The One With the Blackout
‘This Must Be What the Fridge Looks Like With the Door Closed . . . Spooky!’
This episode finds the Friends gang in various predicaments due to a massive power outage in New York City.
This is certainly an entertaining episode, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve also lived through several major blackouts, and this episode gives us an excellent view into:
THE MAGICAL WORLD OF FRIENDS
Ah, Friends-land. Friends-topia. Friends-istan?
Let’s go with Friends-topia.
It’s a lot like Disney World : Seeming regular things happen, but in unexpectedly magical ways. Let’s delve into this world by examining common things that happen in a real blackout, and what happens in Friends-topia:
Singing / Music
Friends-topia: Monica, Phoebe, and Joey sit around singing Top of the World by the Carpenters, snapping their fingers and tapping their toes and having a jolly good time.
Real Life: One dude with dreads gets out an out-of-tune guitar and starts howling his way through Champagne Supernova between bouts of explaining his next American Idol audition strategy. Everyone else desperately searches for candle wax still hot enough to permanently damage their ear drums.
Friends-topia: Rachel and Phoebe venture out into the apartment building to find the owner of a stray cat. Phoebe apparently wanders around for a long time, then finds her way back eventually. Rachel stumbles upon the cat’s owner: a hunky, heavily-accented Italian man who has nothing better to do but half-wittedly follow Rachel around and be eye candy.
Real Life: Two women wander out into the dark apartment building. They don’t meet hunky Italian men. One meets a homeless man who has wandered into the security-lessened building and who keeps a jar of his own teeth for good luck. The other meets the creepy upstairs neighbor who only comes out of his apartment during blackouts because ‘the dark feels good on his skin’. Neither woman makes it back alive.
Friends-topia: Monopoly is played! Good-natured ribbing occurs! Everyone has a good time!
Real Life: Monopoly is played! Good-natured ribbing occurs! The person in last place starts throwing around money just to screw with people! The person in first place gets pissed off! Everyone takes it too seriously! Dice are hurled at speeds that permanently imbed them in the drywall! Someone flips over the board and no one wins! Wooooo!
(That being said, I love boardgames. Read this: http://www.miniurl.com/sa/Online_Comedy_Friends_Episode_4)
Friends-topia: The gang sits around gabbing, sharing the weirdest places they’ve had sex. This breaks off into smaller groups, all sipping on wine and having quiet, intimate conversations about their feelings, emotions, and hopes for future relationships.
Real Life: The gang sits around gabbing, sharing the weirdest places they’ve had sex. Until someone has two glasses of wine too many, starts calling other people whores, and crying about their ex-boyfriend. The girls all rush to comfort her, while the guys’ minds drift to what they’ve been secretly thinking about the entire time: the weirdest place Jennifer Lawrence has ever had sex. Try not to wonder about that now.
Friends–topia: This seems to be the category where Friends lags behind. Nobody gets it on in this episode (Rachel makes out with the Italian hunk, but they don’t do the ole’ Jodie Foster/Cyndey Bernard boot-knockin’ till later episodes)
Real Life: There is a lot of statistical support for the theory that, during a blackout, people have nothing better to do than each other: http://www.miniurl.com/sa/Online_Comedy_Sex_Stats. Birth rates tend to spike suddenly about 9 months after major blackouts The article notes that divorce rates tend to spike directly after blackouts as well. I guess it’s true what they say: It’s either way better or way worse in the dark.1
The Candles Burn Out
Friends-topia: The gang count down to the last candle’s final breath (sort of). Once it’s pitch-black, they have a spirited evil-laugh-contest until the lights conveniently return 30 seconds later.
Real Life: As the last candle burns out, someone (not me) loses their marbles, wets their pants (again, not me), and has to sit in urine-stained underwear for the 6 hours it takes to get the lights back on (one more time — not me) and ends up getting an awful, itchy rash and has to pay $80 for a special tube of cream from Thailand (definitely and totally not me). Oh, and the butler murders somebody.
‘You Waited Too Long to Make Your Move, and Now You’re in the Friend Zone’
This is supposedly the first major use of the phrase Friend Zone. This episode is frequently credited for coining the term. It’s just another way that Friends has majorly influenced American culture. Just Google Friend Zone now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s freaking everywhere.
How everywhere? It’s even become stereotypical sitcom fodder nowadays. Anything that becomes known for being in sitcoms can almost assuredly be counted as a socially permeating topic. Here’s the best example of other sitcoms joking about the Friend Zone:
It’s from Scrubs, where they fully personify the concept. Share any other good examples you can think of in the comments.
‘Ew! Look, Ugly Naked Guy Lit a Bunch of Candles!’
Other cool stuff about this episode:
- Chandler gets caught in an ATM vestibule with model Jill Goodacre. Through the whole episode, we hear his inner, self-defeating monologue. It’s hilarious.
- Joey uses a menorah as a general candle-holder. Insensitive. Totally.
- Phoebe writes a song about the blackout: ‘New York City has no power, And the milk is getting sour, But to me it is not scary, Cuz I stay away from dairy’. She’s such an excellent rhymer.
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1. ‘They’ = ‘No one’↩