Friends: Too Late to Turn Back Now

I was so happy to be done with Friends. Two thirds the way through the ninth season, I thought I was a few episodes away from watching the entire thing, that I would soon be free to move on. Netflix autostarts new episodes and bookmarks, it’s quite easy to not look at what came before and what comes ahead. I pushed aside the impression they weren’t tying things up, but eventually denial feel away and I acknowledged there is indeed a tenth season. 

The only real upside to the second half of the run of the show as far as I can tell is that Lisa Kudrow gets to shine. Once her triplets storyline is complete, she is the freest of the main cast, not confined by the melodrama that paints most of the cast into narrative corners. Kudrow applies her signature oddball spin to every line and scene, creating goofball energy that brightens the show as it lurches through its seventh, eighth and ninth seasons. 

I avoided Friends when it was first on, I was into sci fi and gritty cop shows, plus it was far too popular. It’s one of Netflix’s prized properties, but one, like the Scranton version of the Office, that’s always under threat of being taken off the platform so the company that owns those shows can stream them themselves elsewhere. Both offer (mostly) white worlds to slip into during for hour/day/month/year long periods. The Office started edgy, poking fun at white male mediocrity, office culture, and micro and macro aggressions that occur there. Friends never aimed to be that smart, it’s edge was often in homo and transphobia, gender policing and sexual references that seem quaint today. I tick off these faults as I watch one episode after the next.

By the way, the way Papa John got himself fired from his own company played out like a Michael Scott cosplay routine that got out of hand. It was a frequent Office plot line that Scott would disrupt PR trainings of various kinds with the exact behavior the training was meant to avoid. Enter John Shnatter, who went off script during a PR conference call with the management of the pizza company he founded, to use the n-word during a discussion about avoid racist speech at work. By the end of its run, the Office was way past anything that raw and troubling, it was busy bubble wrapping it’s characters in happy endings.

After this discovery that I have twenty one episodes of Friends left, not a handful, I think I need a break. I’ll take Paul Rudd’s departure (how does he look older fifteen years ago than he does now?) as a cue to give Phoebe and co. some room. Friends aren’t going anywhere, the only question now is when I’m going to finish them off.