Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Favourite Moments With Friends

Continuing on from the One Where I Talked About Things I Liked That Happened In Friends, these are my favourite moments with Friends.

Meeting Friends

At 9pm every Wednesday night in the years 1995-1996, me and Sarah J would crowd onto Graham's bed in the attic of their Wake Road student house where I spent most of my first year in Sheffield. We'd pile in with a couple of bottles of the cheapest red wine we could find, loads of fags and a pizza for, first, ER then Friends.  In the days before catch-up TV and cheap video boxsets (this was before even DVDs, man) if you wanted to see something, you either had to watch it then and there or video it. I didn't have a VCR so if I missed it, I wouldn't see it (it was repeated on Friday nights, but I was at Stardust at the Union on Friday nights (equally, not to be missed) so ...). Oh ... the count downs to our Wednesday nights on Graham's bed were electric.

And then: 'What? Oh: no, you just rolled over the juicebox'. 'Thank God!' Perfection.

Kensal Rise and Portobello Road with Friends

Lying in bed with Sarah G for hours with disgusting hangovers, choking our way through packets of 10 Silk Cut/ML, eating beans on toast and watching endless episodes of Friends, still really laughing at the jokes, even though, by then, we knew them off by heart.

Sarah's got a real belly laugh and she's not afraid to use it - so I always think of her really laughing when I see bits she particularly liked: The Routine; 'it tastes like feet', 'Pivot!' and Joey being forced to dance by Ross at his failed wedding to Emily.

Being dumped with Friends

One particular loser who I was so much better than but had managed to wheedle his way into my affections for no other reason than he said he wanted to introduce me to his mum, chucked me in our local pub after a week of radio silence.  We all know how horrendous radio silence followed by a 'we need to talk' contact followed by a 'it's not you, it's me' on a SUNDAY NIGHT can be.  I remember sobbing my way home in the rain along West Norwood High Street. Friends filled the rest of that particular Long Night Of The Dumped and kept my pitiful weeping to a more manageable level of hysteria.

Jetlagged with Friends

When Rob and I came back from our honeymoon in LA, we had to move straight into the spare room as we were having our ensuite put in (I know).  The spare bed was old and small, the mattress so sleep-worn it had a divot down the middle in which you had no choice but to both sleep.  Jetlag, coupled with the fact we were basically conjoined by sweat in that divot meant we were awake most of the night. At three am, Rob went downstairs, made a plate of Marmite on toast and two steaming mugs of tea and we watched Friends in the dark until we finally fell asleep.


Barely able to contain myself beside the effortlessly cool Rob
Crushing the pretenders with Friends

When I first started working at the Globe, I had no idea I was walking into a den of secret Friends fans. But, as my time there wore on, they slowly, but surely slunk from the woodwork. At first it was just Clare and Rathers who tentatively invited me into their Friends cave, taking care that I was no Friends fool with cryptic tests and obscure asides. Once I'd passed, I cannot tell you how AMAZING it was to have a detailed email analysis of why Emily was such an annoying character.  Or highlight a character contradiction  - ie: in Season 7 Ross is exposed for not liking ice-cream because it's too cold and it hurts his teeth but au-contraire! he does like the cream of ice in Season 2.

Then, others began to suggest that they, too, were Friends super fans. Oh, really? We suggested a Friends quiz night. The entire Education department signed up. Everyone had to come as a supporting character - there were teams of Richards, Janices, Days of Our Lives doctors and my team - Rathers, Clare and the lovely Georghia who had heard of Friends - went as Three Chicks and A Duck (a hy-larious play on The One With Five Steaks and An Eggplant and ... well, the chick and duck).

We all wrote questions so that it was fair (of course, our masterful quiz-master made sure we didn't get any of our own so there really was no cheating). Naturally, Three Chicks and A Duck won the Geller Cup and, while the bitterness was evident about some of the less sportsmanlly players, it was our gauntlet that was thrown - they were the fools who picked it up.

To this day Three Chicks and A Duck retain the Geller Cup (in a drawer upstairs, away from my husband's desperate-to-chuck-it-out hands).

The Original

The Best
What are yours?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

10 Favourite Friends Moments

A few weeks ago a lovely fellow Friend-ite of mine sent me a link to this - it's a zinging attack on the terrible legacy of Friends by someone who sees it as the root cause of all evil in our world. According to this sparky little fella, Friends is, amongst other things, the reason why people place pretentious coffee orders, why men hit on women all the time and made neurotic behaviour acceptable.

High praise indeed for a little sit-com.

Friends isn't everyone's cup of tea (or coffee which, if my memory serves me correctly, is probably about as complex an order the Friends cast ever really give. Maybe a muffin.), but it's definitely mine.  It's unfailingly upbeat, it has strong, generally believable and clearly flawed characters and it handles tough subjects - infertility and death - with a light but effective touch.

There are hundreds that I could list here, but here are my top ten moments (today's version, anyway) from Friends, in no particular order:

10: Ross & Rachel's first kiss

This was the first episode I ever watched and I really belly-laughed at this. The timing of Ross's collision with the dryer door is just perfect.

09: Ross finds out about Chandler & Monica

Again, the timing on this is brilliant.  It shunted 'My sandwich' by a nose.

08: The others find out about Chandler & Monica

But I couldn't have Ross finding out without these two:

Pheobe on perfect form:

And so's Joey:

07: Pheobe singing along to Ross's bagpipes

06: Mike's fake piano

05: Ross made out with the school librarian

There's also the amazing scene where Brad Pitt goes to high-five Ross when he tells him that he got Rachel pregnant and isn't going to marry her. GENIUS.

04: Mike & Ross's awkward night

03: You just rolled over the juicebox

02: Pivot! Pivot!

01: This is Vikram

Tied with:

01: I got off the plane

What's yours?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Friends Means To Me: A Mildly Embarrassing Confessional

This year, Friends is twenty whole years old.

(Which means I am old.)

Me: geeking out INTENSELY on-set
When Friends first aired, I was living in Pennsylvania working as an au-pair spending my weekends drinking can after can of Old Milwaukee, watching Anime and obscure movies on laser-discs with my very cool, Nirvana-esque boyfriend. I had no time for some vanilla sit-com.  Well. That's not strictly true. I'm casting myself a little too cool there. I vaguely remember it coming out, but because American TV baffled me so much back then with its sheer volume of content, I could never remember what was on when and what channel so, when I did have access to the remote control, I just ended up watching re-runs of I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moor Show on Nick at Night.  So even if I really, really wanted to see it, the chances are I would never have found it.

So I came to Friends late, by that sense. It was introduced to me, instead, the next year when I was at university in Sheffield and Channel 4 began playing the first season on Wednesday nights - right after ER. Then, when I only had four channels to deal with, I was able to get into it.

Now, I can't imagine my life without Friends.

Oh, don't worry. I'm well aware of how tragic that sounds. I'm 38 for God's sake. And a lot of what I've written here could possibly get me sectioned, but it's hard to write about how much a TV show means to you without sounding a bit mental.

So here goes:

I was 19 when I first started watching Friends and I really haven't stopped. It's been a constant in my life for the past 19 years. At every high and low, Friends has been there.

Me: geeking out AGAIN on the
corner of Grove & Bedford, NY
I guess this should worry me but, again, I find it comforting. I reference Friends in my head without even thinking about it: I always say the word 'compooper' when I need to write the word computer. When we visited a fertility clinic, Chandler's 'there's a lot of malfunctioning wee-wees and ho-has in here' popped into my head.  When my dad died, The One Where Nana Dies Twice suddenly made sense.  Trust me, there are several scenarios that Friends goes through that don't work (rat-babies), but those that do ... do. I know how strange that sounds, but when you feel alone or out of your depth, there's solace in knowing that someone has been there before. It's embarrassing, yes, that that someone is a fabricated character, but, you know, someone wrote those words ...

Friends has had such a positive impact on my life. Contrary to what may be inferred from this post, it's not replaced real friends, but enhanced those friendships I make.  I've honestly made friends-for-life through the mutual understanding of an obscure Friends quote - 'front and back!' ... 'but you left' ... 'Cups and ice'.

It bonded me to two of my best friends - Sarah 1 at Uni who introduced me to it, and Sarah 2, my flatmate in London who I introduced it to, leaving her with my Season 5 Video Boxset on a Saturday morning and finding her in the same position that night having watched the entire season in one sitting. From then on, getting a brand-new season box-set of Friends was the absolute HIGHLIGHT of our year, man! And when we moved into a new flat, my full-season set of Friends videos filled an entire kitchen cabinet.

My beloved (at the time) boyfriend dumped me the night after the final ever episode of Friends.  It was like two eras ending and I felt as bereft of one as I did of the other.  But with Friends, I could go right back to the beginning and start again - with Joey in his leather waistcoat and Monica and Rachel's high-waisted jeans. I have split up with a lo-ooo-ot of men and Friends has held my hand through long, weeping nights. I've had some sad things happen and during the worst parts, it was the only thing I could have on the TV. The comfort is in its reliability, that I know what's coming and I know I'll enjoy it.  I've found that when I'm happy, I need Friends less - when things are tougher, I come back to it. Like crack, I suppose ...

And, I think, that's the basic fact - I enjoy Friends. I just do.  It gives me 22 minutes where I can relax, regroup and enjoy myself.

And there's so nothing wrong with that.