A NOTE ON TIMINGS: I’m aware at this point some of you might be thinking “that wasn’t two weeks...” I checked my calendar and it turns out you’re right! So what’s happened?
I’m going to be a little fluid with the timings to make certain episodes match up. However that’s not what’s happened here. As expected with such an ambitious project, I’ve created a bit of a backlog of life things and episodes which I’ve watched and made notes on but not written up yet. I didn’t expect to get behind quite so soon... But luckily for you readers it means the first few episodes will be out in quick succession before we settle into more regularly paced updates.
So I’m not cheating, I just wanted to make sure I thought the project had legs before I started writing things up all good and proper. As if to highlight my note on timings, this episode specifically states it is a month after the first rather than two weeks so please bear that in mind as we go forward.
Anyway, read on for:
“The One Where I’m Almost as Insensitive as Phoebe”
First up: some firsts!
Who’s that in the apartment across the street? It’s Ugly Naked Guy! Yes, second episode in and already we’ve seen our first Ugly Naked Guy joke. These were a mainstay of the first couple of series with vast amounts of jokes being made at our fat, ugly, disrobed friend’s expense. For obvious reasons I won’t be assigning one of my Real Live Friends as U.N.G. although I do have a fair few of them who aren’t shy when it comes to getting their kit off...
Secondly this episode features the first appearance of an African-American character in the form of Carol’s doctor. The show has been heavily criticised for its lack of prominent black characters over the years, so this is something I want to look at more as the series progresses.
Obviously it’s too soon to draw any conclusions but as a huge fan of Friends™ it was nice to see that the first black character was portrayed in a positive light and that no jokes were made at their expense. However, this portrayal of a high status black character is not particularly unusual by the early nineties (thanks to awesome shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air - with the wealthy Banks family father and mother being a lawyer and doctor respectively).
Finally, this episode gives us the first appearance of the Gellar parents. Much like U.N.G. (although they’re slightly more visible) these characters pop up quite a lot over the years. They often serve to bring in humorous plot points and flesh out the characters of Ross and Monica. They’re deployed to great effect to achieve this here; in a scene filled with strong jokes (including the first mention of Monica being fat as a youngster...).
The “pushy parent” is now an old cliché of comedy but it’s played with well in this scene. It’s helped by the strong performances of Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles, so credit should really go to those guys for making the characters such fan favourites! They're the only guest characters to appear in every season of the show (other than the women with the worlds most annoying voice and a certain blond haired barista).
The pushy parent cliché is one I’m familiar with in my life as I often find a legion of newspaper clippings concerning job opportunities thrust in my face whenever I return to my parents’ house...
I found it interesting that this scene focuses heavily on the pressure put on Monica by her mother to find a man. I can’t relate to this (due largely to me being a man...) but feel it demonstrates the show has a strong feminist thrust from the very start. This is also born out in the first scene of the episode, with the Friends™ frank discussion on the different sexual needs of men and women. As with many sitcom situations the pressure put on Monica by her mother is spun out in a slightly exaggerated fashion for comic effect – when the mother finds out about Ross and Carol's divorce she blames Monica for not telling her!
The way Friends™ deals with universal themes (such as the relationship between Monica and her mother) is surely the key to its longevity and enduring appeal in syndication. Lots of things in the world have changed since the nineties, but we’re already seeing how many things remain the same. Although I’m surprised to see that dungarees being in fashion is one of them.
Real Life Sitcom Moment of the Week:
My Real Live Friends and I dived into a new area of London this week in our continuing search for a new local. And were all saddened to find out two of our number have decided to go on a break...
I say saddened. I was obviously elated. I mean what are the chances? One of the most famous story lines from the show playing out in my own life, and I’m only on the second episode! I suppose I could have hid it better than immediately saying how great it would be for the blog over my lamb schwarma...
So with that in mind I am making myself Phoebe Number 1 with my own insensitivity nearly matching her exclamation, to the newly divorced Ross, of “Carol is so great, I miss her.”