Article / New Year Old Friends / RepoComedy

Harbaughs and Keith Urban Love — Friends Episode 1-8

The One Where Nana Dies Twice


Now She’s Dead.

– Ross

You might be tempted to think the title of this episode gives away a good amount of the plot. It doesn’t. Monica and Ross’s Nana manages the impressive feat of not only dying twice in one sitcom episode, but doing so in about the first seven minutes.

That’s by far the most impressive SDPE (Sitcom Deaths Per Episode) number ever. (I think the previous record was 1 . . .) 

The best part is that Monica fetches a nurse when they realize Nana isn’t dead the first time. The nurse runs in and says, ‘This almost NEVER happens!’ That’s literally the entirety of her contribution.

Here is a complete list of the times that the phrase ‘This almost NEVER happens!’ is NOT adequate for explaining the situation:

  • Misdiagnosing a person as dead1
  • Attempting to murder a close acquaintance
  • Pooping your pants in church
  • Rigging a presidential election, then coming clean at inauguration
  • Watching American Idol
  • Right after you’ve accidentally launched a nuclear missile
  • Sleeping with your boss’s wife or children

Everything else in the world can pretty much be written off with a ‘This almost NEVER happens!’.

‘I’m Just Gonna Go Flush Myself Down the Toilet Now’

– Chandler’s Co-worker, Shelly

I’ve written previously about the fact that Friends was pretty progressive for the early 90s when it comes to homosexuality: http://www.miniurl.com/sa/Online_Comedy_Friends_Episode_2.

But this episode is a good example of how Friends really approached the topic of gay people, and it may leave a lot to be desired from a modern audience. Just because Friends was talking about gays doesn’t mean they were necessarily showing them in a positive context. Friends doesn’t so much portray gay people as it uses the idea of gay people as a tool to elicit funny reactions from its main characters.

In this episode, Chandler runs around to everyone he knows, trying to figure out why his co-worker mistakenly tried to set him up with another man. Much to his chagrin, even the gang reports that Chandler has a certain ‘quality’ about him that may make people think he’d be interested in reminding Keith Urban what it’s like to sleep with someone who can still move their face: http://www.miniurl.com/sa/Online_Comedy_Nicole_Kidman

It’s this ‘quality’, repeatedly referred to throughout the episode, that is really the gay presence on Friends: a kind of amorphous, semi-scary concept that hovers threateningly over society in general.

BUT TUCKER!! WHAT ABOUT THE GAY CHARACTERS ON THE SHOW, HUH?? WHAT ABOUT THEM??

I have three responses:

    1. That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked it. Better question: How did you type it on my keyboard? Spooky.
    2. Even though Carol and Susan (Friends’ recurring lesbian2 couple) are featured fairly regularly, most of the humor in their scenes stems from how uncomfortable their relationship makes Ross.
    3. We do meet Chandler’s gay co-worker at the very end of this episode. But he’s so aggressively nondescript, it’s as if the writers feared that making the gay character abnormal or different at all would make him too seemingly threatening to the audience. I think this guy’s presence in this episode only hammers my point home.  Watch and decide for yourself: http://www.miniurl.com/sa/Online_Comedy_Gay_Coworker

I’m certainly not saying we should never again laugh at Friends in protest — it’s too damn funny for that. I’m just saying that it’s interesting to compare that ‘quality’ with how gays are portrayed on TV today: as fully-fledged characters that stand alone and have all the quirks and foibles that made their heterosexual sitcom counterparts so fun to watch for so long. Homosexuals are no longer represented on television as a detached, general concept that causes unease, but as living, breathing people (or characters, if you choose to acknowledge reality — I do not).

‘You’re Watching a Football Game at a Funeral?’

‘No, It’s the Pregame. I’m Gonna Watch [the Game] at the Reception’

– Chandler and Joey

Something really incredible is about to happen in the world of NFL football. Even if you’re not really a fan, this is must-know stuff going into the Super Bowl in a couple weeks:

THE COACHES OF THE TWO TEAMS IN THE SUPER BOWL ARE BROTHERS!

The San Francisco 49ers are coached by Jim Harbaugh, and the Baltimore Ravens have John Harbaugh3

How cool is that? Brother vs Brother on the biggest stage possible. It’ll be like 117.7 million people all sitting down and watching Glory at the same time!

Unfortunately, all too often, people (like Joey in this episode) have important commitments that keep them from the big game. For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of events that are totally skippable on Super Bowl Sunday, and some that are non-negotiable:

Skippable:

Feel free to ‘call in sick’ to these events:

  • Church
  • Bowling tournaments for charity
  • Dinner engagements with foreign dignitaries (It’s an American thing)
  • Court dates for defaulting on bouncy castle rental payments
  • Lie detector tests
  • Playing in the Super Bowl (It’s so much easier to watch from home)

Gotta-Be-There’s

Unfortunately, if you have any of these conflicts, no Super Bowl for you. You gotta be there:

  • The births of your first, third, and fifth children (everyone knows the evens don’t amount to anything)
  • Your own wedding
  • Tickets for a Price is Right filming (You do NOT want to piss off those spay-and-neuter people)
  • Your own funeral
  • Any type of battle royale
  • Sex and milkshake carnival

 ‘Those Pills Really Worked, Huh?’

‘Not the First Two, But the Second Two, YEAH!’

– Monica and Ross

 Other cool stuff from this episode:

  • Ross pops pills at Nana’s reception, and the results are hilarious
  • He attempts to admit to Rachel that he loves her, and his little-kid-like frustration just slays me
  • Monica and her mother share a very nice moment that highlights some strong character-based work from the writers
  • The gang discovers an old picture of Nana hanging out with her friends at a coffee shop when she was about their age. It’s a kind of touching moment that borders on hokey

 Next article: Season 1, Episode 9: The One Where Underdog Gets Away

Previous articles: Season 1, Episode 7: The One With the Blackout

Season 1, Episode 6: The One With the Butt


1. This is the one the nurse screwed up, in case you can’t read.
2. Rekurring Lezbian would be a great rapper name
3. Neither Jim nor John Harbaugh would make a good rapper name

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