Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Friends: Season Six

In general:
Before I embarked on this project, I had thought that Friends peaked with Seasons 3, 4, and 5, then dropped off a little bit in Season 6. But on further review, it turns out that the Season 6 dropoff is a little steeper than I believed. Most of the episodes are made up of a couple OK plots and one annoying one, or maybe two medicore plots and one based on one strong joke (examples of the latter: "The One Where Phoebe Runs" and "The One with Ross's Teeth." They ride the title jokes really hard, because they're hilarious, but there's not really much else going on.)

That said, there's not much that's terrible, either. There's no one subplot that sets my teeth on edge. "The One with the Unagi" is fairly lame, what with Chandler being a weasel about making a Valentine present for Monica, the weaksauce plot with Joey trying to get into a twin study, and the fairly repugnant scene where Ross tries to get a self-defense instructor to tell him how better to attack women. But even so, the "unagi" jokes are good enough that the episode isn't a waste of time. All in all, the only truly horrible aspect of this season is Elle MacPherson's acting. (Wow, she's bad. Wow.)

Season 6 is a fairly aimiable one (although that would be more true if you could subtract most of what Ross does) and, of course, an important one. It finds Ross a fitting job; it shifts roommates around until it comes out with the surprisingly good pairing of Joey and Rachel; and it makes Monica and Chandler an officially serious couple and then gets them engaged. Plus, it shows us what an alternate reality would be like, and that's always fun.

Little things that drive me crazy:
It's always weird to realize how long they had Phoebe living with Monica and Chandler, because they did very little with it. But then, what little they did with it showed that it did not offer many comedic possibilities. I think those three characters just bring out the worst in each other.

Directly from my notes: "Ross handles embarrassing situations poorly."

At the end of "The One with the Routine," it's the Christmas season and Joey and Janine kiss. At the beginning of "The One with the Apothecary Table," Joey burts in to brag about how he and Janine just kissed. It's no longer Christmas and everybody's wearing different clothes. (They do better with the short gap between "The One with Rachel's Sister" and "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"; Monica's not sick anymore, but at least everybody's wearing the same clothes.)

Speaking of "The One with the Apothecary Table," I've liked that episode much less ever since I saw it pointed out that it's one long Pottery Barn commercial.

Joey says he'll give Ross free stuff at the coffee shop, as Joey has done for a particular hot (?) girl, "when you look like [she does] in a tight skirt." A tight skirt? A tight sweater, yes; a short skirt, yes; but does "tight skirt" make any sense? That's just not a thing.

Just little things:
They leave it unresolved, but I have a hard time believing Chandler didn't make up the joke about the doctor who's a monkey.

I, too, don't know what a pashmina is.

Little things I love:
The studio audience gets so sad when Monica and Chandler break the news to Joey that Chandler's moving out. Their hearts break for Joey's heartbreak!

The ambiguity of whether Phoebe's roommate, Denise, really exists.

When Monica was a little girl, she didn't have a crush on the Six Million Dollar Man; she had a crush on Kermit the Frog. (Girl, I can identify.)

Phoebe's magic purse (containing, among many other things, a goldfish in a bag).

Ross being touched that Rachel remembers what a trilobite is.

The sunburst-shaped lightswitch plate by Monica's front door. (I just noticed it.)

{removed: a Hulu video, can't remember of what}

Chandler's Tintin shirt in "The One that Could Have Been."

Monday = One Day, Tuesday = Two Day, Wednesday = When? huh? what day? Thursday = the Third Day.

Rachel's insistence that she can beat up all game show hosts.

How Matt LeBlanc plays the scene in "The One with the Proposal" when Joey tells Chandler that Monica's run off (although it turns out she hasn't really): it's fairly subtle, but he does it as Acting Joey instead of Regular Joey.


  • Phoebe: "Your tombstone can say whatever you want it to say! . . . Mine's gonna say 'Phoebe Buffay: Buried Alive.' "
  • Joey: "When I had insurance I could get hit by a bus, or catch on fire! It wouldn't matter! Now I gotta be careful?!" Chandler: "I'm sorry, man, there's never a good time to . . . stop catching on fire."
  • To Ross, who has crazily over-whitened his teeth--Chandler: "What was wrong with your old . . . human teeth?"
  • Monica: "Do you want to try this highlighter again?" Ross: "Nah, I think it poisoned me a little."
  • Chandler: "Why haven't you told them?" Monica: "I was going to, I really was, but then somehow--just outta nowhere!--I didn't."
  • Rachel: "Look, I'm melting butter!" Monica: "Great, Rach! You now have the cooking skills of a hot day."
  • Ross: "It tastes like feet!" Joey: "I like it!" Ross: "Are you kidding?" Joey: "What's not to like? Custard good, jam good, meat GOOD."
  • Ross, after promising to be cool: "OH MY GOD IT'S JUST LIKE I DREAMED IT!"
  • Rachel: "Well, you don't want to try too much, too fast. You do remember what happened to The Little Girl Who Tried Too Much Too Fast, don't you?" Jill: "What?" Rachel: "She . . . she died, Jill."
  • Monica: "You're jealous of Princess Caroline?" Rachel: "Do I have my own castle?"
  • Phoebe: "C'mon Ross, you're a paleontologist, dig a little deeper."
  • Joey: "Chandler is a complex fellow, one who is unlikely to take a wife."
And then there's Phoebe's prediction of how all their lives will play out:
Phoebe: "Well, first Chandler and Monica will get married--and be filthy rich, by the way--but it won't work out."
Joey: "Wow."
Phoebe: "I know. Then I'm gonna marry Chandler, for the money, and you'll marry Rachel and have the beautiful kids."
Joey: "Great."
Phoebe: "But then we ditch those two and that's when we get married. We'll have Chandler's money and Rachel's kids--and getting custody will be easy because of Rachel's drinking problem."
Joey: "Oh, what about Ross?"
Phoebe: "I don't want to go into the whole thing, but, um, we have words and I kill him."

Let's talk about Janice:
Friends fun fact: this is the only season in which Janice does not appear. Her voice shows up in "The One with the Unagi" (on the mix tape Chandler had claimed to make for Monica), and that's the least Janice any season ever has.

I've got a theory about Janice.

There are really two Janices. They have a lot in common, sure--whiny voice, that laugh, a distinct lack of social-and self-awareness. Janice 1 exists from Season 1 to Season 3; Janice 2 exists in Season 4 and beyond (except, arguably, for her appearance in Season 5). Janice 2 is born in the Season 4 episode "The One with All the Rugby." As Chandler explains, "You know all those little annoying things that she did before we fell in love? You know, like her voice and her laugh and her personality? Well, they're all back! And she's picked up like nine new ones!" From that point on (except in Season 5's "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh," to which we will return later), Janice is deployed to create uncomfortable/horrible situations.

In Season 10, she might move in next door to Monica and Chandler, because she'd be the worst neighbor ever! In Season 9, she sees them at the fertility clinic because who could more embarrassing to see at a fertility clinic?!? In Season 8, she ends up in Rachel's semi-private hospital room, because there's nobody worse to be trapped with in a small space! Janice is probably worst in her seventh season appearance. After she finds out that Chandler is marrying Monica, she starts trying to invade their lives, becoming the House Guest That Will Never Leave, thanks to her total inability to realize they want her to leave. She's annoying in every possible way there is to be annoying. (Incidentally, it's fairly infuriating that the writers repeated the Janice solution from Season 7--pretend Chandler's still in love with her to scare her away!--in Season 10. That's just insulting.) "The One with the Unagi" show that just the reminder that Chandler used to date Janice is insulting to Monica once he's dating her. The tone for all of this is set in Janice 2's first appearance, when Chandler is so desperate to get away from her that he pretends to move to Yemen. And apparently flies there, or something. I don't know. The Yemen episode also sets the low standards that Janice 2 episodes got held to.

Janice 1 episodes are more interesting. Janice starts out as the woman that Chandler is terrible at breaking up with. In her first appearance ("The One with the East German Laundry Detergent") she's a cool photographer who cares about Chandler enough to give him Rocky socks to match his Bullwinkle socks. Chandler makes a mess of their breakup because he's a mess when it comes to relationships. Janice is more overtly annoying in "The One with the Monkey," when she goes overboard gushing about how she and Chandler are "back together." She doesn't know that he just wanted Some Girl to be with at a New Year's Party, and he can't set her straight without hurting her. Again, Chandler is inadequate at handling the interaction.

Then there's "The One with the Candy Hearts." Chandler and Janice accidentally get set up on a blind double date. And oh, Janice is angry. ("By the way, Chandler, I cut you out of all my pictures, so if you want, I have a bag with just your heads. . . . You could make little puppets out of them and use them in your theater of cruelty.") Here too, she's overreacting, but it's not like Chandler is blameless for his behavior. They end up in bed together and once more Janice thinks they're officially Together while that's the last thing Chandler wants. Or is it? Chandler tells her it's not happening and Janice responds in what is, I think, her finest moment:

Season 2's "The One Where Heckles Dies" is all about Chandler's relationship inadequacies. He decides he's too picky and will therefore die alone. In desperation, he calls up his safety net. Janice (in her second-best burn) shows up married and pregnant. No dice, Chan-Chan Man. (Side note: "The One Where Heckles Dies" only aired eight months after "The One with the Candy Hearts," and Maggie Wheeler was pretty big, pregnancy-wise. Janice moved fast! [Maybe that's why it ended up not working out?])

I also like "The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding," at the end of the second season. Chandler meets a girl on the internet who gets him; she calls him on his nonsense and makes him happy. He's devastated when he finds out she's married, but is willing to give it a shot when she says she wants to meet him.

Of course it's Janice. In her finest moment, she was right.

The first several episodes of Season 3 show Chandler not just dating Janice, but really happy with her. The conflicts in their relationship don't come from her flaws. Joey dislikes her, but that only causes friction between Chandler and Joey (which Janice does her best, bless her heat, to fix). They hit a slight rough patch when Chandler gets freaked out about being in a committed relationship, and then he overcompensates and freaks Janice out ("I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love!"). But Janice forgives him readily when he finally manages to explain what he's feeling. (And they even exchange "I love you"s. Aww.)

The only thing that breaks them up is Janice's Complicated Situation. She's got a kid and has a chance to make it work with her estranged husband (although she and the husband apparently don't have "movie love"). Chandler does the grown-up thing and steps aside. The dating-Janice-for-reals arc show a lot of growth in Chandler's character. (Not too much, since Chandler's attempt at a mature breakup goes awry and turns into shoe theft. "You can't leave without your shoe!")

Janice 2 is all about Janice's flaws. Janice 1 is more interesting because she's all about Chandler's flaws. Like Janice 2, she has her quirks, but any story with her in it is about Chandler's inadequacies and/or his efforts to grow out of them.

Furthermore, Janice 1 is secretly awesome.

She is! She's funny and cheerful and occasionally lays the smackdown where the smackdown is due.

That's why I'd classify Janice from "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh" as Janice 1, even though it comes after the Yemen one. This is the episode where Janice hooks up with Ross. Then she dumps him because he's just too whiny. BURN! See?

Janice is awesome.

Top five episodes:
"The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance"
or: "The One Where Phoebe's Going to Die" or: "The One with Ross's Accent"

"The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"
or: "The One with Rachel's Sister, Still" or: "The One with Phoebe Buffay, Porn Star"

"The One with the Proposal"
or: "The One Where Joey Buys The Mr. Bowmont" or: "The One Where Ross Dumps Elizabeth" or: "The One with the Backups"

including the total classics:
"The One Where Ross Got High"
or: "The One with Rachel's Trifle"

"The One That Could Have Been"

1 comment:

MacKenzie said...

As you know (or maybe you don't) but Craig hates friends. But we have been using one of my favorite quotes a lot lately. The last line of this scene:

Ross: Oh, great! Now he knows, and I don't know!
Monica: I'm sorry — I'm just excited about being an aunt!
Joey: Or an uncle!

Even Craig couldn't help but laugh when I said "Or an uncle!" when we were talking about his sister.