Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Something’s Always Wrong: There is At Least One Good Episode of Friends

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 14, 2007

The Good Dr. understands that his opinions, while always correct, are not always correct, and he recognizes the need to rescind certain statements

I have been known to make a series of inflammatory anti-Friends remarks over the years, and I stand by most of them. Largely though, it’s a personality thing–Friends used to remind me of too many annoying people in my life, and just about no one I know whose opinion I respect watches it. But as the years go by, and I’m forced to spend time with less Friendsian people and I get a little bit older (or maybe a little lower in my TV standards), the show gets more bearable, to the point where I can almost enjoy watching it. Almost. There’s still the show’s unfortunate focus around the show’s two least interesting characters (and most grating actors), as well as the largely uninspired plotlines and lack of truly memorable quotes or episodes.

Except for one. I’ve probably only seen under a dozen Friends episodes in my life, but one of them I’ve seen multiple times–“The One With the Embryos,” which was on last night. and remains the only transcendent Friends moment I’ve ever witnessed. The main plot of this episode features Lisa Kudrow trying to get impregnated with her brother and his wife / ex-home ec teacher’s baby, played by Giovanni Ribisi and Kitty from That 70s Show. It’s a relatively boring main plot but does demonstrate one impressive thing about this show, which is how they manage to take the most wholly ridiculous, implausible plots and make them seem like normal occurences.

However, the main draw of this episode is what everyone else is doing that episode, a trivia contest that the Friends play about themselves, moderated by Ross and featuring Rachel and Monica facing off against Chandler and Joey to see which pair knows more about the others. I didn’t realize it until watching it the second time, but almost every Friends trivia question comes directly from this episode, and I was actually doing some WSOPC prep by taking some Friends quizzes online last night when this episode came on, officially marking the most meta episode I’ve ever been involved with.

Anyway, I’d call this the first good Friends episode I’ve ever seen, largley because it’s actually funny–Chandler and Joey knowing that Rachel lying about Dangerous Liasons being her favorite movie when it’s actually Weekend at Bernie’s, and Rachel and Monica being able to get everything about Chandler except the age at which he first touched a breast (19) and what he actually does for a living (not mentioned, but Rachel’s best guess is “transponster”). It does a great job of inadvertently celebrating the cult of Friends by demonstrating that hey, at least the cast share and appreciate the kind of obsessive knowledge that the fans have about their favorite characters (as well as celebrating the huge rush of a good trivia contest–the Friends characters are on the edge of their seat throughout the whole deal, and so probably is the audience).

More importantly, it accentuates the most appealing thing about these characters in general–that regardless of whether you like the characters or not, they really are one of the greatest and most believable group of friends in TV history. Superior show though it is, it’s impossible to imagine the cast of Seinfeld engaging in a contest like this–Jerry would constantly be making belittling comments to George, Elaine would be furious at having been teamed with Kramer, and George would’ve stormed off at his first wrong answer, screaming about the contest being rigged. The Friends cast can make it work because they seem so legitimately close, it seems totally reasonable that they’d know all this stuff about each other and be willing to stake significant ante on them knowing the most–Rachel and Monica eventually lose their apartment to Chandler and Joey, who kick them out unceremoniously and unapolagetically–fair is fair, and they deserve what they have coming to them.

It’s not enough to make me want to re-evaluate the show much more, but it does validate the show’s existence at least a little bit. Almost enough to make up for Joey.

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2 Responses to “Something’s Always Wrong: There is At Least One Good Episode of Friends”

  1. abegrand said

    Gotta admit, the “Chanandler Bong” line gets me every time (“Actually, it’s Miss Chanandler Bong”).

    Thinking about it, the first episode that really struck me as being great was “The One Where No One’s Ready”, where they take the oft-used French farce idea, and like you said, make it oddly believable (“That is so not the opposite of taking somebody’s underwear!”).

  2. Justin said

    Friends sucks worse than most forms of torture, but you’re right about what you said. Well done.

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