Saturday, August 1, 2009

Growing Apart and Jumping the Shark

Originally Posted 3-12-09

Almost there. Only two seasons left.

That's quite the weird picture of Monica on the right.

The season starts with another look at the last minute of the previous season. Emma was born and Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel. Another summer skipped. These characters completely miss the joy in Brazil's national soccer team grabbing its fifth World Cup title. Such a shame.

Of course, the hospital has draconian rules about who is allowed to visit new mothers. It's strictly limited to dad, grandpa, one aunt, one uncle, Joey and Phoebe.

That's fine. What's most bothersome about this episode is how farcical it is. Rachel thinks Joey proposed to her. Joey wants to explain, but he doesn't get a chance. Ross wants to explain, but he doesn't get a chance. Phoebe thinks that Ross proposed to Rachel. Phoebe thinks that Rachel knows that Ross proposed to Rachel and Rachel thinks that Phoebe knows that Joey proposed to Rachel because they're only capable of using only pronouns when talking about life-altering events.

Holy crap, you are all the tightest of friends. Don't wait to get someone alone, just explain it to everyone and clear the air.

I was going to go to the Jump the Shark site to see how much of the voters think that the show has jumped the shark—gotten bad—at this point. With this episode, I was willing to guess that at least 85% of the voters were through with the show. It actually occurred to me that I should have been keeping track of this the entire time.

Well, I went to only to discover that the site is now run by TV Guide. Instead of it being an interactive site where people vote on every show imaginable, it's now just a bunch of blogs written by TV Guide. No voting whatsoever, and no references to older shows. The sheer stupidity is really pointed out by the fact that they still have a category for Ted McGinley. All they have to say about him is the fact that he will be in a Hallmark movie. His works on Happy Days and Married: With Children are nowhere to be found.

In short, has jumped the shark. How meta.

Since that site is pretty much useless to anyone not getting a paycheck from it, I'm forced to come up with my own opinion.

Yes, the show has gotten to shit-com-y for its own good. But that's not what this blog is about.

It's about wondering why the set designers would put an extra thick support beam in front of any of the action. It's not a real hospital, guys. I know, I was quick to point out that the supply closet that Chandler & Monica were trying to conceive in wasn't realistically deep enough to serve as an actual supply closet, but only because I was also pointing out that it wasn't deep enough to have sex in either. There was no verisimilitude in having a supply closet that narrow. The support beam, while is realistic, is unnecessary.

We're still in May of 2002 by the beginning of the second episode. Rachel is still in the hospital as the whole "I can't believe you said 'yes' to Joey" drama continues to unfold.

By the end of the episode, Ross accidentally punches a support beam—yes, a necessary support beam because 1) it's narrow enough not to block any action and 2) it's important to the plot. He ends up breaking his thumb, because he doesn't know how to throw a punch.

Meanwhile, Chandler finds out that his company transferring him to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He doesn't tell the rest of the gang until the beginning of the third episode of the season, when Ross's thumb is completely healed. How close are these people if Chandler waits several weeks to tell his friends that he'll be spending half of his week in Tulsa? It was only a matter of time. He's married, and he's trying to distance himself from his single friends.

Chandler feels right at home in a place where people are still allowed to smoke in the office. It's either pre-1990s New York or the 21st Century Oklahoma, apparently.

Chandler takes this newly revisited habit back home, and it devolves into an annoying fight where Monica pretends to be okay with it so that he'll sleep with her while she's ovulating. Then Chandler finds out that she's really not okay with him smoking. That's the fight. The others should be glad that they're getting their distance from them.

This is the first establishing shot of Tulsa we see. It's a good one for the American audience. The New York skyline is pretty recognizable, but no one knows what Tulsa looks like unless they've been there or had someone send them a post card from Tulsa.

That way in a later episode, when they do show the Tulsa skyline, they have to assume that the audience can figure it out. If not, then that's their problem.

Realizing that it's already Season Nine, the writers decided that they needed something interesting to happen to Phoebe. Apart from her being reunited with her estranged twin sister only to stop seeing her, being reunited with her estranged father only to not see him again, learning that her natural mother is actually still alive and living in the Hamptons only to not see her again and her carrying her half-brother's triplets only not to see them again, the writers have really painted themselves into a corner by giving her nothing of interest to work off of. So, they give her a boyfriend to keep. Mike, played by Paul Rudd.

This was years before he became a sarcastic staple in Judd Apatow movies, but years after this:

I remember this commercial. I had no idea it was the guy from Clueless until recently.

Since the writers have a crystal ball and are able to see that everyone will need to have some sort of closure in, say, 18 months or so, they decide to speed the relationship along.

Now Mike has access to Phoebe's recently acquired, super sweet board game collection.

My favorite game in her collection is Malarky. It's kind of like Boulderdash, only better. Instead of coming up with a definition of a word, you have to answer questions like "Why do Levi's jeans have orange threads?" If you don't get the card with the answer, you have to make it up and come up with a good enough answer to trick your friends into thinking you know what you're talking about.

Of course, following the Friends formula, just as Phoebe is making a commitment towards a significant other, a past love will come around.

Just like Richard came around just as Chandler was about to propose to Monica, David will come back from Minsk just as she gives her key to Mike. If you ask me, Mike should be a little worried. David sounds like a myriad of characters from The Simpsons, while Mike has absolutely no cred at Central Perk. Check this out.

Phoebe walks in, and is not obstructed by the support beam. She is alone, yet she goes right to her unoccupied spot that comfortably seats six. Mike notices her and joins her, leaving his drink and whatever he was working on at the table.

Within a minute, the table is occupied by someone else. I see why he needs Phoebe. How else can he be expected to secure a table at the coffeehouse he just recently started frequenting. But what is Phoebe getting from Mike? I mean besides a storyline that will take her to the end of a series.

Hey look! It's our old friends. The ones who have been milling outside of Central Perk for years. Wouldn't it be trespassing at this point? You'd think the baby would be in school by now. And as for the will they/won't they couple on the left. If they've made no progress, then I don't know what hope we have for Ross and Rachel.

Monica says that someone told her a joke that made her pee a little.

Fun TV history lesson. This was another supersized episode to compete with Survivor for sweeps ratings.

Monica had this line and later that night, Dr. Elliot Reid had a similar line on Scrubs. I assume someone, possibly Grace, said the same thing on Will & Grace, but I rarely watched the show, so I couldn't tell you. It was a fun all-night NBC tie-in, like the Great Blackout of '94, only you probably didn't realize that it was happening.

This might have been the year that Friends finally overtook Survivor in the ratings. I'm sure this had nothing to do with it.

How odd that Aquafina designed their label to have something blocking the product name. Especially since this was around the time that Lisa Kudrow was doing commercials for them.

As you can see, having a newborn is really turning Ross's apartment upside down. Just look at how the blanket at the back of the couch is slightly askew. And the magazines on the coffee table, they're not neatly piled at all.

I would consider this cleanish, if it were my place, and I don't even have an infant. But that's just me. Clearly, these two need a nanny.

That's when they call Freddie Prinze Jr. to the rescue. Prinze gets a bigger applause than expected. Apparently he was still 'in' in late 2002. As for me, six and a half years later, I had to take a second to recall his name. My mind almost called him Skeet Ulrich before it realized that Ulrich was actually in something of note recently.

That reminds me, I should add Jericho to my Netflix queue. I heard it was pretty good.

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