Saturday, August 1, 2009

And in the End, the Friends You Take Is Equal to the Friends You Make

Originally Posted 7-19-09

The Friends: The Series Finale finally made it to my mailbox. It had been sitting at the very top of my queue for weeks. The expected availability was listed as "now available," or so they claimed. It had been skipped over a few times. It's just as well. I've been watching Mad Men.

I think the people at Netflix thought they were doing me a favor

Look at everyone being all fancy in the back of what appears to be an old-timey limo. Ross and Rachel are sitting next to each other, but Monica and Chandler are not. I guess they live with each other, they can sit next to each other whenever when they want. It's not a big deal.

And since they had a spare bedroom, Chandler's been sleeping there. Well, he likes to read at night, and it keeps Monica up. It's not a big deal.

But now with the new house, they're having trouble adjusting. You know, with the babies and everything. It just makes sense in a lot of ways. I can't get into it right now, but it's just better for everyone. It's nothing, really. Just don't bring it up when we're all hanging out, because it's complicated. And it's still a sore subject, but it's not what you think. No, really. It's not a big deal.

The "episodes" they offer us are the original broadcast and the extended version of the finale.

Let me let you in on a little secret. The running time of the extended version is 50:02. The running time of the original broadcast version is 47:29. The first 45 seconds of the broadcast was a recap with the "Previously on Friends" voice over. I think it was Monica who said it.

How do they decide who does that voice over? There are six of them. Is it a complex system of rock-paper-scissors? I would imagine, since there are six of them, and not four or eight, it can't just be a simple tournament. There would need to be a series of round-robin contests that would determine everyone's placement in the bracket. The two with the best "records" would get an automatic bye into the semifinal. The winner of the tournament would get to have their voice aired. "Previously on Friends." Then that person would be ineligible for the next time.

The next time, the person who came in fifth place would have to go up against the finalist in the previous tournament, and the winner of that would advance to a simple tournament of four.

To me, that's probably the fairest way of doing things, but it still seems like a needlessly complicated system. The fact that I imagined it and shared it with you almost seems wasteful use of everyone's time. Just imagine it actually being played out.

Maybe they just rotate, instead.

Anyway, my original point is that the "extended" version is actually less than four minutes longer than what actually aired. Also, the "extended" version is what's included in the previous disc of Friends episodes, so there's really no need for the "broadcast" version to be included.

Let me tell you, as dedicated I was to this project, I did not watch either version of this episode this time around. I thought sitting through what is virtually the same program three times in such a short period of time seemed a bit crazy, even for me. Unfortunately, I can't report on the subtle nuances of what scenes were deleted from the broadcast, but was included in the extended.

It's silly to assume that there were only four minutes of usable footage shot that couldn't air. How do they decide what wasn't fit to be aired on NBC that fateful day on May of 2004, but could be included in the DVD. And how did they decide that that should add up to less than four minutes?

What was missing from the "Episodes" category of the DVD was the dreaded The One With All the Other Ones. I'm not saying I wanted to see a two-part clip show. What I'm saying is that if you're going to put virtually the same episode on a DVD disc twice, you could at least include another episode that is comprised completely of previously viewed scenes.

At the same time, thank you for not including it, people who designed the DVD. I didn't really want to sit through it. It's just that when I read on IMDb that this episode never aired in Latin America, it made me want to see it more. I just wanted to see what they were missing.

Honestly, I was hoping for a all-out Friends trivia throwdown. Most of the past seasons included trivia games. You would think, for the final season, they could do something really big spanning the entire series. Unfortunately, there was no trivia to be found, so I can't really have any false sense of superiority over anyone. What's the fun in that?

I did, however, sit through the "10 Years of Beginnings," which is exactly what it sounds like. I don't feel superior to anyone after admitting that.

It seemed strange to include that. I don't think their opening sequences changed by season. I think it changed every few episodes. Also, there's not much change. The first season's opening had no clips, just them playing in the fountain (although, in reality, I think later in the season, it did include clips from the show.) Aside from the clips, the only thing that really changed throughout the ten years is that the font got smaller so that they could fit "Courtney Cox Arquette" instead of "Courtney Cox."

In case I wasn't already sick of hearing a shortened version of I'll Be There for You ten times in succession, I watched the music video, and heard the extended version of the song.

The lack of continuity of the song fits the lack of continuity in the series. The very first line of the song is, "So no one told you life was going to be this way." I think we, as a society, may be unable to hear these words without following it with five quick claps. Later in the song, they say, "Your mother warned you there'd be days like these."

Well, which is it?

I guess it's awkward to say "So no one, other than your mother, told you life was going to be this way. (clap clap clap clap clap)" I guess there's some poetic license involved here. Relatively speaking, one out of six billion-plus people told you life was going to be this way. That's less than 0.00000000016666667% of the people out there.

So we can change that to, "So virtually no one told you life was going to be this way. (clap clap clap clap clap)" At the same time, it isn't like some random person in a South Pacific island you've never heard of warned you there would be days like these. It's your mother who is saying this. Is your mother's word nearly worthless? No, it shouldn't be. If so, then you probably have bigger things in your life going on and shouldn't be worrying yourself with the intricacies of Ross and Rachel.

On to the video.

I'll Be There for You was on The Rembrandts' third album. The song was offered to them after being offered to bands like R.E.M. and They Might Be Giants. I'm thankful that those bands declined, it would have been very upsetting to have either of those bands doing a song like that.

The song is the band's only hit to date. The band eventually broke up and reunited while the show was airing.

The Wikipedia article on The Rembrandts says that there are only two members in the band. I'm counting three people here.

And there's an organist with Kenny G hair.

Speaking of hair, I don't remember Joey's hair being that color. I'm guessing this was filmed after Season One was completed, but not necessarily before it aired. Maybe he decided to do something new to it during the summer, and the bosses made him change it back because he looked ridiculous. That's really saying something, considering how his hair looked during Season One.

I'm not even talking about the sleeveless shirt here, either.

Wedding ring be damned, this was probably this guy's bet day ever.

Do you think he still talks about the reach-around he got from Jennifer Aniston? I could just hear him.

BASSIST: What? She was standing behind me. She reached her arms around me and started playing.
OTHER PERSON: That's not what a reach-around is.
BASSIST: What do you mean that's not what a reach-around is? She literally reached around me. If I can't call that a reach-around, then what can I call it?
OTHER PERSON: I don't think they have a name for that.
BASSIST: So let's just go with reach-around. Jennifer Aniston gave me a reach-around. End of story.

Since it was included on the disc, and I waited more than a month for this damn disc, I decided that I should probably watch the Pilot again. Why not? It would be a nice to finish by revisiting the beginning, or something deep along those lines.

There's the very first shot. Four of the six core characters sitting in Central Perk on the one day of the decade where Gunther had off. Chandler is being as disrespectful as ever, sitting on the arm of the couch, with his sneakers on the cushion.

It's so strange to be able to look back at all that has changed with these people over the years. Jobs, marriages, babies. We get to see it all.

Remember when Monica used to live in apartment #5? And then she moved to apartment #20—a completely identical apartment in the same building. As luck would have it, Joey and Chandler, who were living in apartment #4 across the hall from Monica, were able to find an apartment identical their original in apartment #19, right across the hall from Monica.

Seriously, people who were making the show, why change that? I cannot fathom any reason why it would make sense to change their apartment numbers. Were they getting angry letters? I can't think of any reason other than a highly persuasive, yet crazy, letter. I want to know what this letter said, because I can't think of any other reason to change the apartment number on their door.

The best part of the rewatching the pilot was to pick out silly looking outfits being worn by extras that I missed the first time around.

Granted, the guy in the middle is pretty pedestrian compared to the others. It's very '90s, though.

Another great thing about seeing this again is that I realized that when I saw this the first time, I didn't bother to note Monica's phone. Early on, I noticed that Monica's phone looked almost exactly like the phone my family had at around that same time. Soon after that, I noticed that it changed. Then it changed again. Then they showed a flashback taking place a year before the first episode, and that was a different phone. Then I made a point to mention every time Monica got a new phone. Well, it turns out:

There was a brief period, literally around the time that Rachel moved in, where Monica had a phone that I don't think I had noticed. The woman went through phones like crazy. Did they break easily? Maybe she wanted to bang the guy at Radio Shack. I don't know. That would explain why the new phones became less frequent after she started seeing Chandler.

And that's the show. I kind of wish I had some poignant parting words or some wisdom to impart on anyone who hasn't decided to sit down and watch the entire series and blog about the experience in what could be explained as a prolonged bout of low-level insanity. I don't. This shouldn't really come as a surprise.

It's a sitcom that took America by storm. It's no Arrested Development, but it's also not According to Jim. I can't sit here and say the show was brilliant it was. It wasn't. But I was able to sit down and watch the entire series. That's saying something.

I'm not sure what my point is. I went into this knowing that I didn't really have a goal other than to get through the entire series. I was hoping that there would be some theme I could pick up and go with, but that didn't happen. Maybe there were a few and I missed it and decided to go with nitpicking. I don't know.

The truth of the matter is that I can't possibly think of another show I could do this with. Friends is a perfect balance of good writing and crap. It's hard to make fun of good writing and it's just as hard to sit through crap.

I don't know. I could possibly do this with Full House, but I'd have to be getting paid for it.

I will leave you with a video by the people at "Nobody's Watching." It sums up in 90 seconds what it took me over a year to say.

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