The One With the Sonogram at the End
Are We Still Talking About Sex?
Here we are, at the second episode, less that a week into the 2013 calendar and Friends is already getting all perv-y.
Friends did for the topic of sex what UFC did for kicking someone in the face with your bare feet– it certainly didn’t invent it, but it made it more okay to talk about on television.
Friends had the gall to talk about physical relationships in a direct way that sitcoms before couldn’t (or wouldn’t). It was hardly the first sitcom to use the word ‘sex’, but the casual way the characters sit around and discuss it – with both male and female friends – was relatively new.
Check out the underhanded way Seinfeld talks about sex stuff – just two years before:
Episode 2 opens with the Friends gang discussing the importance of kissing before sex, with the guys tossing around gems like this:
Chandler: It’s like the stand-up comedian you have to sit through before Pink Floyd comes out.
Ross: It’s not that you don’t like the comedian, it’s just that — that’s not why you bought the ticket
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, amirite?
‘So, What’s New? Still…’
‘. . .A Lesbian?’
‘Well, You Never Know’
– Ross and Carol
Friends was also progressive on homosexuality. Ross’s ex-wife Carol is one of the first recurring lesbian characters on a sitcom.
Will and Grace, one of the shows most prominently known for its portrayal of homosexuals, premiered a whole 4 years after Carol and Susan were steaming up the small screen. (Although admittedly, most of the Friends jokes with the lesbian couple are about how uncomfortable they make Ross — Notice that he never uses scissors in scenes with those two – coincidence? Yes.)
There’s no real way of knowing if Friends influenced the following statistics, but it certainly didn’t hurt:
According to Fox News (and yes, I chose them on purpose), the number of gay people on TV has never been higher. ABC has the highest GPS (Gays per Show) and HBO’s True Blood has six vampires — who also happen to be LGBT.
The point is, sitcoms do a great job of reflecting (and often influencing) the progressive shift in American culture. You think it’s a coincidence that as homosexuals gain more acceptance and rights in our society, they show up more on TV? Not at all. Sitcoms are an incredible indicator of the major social issues of the time.
So what are the sitcoms saying today? That times are a’changing. Modern Family, The New Normal, Partners and many other current shows are based entirely around the principle of scrapping the old paradigm of family and society and bringing in the new. Welcome to the sitcom revolution. It will be televised.
‘I Don’t See You Making Any Sperm’
Well, it’s happened. Kim Kardashian is pregnant. Not only that, ‘Kim Kardashian Pregnant’ is the fastest-rising Google phrase of the last 7 days, beating things like ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘fiscal cliff’.
Ugh. Are we sure the world didn’t end in 2012?
In this episode, Ross deals with choosing whether or not to be a part of his new baby’s life. (If only the Kanye-dashian baby had a choice of familial ties . . . that’s gonna be one crazy baby.) That choice is pretty heavy, but – like most good sitcoms – Friends doesn’t shy away from deeper issues, even from the beginning.
A great thing about sitcoms is they can teach a wonderful attitude toward adversity. No matter what, sitcom characters keep smiling and cracking jokes. Obviously many things in life deserve to be taken seriously, but using humor in times of trial can help to keep the big picture in mind. So keep crackin’ them jokes, Ross.
‘I Hope [your kids] Have HIS Old Hairline and YOUR Old Nose!’
This is what Rachel yells into the phone at her ex-Maid of Honor Mindy, after she finds out Mindy is now dating her ex-fiance.
In case you don’t have an eleven year-old cousin to keep you abreast on these things, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up again.
I hope afterwards, Selena called Justin and shouted something like, ‘I hope your straightener breaks and your bangs look sloppy!’ before slamming the phone down and furiously painting her nails.
(Side note: I spent a long time trying to decide which one should call which – then I realized the joke worked either way)
Such lashing out might give temporary relief, but in the end Rachel is just dwelling on the person that she chose to walk out on. Let it go, Rachel. Go find happiness with (SPOILER ALERT): Ross. Same with you, Justin and Selena. Go find happiness with two separate people named Ross.
How many times have you found yourself secretly (or un-secretly) wishing bad things toward an ex? I know I have – I once wrote a LONG list of Weight Watchers jokes at the expense of an ex who wasn’t even remotely overweight. Doesn’t make the jokes any less funny.
‘I Think This is the Episode of Three’s Company Where There’s Some Kind of Misunderstanding.’
‘Oh, Then I’ve Already Seen This One’
– Chandler and Phoebe
This is something I definitely wouldn’t have caught if I had actually been paying attention to the Rose Bowl instead of working on this article. (By the way – Wisconsin losing to Stanford at football is like Rihanna beating Chris Brown – just seems backwards)
Chandler and Phoebe’s lines are funny because they are essentially mocking sitcoms and their repetitive, cyclical nature. Don’t see the humor? Well, in case you forgot, Friends is a sitcom.
How many times over the course of the series do we hear Joey say ‘How you doin’?’ – or Chandler talk about his cross-dressing dad – or Ross yell ‘WE WERE ON A BREAK!’? The familiarity of the relationships and jokes on sitcoms is often a big part of what draws us to them.
Is it funny or stupid for Friends to mock that?
‘Anita Barone As Carol’
If you’ve watched a good amount of Friends (like yours truly), you might have a pretty specific reaction to this episode:
‘THAT’S NOT CAROL!’
At least that’s what my brain screamed at me when Ross’s ex-wife walked in. This brings up the intriguing issue of replacing actors in sitcoms, which happens surprisingly often toward the beginning of a show’s run.
As I’ve already said (and will continue to probably for the life of this series), sitcoms thrive on stability and familiarity. Replacing an actor literally changes the face of the show for the audience – and, thus, can be a huge blow to its comforting familiarity. That’s why it’s so much easier to replace actors at the beginning of a show versus the end.
It’s kind of like replacing a significant other in your real life – the longer you’re with them, the harder it becomes to make a change. Additionally, the more ‘screen time’ they get in your life, the more difficult it becomes.
Look at that. Sitcoms reflecting real life. Who’da thunk it?
Terrible instances of actors being replaced:
- That 70’s Show – remember when they tried to replace Eric Forman with that blonde dude who got the job because he’s related to Seth Meyers? For some reason, they all still hung out in Forman’s basement even though he had left to teach in Africa (one of the most bizarre reasons for a character to leave a show I’ve ever heard). It was awful.
- 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter – John Ritter’s untimely death led to David Spade moving in with the family as some sort of long-lost cousin. I love David Spade personally, but this show didn’t work nearly as well without Ritter’s understated exasperation.
- Scrubs – Scrubs is my favorite sitcom of all time. Boy, did it take a nosedive when Zach Braff left, though. They even did a whole season of a semi-spinoff with basically NONE of the main characters. It was terrible, painful, and shouldn’t count as Scrubs. It is decreed.
- Cheers – The Diane Era vs. The Rebecca Era – which is better? Who knows? Sam tried equally hard to bang both.
- Spin City – Charlie Sheen stepping in for Michael J Fox spells disaster in my book, but those buggers at City Hall pulled it off for the 2 seasons it lasted
- Roseanne – This is the weirdest example, but the best handled. Roseanne’s daughter Becky was replaced, and then later they went BACK to the original actress. Which sounds like it wouldn’t work, but the writers made the frequent switches a joke in and of itself. Pretty savvy if you ask me.
These are obviously just opinions, and there are many more examples. Share them in the comments if you have a good one!
‘Ugly Naked Guy Got a Thighmaster!’
Other cool stuff from this episode:
- The first mention of Ugly Naked Guy
- Phoebe reveals that she has a twin
- Just the general experience of Ross being in an OBGYN examination room is hilarious
- The first time Ross and Monica’s parents show up
Next article: Season 1, Episode 3: The One with the Thumb
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