe, you would probably remember him, like, five years later, right?

Also, by the time this Thanksgiving rolls around, Monica has lost all of her weight. (I kind of wish I took a picture of that, because it would have come in handy at this point.) She had overheard Chandler calling her fat the previous year, and that pushes her to lose the weight. That's a lot of weight to lose in a year.

It was actually less than a year, because if you remember Monica and Rachel's prom video, which took place between the two Thanksgivings, she's still in the "hilarious" fat suit. So, she lost all of that weight somewhere between May and November, which sounds really unhealthy. No Freshmen Fifteen for her, I suppose.

Chandler says that he has a long history of having bad Thanksgivings. We flashback to 1978 to see Thanksgiving with the Bings. Thanksgiving was bad for him that year because he found out that his father—wordlessly sitting there, not defending himself from Morgan Fairchild's barbs, with his back to us to hide the fact that he could later be played by Kathleen Turner—was leaving with the houseboy.

Phoebe, the former homeless teen whose "mother" committed suicide, is unable to come up with a Thanksgiving worse than that. Those Thanksgivings spent on the street were apparently better.

She does tell a story from a past life. In Thanksgiving of 1862, while serving as a nurse on a Civil War battlefield, she gets her arm blown off. Okay, that's bad. Except Thanksgiving wasn't an official holiday celebrated every year until 1863. Before that, it was kind of sporadic. Some presidents didn't even call for its celebration. In 1815, James Madison declared two Thanksgivings, in celebration of winning the War of 1812. Neither of those Thanksgivings were in the fall. For a while, some states in the South didn't even celebrate it at all, because it was thought to be a product of Puritanic bigotry. One thing slaveholders couldn't stand was bigotry. Governors would declare Thanksgivings, but they didn't really coincide with other states.

With the South out of the picture, Lincoln was able to make Thanksgiving a federal holiday, celebrated on the same day across the country. This was back when the Republican Party didn't give a crap about individual states' rights. Republicans today need to remember this when they call their party "The party of Lincoln."

So not only did past life Phoebe have one less arm, she wasn't getting a good delicious meal later that day, because it wasn't even a holiday.

But Phoebe always gets in the holiday spirit. Here she is, loudly ringing her Christmas donation collection bell in Central Perk. No one seems to mind, and we all know she's not going to get kicked out for causing a ruckus.

Joey gets into the spirit of New Year's Eve by wearing a hideously ugly sweater.

Here's a party at Monica and Rachel's, and one element is missing. Gunther. It used to not be a party without Gunther, and now he's getting the shaft. True, Rachel hasn't worked there in years, but Gunther still gives these guys preferential treatment at Central Perk. Does that mean nothing?

Joey, apparently, doesn't need an occasion to wear an ugly sweater. Any day can be Ugly Sweater Day to Joey. I thought I had a picture of him wearing this same sweater two seasons ago, but no. It turns out that was very, very similar, but it wasn't the same. Maybe he has all of these sweaters because that's what all of his sisters give him for birthdays and Christmas. I can't really imagine someone walking into a store and purchasing this for themselves, unless it was some kind of joke being played on society, or maybe the person really hated himself.

Joey is later seen eating a bucket of chicken from an establishment called "Finger Lickin' Chicken," a chain of fried chicken restaurants that puts the face of Colonel Sanders on their bucket. It's not KFC, it's FLC. There's a difference.

We see a cardboard bucket held by Joey, we assume it's chicken. Especially after he says, "I'm going to eat some chicken." Don't doctor a KFC bucket. That's just silly.

Apparently, Monica brought back Virgin Cola back from her trip to London. I'm not really making fun of her here. As someone who once stockpiled some Mello Yello while on a trip to Nashville (mailing some to a friend as well), I have no room to talk. I used to know a guy from North Carolina, and I look forward to his trips. Some would look forward to the cheap cigarettes he would bring back. I loved the Sun Drop; which is like Mello Yello—only trashier, if you could imagine such a thing. You know what was a bad lemon-lime soda? Surge. I remember people were giving away cans on my college campus. I couldn't even finish one can. Later, when someone offered one to me, I responded, "Please, no!"

While I'm less of a soda drinker nowadays, I'm curious to know what Virgin Cola tastes like. It was brought here in 2005 (by Richard Branson, not Monica), but it flopped.

Phoebe's grandmother finally passed away. I'm not saying that in a "that old broad really stuck around" sort of way, but as in "the actress that played her actually died 16 months earlier." Bob Balaban is introduced as Phoebe's father, and I think this is the last time we see him.

So, even though she has established contact with both of her birth parents, we don't actually see them again. Maybe it explains how we may never see her triplets again. Phoebe just isn't family-oriented—although she does drop by her awful twin sister's place, occasionally. Either she's not family-oriented, or having her family would ruin the comedy goldmine that the writers have discovered in the "former homeless teen orphan" angle.

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