Or: “The One without the Local”
My Real Live Friends now have a quest on their hands: to decide on a place where we can all meet. Unfortunately, unlike the New York of the 90s, London is not subject to rent controls... As a result, in recent years, we have been thrust to various far corners of London. This has made most of our previously frequented spots a nightmare to get to.
Inspired by my new project we set out to find a new local which we can all get to easily. This being London, rather than New York, we settle upon a pub instead of a coffee shop and are soon discussing our weeks.
As it’s the very first episode and the characters need to be set up, the Friends™ initially don’t really talk about things other than their relationships. I just want to note here how incredibly well written the first scene is. It immediately establishes all the characters through their conversations whilst littering it with great jokes. (As well as offering us Matthew Perry’s immortal delivery of “And I just want a million dollars!” following Rachel’s dramatic entrance).
The show was initially criticised for underdeveloped characters but I was surprised to see a vast number of the characters major traits established right from the off. This even occurs with Chandler and Phoebe despite them speaking almost exclusively in the form of jokes. As I noted previously, with the arrival of the wedding-fleeing Rachel and the divorced Ross, all of the Friends™ characters are single – whereas only two of my friends at the pub are.
Our economic conditions are much more similar – with most of us occupying the same level of work as the Friends™: we’ve mostly achieved some level of success at the bottom rung of our chosen field. If anything my Real Live Friends are doing better than the Friends™ with our outing to the pub bringing news of several promotions. However from recent memory I can still relate to Rachel’s lack of work experience and fears of her newfound unemployment – although I can’t relate to her job hunt experience, where she gets twelve interviews in one day! IT TOOK ME EIGHT MONTHS TO FIND A JOB AFTER UNI.
Maybe it was my fault for studying Archaeology? It basically just taught me how to put up with all the hardships of being a builder, without giving me any of the skills required to be a builder!
Aside from talk of promotions, our own conversations are much more diverse than that of the Friends™ - incorporating holidays, our homes and other subjects that would translate less well to a sit-com script (such as politics). One Real Live Friend confirms his expected position of “Joey No. 1” by revealing that his flatmates were planning on getting a cleaner for their shared house, but he offered to do it for £30 a month so he could get Sky TV.
Despite my earlier assertion that our lives would seem mundane in comparison to Friends™ I'm relieved to see a scene of the Friends™ putting together furniture. This willingness to show the mundane alongside the other major life moments of the episode highlights another great strength of the show. It also puts less pressure on me to live up to their sitcom lifestyle...
As I watch I find myself asking the question of “do we look the same age as them?”
Although they look young in comparison to how they look now, it seems strange that I have finally caught up to these familiar faces in age. They still seem older than we are.
After a quick wiki search on my phone (a luxury never afforded to the Friends™) I am relieved to discover that they were mostly a year or so older than their characters age.
I’m very surprised to find that Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox were both already thirty when the show started! I can only hope me and my friends look as good as them in four years time...
The episode ends with a touching scene between Ross and Rachel. As well as introducing this important long term story-line this scene shows the heart that made the characters so beloved was there right from the start.
Real Life Sitcom Moment of the Week:
The honour of being Ross Number 1 goes to my only married friend. Being married and an academic already made him a prime candidate for Ross (although so far as I’m aware his wife has no lesbian tendencies...) and he confirmed it by living out what could have easily been a Ross storyline this week:
EDIT: Unfortunately he's taken umbrage to his story being published despite it containing nothing incriminating at all and being completely anonymous. In the days before the internet, Crane and Kauffman would never have had to deal with such censorship as this...