Friday, March 27, 2009

Friends: Season Two

In general:
I don't claim to know how Friends did in the ratings in any particular season, but content-wise, this show did not have a sophomore slump. There are a few misfires, particularly early in the season ("The One Where Heckles Dies" is a particular un-favorite of mine [and, not coincidentally, hearkens back to first-season corniness]), but pretty much every great, loveable aspect of the show can be found in this season. The characters are full-fledged without coming close to being the caricatures they would someday become.

Moreover, plot-wise a whole lot happens. Ross and Rachel kiss for the first time, Ross and Rachel start dating, Monica loses her good job, Monica eventually gets a terrible new job, Monica starts dating Richard, Monica breaks up with Richard, Susan and Carol get married, Joey gets his job on Days of our Lives, Joey moves out, Joey loses his job on Days of our Lives, Joey moves back in, Phoebe first sings "Smelly Cat," Phoebe gets a record deal for "Smelly Cat," Phoebe first meets her half-brother, and Gunther speaks. There's a surprising amount of huge, series-defining events.

Little things that drive me crazy:
Monica's bangs. They look greasy and terrible during the whole back half of the season.

A strange continuity thing: in season one and season two, it gets mentioned that Phoebe slept with Monica's ex, Jason Hurley, an hour after he and Monica broke up. That would be great continuity, but that Monica is shocked by the revelation both times. Why bother to use the same name and everything if it still isn't going to make sense?

Rachel's hatefulness to Ross's girlfriend Julie, while Julie is a total sweetheart. We're supposed to be on Rachel's side because we know her better, but Julie is awesome, so it makes Rachel look pretty bad. In my opinion, anyway.

Little things I love:
So! many! great Chandler lines:

  • "Why yes, Ross, pressing my third nipple opens the delivery entrance to the magical land of Narnia."
  • "This must be so hard. 'Oh, no, two women love me! They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet is too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes fit too tight!' "
  • "The world is my lesbian wedding." (upon Joey's complaint that he was surrounded by women but could do nothing about it)
  • "Can open, worms everywhere!"
  • Joey: "We never said we were going to live together forever. We're not Bert and Ernie." Chandler: "I'm aware we're not gay puppets."
  • "So when I woke up, he had stolen all the insoles outta my shoes!" (telling his friends about how crazy his roommate Eddie is)
  • "This is not out of the blue! This is SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLUE!"
  • Ross: "Over my dead body!" Chandler: "And I'll be using his body as a shield."
  • "Think: what would Jack and Chrissy do?"
One common knock on Friends is that they all seem to live lives of impossible leisure, with their big apartments and constant presence at the coffee house. But there is a whole episode dedicated to friends talking about money and their relative economic statuses, and how uncomfortable that is. Oh, and it's funny.

Eddie, particularly his fish-related hijinks.

Phoebe's romantic lobster metaphor.

In the scene where Monica breaks it to her parents that she's dating Richard, Ross is mostly in the background. However, he is quietly responsible for: removing a crystal glass from his mother's hands, taking a baseball bat out of his father's hands, and rounding up everyone at the party to come into the kitchen singing to cause a diversion. Well played, Ross.

Let's talk about Monica:

In the second season, the writers decided to stop making Monica haplessly unlucky in love (which is good, as I felt that was a hard sell). For this--this is the season that she dates Richard. Sure, the age difference can be awkward, but they're so good together it's easy to ignore the sketchiness. And sure, they ultimately break up, but for such a good reason! She needs babies, but he doesn't want to have more babies. (It's hard to blame him. According to their conversation on their first date, he'd have at least two grandkids older than any kids they would have together.) But Monica's just so happy with Richard. It's nice to watch.

They do trade lovelife loserdom for job loserdom, however. She gets fired from a nice restaurant (right after getting promoted!) for accidentally taking a kickback, then she's unemployed for quite a while, then she has to start working at the '50s theme diner which, while it is a comedic goldmine for us and for her friends, is quite a blow.

The second season also marks the first flash-back appearance (in "The One with the Prom Video") of Fat Monica, who may well be my favorite character in the whole series. She's such a sweetie! It isn't my favorite appearance by Fat Monica (that happens in the fifth season), but she gets established well here. She goes to prom with a guy who'd seen Star Wars 317 times! ("His name was in the paper!")

On top of that, second-season Monica is not at all shrieky and obsessive. Her cleaning quirks come up, but not in every episode--by a long shot. It shows up infrequently enough that it makes her plot in "The One with the Chicken Pox" plausible: she and Richard have been dating for half the season, but she is only just then reveals her crazinesses to him. Since the crazy is not her whole personality, we can buy it--heck, that's what allows to buy that a great guy like Richard is even with her.

Basically, this is a season that makes it all right that people compare me to Monica. A woman who's a little quirky, who's not always put together career-wise, who needs her some babies, who's capable of having a solid relationship with an awesome guy, but who is above all a nice person and a good friend? I can totally live with that.

Worst plotline:
The A plot in "The One with the Bullies." It's just so stupid. It renders the whole episode practically unwatchable for me.

Best plotline in an otherwise lackluster episode:
When Joey works at Chandler's company and decides to play the character of Joseph the Processing Guy. Chandler's reactions to Joey's imaginary wife and kids are gold; it's too bad it's buried under Phoebe and Charlie Sheen in "The One with the Chicken Pox."

Honorable mention episode:
"The One After the Superbowl [sic]": this one is pretty epic (Ross discovers that Marcel has become a corporate mascot, crazy Brooke Shields stalks Joey, Chris Izaak gets Phoebe a job singing for kids but she ruins it by singing overly truthful songs, Rachel and Monica date Jean-Claude Van Damme [not, in this case, a character played by Jean-Claude Van Damme--they date Jean-Claude Van Damme] , and Julia Roberts dates Chandler but only as a way to trick him into getting stranded in a restaurant wearing nothing but her panties) and very funny, but it's a little too cartoony and outlandish to be one of the top episodes.

Top six episodes:

"The One with Ross's New Girlfriend"
or: "The One with Joey's Tailor" or: "The One Where Phoebe Cuts Monica's Hair"

"The One Where Eddie Moves In"
or: "The One Where Phoebe Gets a Music Video" or: "The One Where Ross and Monica Fight (Like When They Were Kids)" (I know that last one is cumbersome, but I couldn't think of anything pithier.)

"The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies"
or: "The One Where Eddie Gets Weird" or: "The One Where Richard Sleeps Over"

"The One Where Eddie Won't Go"
or: "The One Where Eddie Gets WEIRD" or: "The One Where Joey Moves Back" or: "The One with Be Your Own Windkeeper"

"The One with Two Parties"
sums it up.

And the total classic:
"The One with the Prom Video"
or: "The One with Chandler's Bracelet" but who cares? It has the prom video!


Frank said...

Brooke Shields is absolutely brilliant as the stalker.

Rachel said...

No question. It was no surprise when she got her own sitcom on the strength of that appearance.