Everything Else

Bye Week Foofaraw: How Friends Ruined Society (Or At Least Nearly Caused Me To Flunk A College Class)

We’ve decided that with the bye week upon us, this would be a perfect time to vomit up whatever has been rolling around in our heads, no matter what the subject matter is. Not like anyone gives a shit about our hockey thoughts anyway. So all week, we’ll be writing about anything under the sun that strikes our fancy. 

By the time “Friends” polluted our TV screens in 1993, I was already heavily addicted to sitcoms and had a general feeling that I wanted to do something around that area when I grew up (if being the drummer for GNR would never present itself). I had watched Cheers, Night Court, The Simpsons, and Seinfeld pretty religiously, especially Cheers and The Simpsons.

Clearly, Seinfeld was the genesis for something like Friends. Four people living in New York, living a something of a life we all knew. Except none of them were especially pretty, and certainly they were all heavily flawed. Seinfeld himself was petty and insecure, George a neurotic loser (which we could all relate too), Elaine falling just short in any category, and the unmitigated weirdo (before we found out he was basically a despicable human being).

And then someone thought, “What if we made Seinfeld, but stripped it of all nuance and uncleanliness and really dumbed it down?” That’s how we ended up with the yuppie trash that was Friends.

It was obvious from the first preview, and if you even made it through the opening theme, that these six people were the exact type of people that the people who wrote all the music we loved were writing about. They had nothing to offer other than their looks, and yet they ended up everywhere we wanted to be. They were living in Manhattan even though I’m fairly sure none of them actually worked at any job that would allow you to live in Manhattan (i.e. athlete, investment banker, or supervillain). They had nothing to say and relied on merely cute phrases that only stupid people found funny. One of them had a fucking catch phrase, for fuck’s sake!

Where the fuck were the people we could relate to? Cheers had a fat guy, a washed up ball player, a hayseed, a mailman, and the burned out server. We knew those people. You could see those people on the street. The Simpsons had a deeply flawed family. You probably came from one.

Who the fuck were these people? Growing up in Lincoln Park, this is what I feared I was being surrounded by more and more and even at 11 or 12 knew I wanted nothing to do with it. Their biggest problem was what, a zit? Or it was one of the guys complaining about being “friendzoned,” the height of bitchy-ass male entitlement.

I’m convinced that the success of Friends gave us the creature that was Sex And The City, which after its first season was utter garbage. But all you needed was a group of attractive people doing attractive things, and it didn’t matter if their character had all the depth of a fucking pancake under a tractor-trailer. The combination of those two shows made every obnoxious fuck I went to high school with want to move to New  York and live that life, and become even more fucking obnoxious than they already were (yes you, Jake).

The response to that gave us even more abominations like Entourage, which taught every male that every thing in life is a fucking reward including other people, and the only value in life was staying true to “your bros,” no matter what kind of shitheads they were. And anything that glorifies the ass rash that Ari Emanuel is, the epitome of why I would have rather thrown myself off a building than being moved to the north suburbs as my mother kept threatening, cannot be good for anyone. CBS then came up with a raft of shows that were essentially based around a fat slob with a hot wife, which basically was the fever dream of every fat slob out there (i.e. 60% of the country at least). Don’t bother doing a sit up for anything other than reaching for your second nacho plate of the afternoon, a smart, beautiful, confident woman will still be yours because why would they aim any higher?

The emptiness of Friends also caused shows I genuinely liked to be stripped of any of their color. Anyone who saw the first season of The John Larroquette show knows this far too well. The first season saw a recovering drunk being the overnight manager of a bus station that was populated by a prostitute, crooked cops, and Chi McBride. It was dark, dirty, and utterly hilarious. Larroquette struggled with his own addictions and the creatures that came through the station, including gangs and whatever else. It had something to say.

The second season? Suddenly he was working in the day and the prostitute had no become the bar owner. It was stripped of all that made it memorable, and they even introduced a pretty empty love-interest because Ross and Rachel!

All of boiled over for me one day my sophomore year at Emerson. It was during a Media Theory course, which was just about as big of a steaming pile of horseshit as you might expect when you hear it. Yes, you go to college to learn this kind of thinking, but then you soon realize it’s only use is to basically talk about it with other shitheads at college. When you’re writing five page papers about what a fucking poster for Tomb Raider says about society, and suddenly you realize why some of the anti-intellectual sentiment in this country exists.

Anyway, one of the producers of friends had had this exact professor when he was at Emerson and came back to speak to my class. Because anything obnoxious and annoying in Film or TV is assuredly at least partially created by an Emerson grad. No, that’s not a dig at Matt Spiegel. Ok, it’s a small dig at Matt Spiegel. Anyway, after about 10 minutes of this jackass trying to explain why the bright colors and lively sets they used on Friends was the main reason for the show’s success (he actually believed this), I slammed my fist down on my desk. When inquiring what my interruption was about, I tried to calmly explain that “Quite simply, you’re full of shit. Your show’s success is based on six very pretty people saying very accessible things that stupid people can understand while they try not to accept that they’re just watching for six attractive people living a life they’ll never know. That’s it.”

Surprisingly, I was invited to leave, which I accepted gleefully and probably headed for the bar.

I barely passed that class, and this was a main reason why. “Friends” still represents the mainstream, vacuous yuppie culture that I abhor and only see it growing to downright dangerous proportions (and if you think it doesn’t have a heavy hand in where we are today as a country, think again). “Friends” is basically the gentrification creeping into your neighborhood.

I don’t think there’s anything I hate more.