Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friends: Season Five

In general:
This is my favorite season. Why? Because Chandler and Monica are secretly dating. That storyline was, is, and will always be comedy gold. Its only flaw was that it had to end sometime, and at least it did that in my favorite episode ever, "The One Where Everybody Finds Out."

However, when I viewed it with a critical eye, it became apparent that this season contains clear danger signs. Ross's rage and whininess problems are used to genuine comic effect here, but they would eventually become overused, easy jokes. And in the second half of the season, Monica begins to show flashes of horribleness: when she takes Rachel to the eye doctor and sucks up like a four year old to get a lollipop; when she takes the game of seeing how long you can play catch without dropping the ball way, way too far; and when she spends an entire episode in competition entirely in her own mind over whether she or Phoebe is in a "hotter" couple. Why couldn't they keep cute relationship Monica even after her relationship wasn't secret anymore?

But overall, this is a really fun season. There are fewer big storylines, but it is a collection of very funny episodes. Why ask for more?

Little things that drive me crazy:
The Danny storyline is an inferior rehash of season four's Joshua storyline. Rachel likes a guy who won't ask her out, so she resorts to crazy schemes to bait him into asking her out. Except this time, the guy isn't even nice. I hate Danny.

As everybody sits around in Phoebe's hospital room after she delivers her brother's babies, there is yet another occasion of Monica sitting in Ross's lap. I don't have any brothers, so I doubled checked with sister-having Neal, and he confirmed that, yes, that's creepy.

Not as creepy as Danny's inappropriate sister, though. Yikes.

When Joey walks in the door with his tux on to do the PBS telethon, Chandler spazzes out about it being the "vomit tux," a joke which goes absolutely nowhere.

Ross's hair is so ridiculous--by mid-season, it's gelled up halfway to heaven.

As much as I love Fat Monica, the jokes made about her and Ugly Naked Guy (example: he killed his cat by sitting on it) lead to the conclusion that this show kind of hates fat people.

Little things I love:

Now what man could resist that?

Joey's Ross-and-Rachel-argument survival kit, which contains: candy bars, crossword puzzles, Mad Libs, magazines, a walkie-talkie, Doritos, and of course condoms. ("You don't know how long we're gonna be in here! We may have to repopulate the Earth!" "And condoms are the way to do that.")

Joey has no particular storyline in "The One with Kips" (or: "The One Where Monica and Chandler Go Away for the Weekend" or: "The One Where Ross Won't See Rachel Anymore"), but is consistently hilarious throughout--there's the abovementioned survival kit, leaving Rollos everywhere, giving Ross the "advice" that he got married too soon, piecing together that Monica and Chandler are secretly dating, and of course saying to Chandler "Look, I'm just gonna ask you this one time, and whatever you say, I'll believe you. Were you--or were you not--on a gay cruise?!"

While Phoebe and Joey argue about whether there's any such thing as an unselfish good deed, Chandler just sits there making tortured expressions.

{removed: a Hulu video}

The nonverbal conversation Chandler and Joey have after Chandler sabotages Ross's application for a terrible apartment

The scene where Joey figures out how Chandler and Monica can kiss at midnight at New Year's Eve--Joey is a kiss savant!

In the episode where Ben is auditioning for a commercial, the really awesome commercial kid actor reads Variety in the background.

Little things that are just . . . little things:
At the beginning of "The One with All the Kissing" is the scene where Monica and Chandler are in the bath when Joey bursts in, so Monica holds her breath and ducks underwater until he leaves. This scene used to bother me a little, because it seemed like Joey was in there for quite a while (asking about chicken), and wouldn't Monica have had a hard time holding her breath for that long? But this time when I watched it, I held my breath along with Monica and it wasn't even really a challenge.

The main plot in "The One with Joey's Bag" just doesn't resonate as much anymore in the Era of the Messenger Bag.

The covers of the DVD sets brag about the episodes containing previously unseen footage. However, virtually every single joke that got cut for broadcast and remains on the DVD is a clunker. The only exception I ever notice is on TV, Rachel comments about Joey's girlfriend, Soleil Moon Frye, "She is so cute! You could keep her in your pocket!" On the DVD, Phoebe adds, "She could fit in that little pocket inside the pocket!" And even that's not awesome. The lesson: things get cut for a reason.


  • Chandler, after Ross says "Rachel": "It could have been worse--he could have shot her."
  • Phoebe: "I don't want some guy down there telling me I'm 'dilated-a-mundo'!"
  • Ross: "There are plenty of people who just see their sisters at Thanksgiving and just see their college roommates at reunions and . . . just see Joey at Burger King."
  • Ross: "Somebody at work ate my sandwich!" Chandler: "Well, what did the police say?!"
  • Phoebe: "Someday I'll tell you about the time I stabbed a cop." Monica, aghast: "Phoebe!" Phoebe: "HE STABBED ME FIRST!"
  • Ross, having just come home from a night with Janice: "I know what you guys are going to say--" Phoebe: "You two would have very hairy children."
  • Monica: "How did you get to be so cute?" Chandler: "Well, my grandfather was Swedish, and my grandmother was actually a tiny little bunny."
  • Rachel, coming back from a job interview: "I did the stupidest, most embarrassing thing!" Joey: "Did you tell the guy you wanted to have sex with his wife and then fall right out of your chair?"
  • Chandler: "You know, I rued the day once. Didn't get a whole lot else done."
  • Ross: "Are you angry with me because I said your handwriting is childlike?" Phoebe: "No, that made me feel precious."
And then all the comments about Rachel's hairless cat in "The One with the Ball":
  • Ross: "Why's it inside-out?"
  • Joey, five different times: "It's not a cat!"
  • Rachel: "Every time it hisses at me, I know it's saying Rachel!"
  • Rachel: "I tried, [the pet store] won't take her back." Chandler: "Maybe that's because she's a minion of the Anti-Christ."
  • Rachel: "I'm stuck with this stupid cat that looks like a hand!"
Let's talk about Monica and Chandler:
I disagree with people who think that Monica and Chandler getting together was a shark-jump moment for Friends (although maybe more people think it was them getting married, anyway--which I still disagree with). Like I have stated, their secret dating was reliable source of hilarity; their relationship after it settled down fit surprisingly well into the dynamic of the show; and you know what? they're just good together. They are.

In fact, I remember reading a reader letter in People magazine, gushing about the first season episode where Ross's son is born just after it had aired. The woman who had written it thought it was so great and that it made her really excited for the future, when she was sure that Monica and Chandler were going to get together, and Chandler was going to be all nervous about the birth of their baby. And then of course, there was a 60 Minutes piece with the cast of Friends after the fourth season finale had aired, and Ed Bradley or whoever says to Matthew Perry, "So you finally got Monica." And everybody laughs, and then Perry replies that they'd been getting a lot of that, even though they had been worried that they hadn't built up to it at all and the audience was going to be mad about it. But clearly, the most of the viewers were totally ready for it to happen, whether they knew it consciously or not.

But anyway.

Why did Monica and Chandler keep their relationship a secret for so long? They give several reasons (all to poor Joey, who suffers the most from keeping the secret): 1) they didn't want to make a big deal out of it; 2) similarly, they didn't want to deal with telling everyone; 3) it's going really well, maybe because it's a secret; 4) they're both so bad at relationships. But what I have always thought (and what I mistakely thought they had explicitly stated, until I started watching the fifth season on DVD instead of just haphazardly in syndication) was that they didn't want to be like Ross and Rachel.

Ross and Rachel always had to deal with the scrutiny of everybody else; they did almost everything in their relationship with an audience. It's obvious that Chandler couldn't have handled that. For one thing, it's Chandler. He was well established not just as commitment-phobic, but as being a spaz about it. And it's obvious that their decision to keep it secret was a good one, since in the first episode after they come out of the non-gay closet, everybody's teasing makes Chandler flip out, which makes Monica almost dump him. If they hadn't developed a relationship, slowly over several months and without all their friends badgering them about it, it couldn't have worked.

And maybe it was a good decision for Monica, too. She did OK with her public relationships with Richard and Pete, but she does go kind of crazy when she and Chandler are exposed to comparison with Phoebe and Gary the Cop. Chandler can talk her out of the insanity thanks to the confidence in them as a couple that he had built up.

Finally, I'm just glad that the writers committed to this relationship. In life, there are on-again/off-again couples and there are couples who make the traditional progression (dating, serious dating, engagement, marriage, 'til death do they part). On TV, it often seems like the former outnumber the latter. Since Ross and Rachel are couple type 1, it's good that they allowed Monica and Chandler to be couple type 2. Despite some fights and obstacles, they get together, stay together, and live happily ever after.

Worst episode name ever?:
I always have to take a second to remember which one "The One with the Kips" is. In case you are similarly confused, it's the one where Ross decides to cut Rachel out of his life so Emily will come back to him. When Rachel finds out, she has a conversation at the coffee house with everybody but Ross about how she's going to be like Chandler's old roommate Kip--Monica dated Kip but then they broke up and nobody hung out with him anymore. But this conversation takes place sixteen minutes into the episode, and the word "Kip" isn't (if I remember correctly) even mentioned again afterward. And then I don't know if "Kips," plural, is supposed to mean Rachel and the original Kip, or if it's Rachel when she thinks she'll be cut out and then Ross when he volunteers to step back, or what.

Episodes I'm not including on the top episodes list--controversially?!

"The One with the Cop"
or: "The One Where Joey Wants Closeness" or: "The One with Ross's New Couch."
Look, I love "PIVOT! PIVOT!" We all do. And the other storylines offer a fair amount of chuckles. But it's just not upper echelon.

"The One in Vegas"
I also love the Ross-drawing-on-Rachel subplot. So funny. ("Oh my god, you drew on me?!" "Hey, you wet my pants!") And TV Guide once named the moment when Ross and Rachel come out of the wedding chapel ("Hellooo, Mrs. Ross!" "Well, hellooooo, Mr. Rachel!") as #1 of the 50(?) greatest Friends moments ever. But the Identical Hand Twin story? There's only one joke which, while it's funny the first time, gets tired by the dozenth time. And then the plot where Phoebe is in a grudge match with the little old "lurker" lady is bo-ring. Maybe if it had been one half-hour instead of a two-parter, they would have trimmed that fat. In that case, it would have been a top episode.

Top six episodes:
"The One Hundredth"
or: "The with the Doctor Who Loves Fonzie" or: "The One with Joey's Kidney Stones"

"The One with Ross's Sandwich"
or: "The One Where Joey is Disgusting" or: "The One with Phoebe's Lit Class"

"The One with All the Resolutions"

"The One with Joey's Big Break"
or: "The One with Rachel's Eye" or: "The Where Phoebe is Mad at Ross"

including the total classics:
"The One with All the Thanksgivings"

"The One Where Everybody Finds Out"


AVH said...

Love it!! Season 5 is my favorite season, too, although it's a very close call between 4 and 5 for me. 5 is definitely overall more enjoyable. I love your Friends posts!!

ashpags said...

Haha, one of these was on today. It was the one where Chandler finds out that Monica told Rachel her new secret boyfriend was the best sex of her life. ;)