Article / New Year Old Friends / Tucker May

Horoscopes and 30 Rock — Friends Episode 1-11

The One With Mrs. Bing

ross-and-mrs-bing

‘I Cannot Sell a Paolo. People Will Not Turn 325 Pages for a Paolo. The guy’s a secondary character! . . . You know who our hero is?’

– Nora Bing

30 Rock went away this past week. Liz Lemon has lemoned her last lemon, Kenneth the Page has paged his last page, and Tracy Jordan will only live on in Tracy Morgan’s sexual fantasies. If you’re as big of a sitcom geek as me (don’t kid yourself), this one was rough.

So, in honor of 30 Rock and its unique, self-aware brand of humor, I wanted to point out right off the bat my favorite part of this Friends episode — that also happens to be a precursor to the kind of comedy 30 Rock would later make its own.

The quote above comes from Chandler’s mom, an outgoing romance novelist who’s successful and steamy new book has brought her to NYC. When she and the gang go out for a Mexican dinner (and Ross gets wasted on tequila), Mrs. Bing is the only person who can pull Ross out of his Rachel-And-Paolo-Are-Playing-The-Bedroom-Bongos Blues. I want to reprint what she says in its entirety, because it’s actually kind of beautiful:

Mrs. Bing: Ross, I have sold a hundred million copies of my books, and you know why?

Ross:  Because of the girl on the cover with her nipple showing?

Mrs. Bing: No, because I know how to write men that women fall in love with. Believe me. I cannot sell a Paolo. People will not turn 325 pages for a Paolo. Come on, the guy’s a secondary character! He’s just a complication you eventually kill off.

Ross: When?

Mrs. Bing: He’s not a hero. You know who our hero is?

Ross: The guy on the cover with his nipple showing?

Mrs. Bing: No, it’s you.

How is this at all connected to 30 Rock? Think about it: What Nora Bing just described is exactly how someone watching Friends from the outside would classify the character of Paolo: a forgettable side plot that delayed advancement of the true love story. It represents a level of meta-humor that we hadn’t seen so far in Friends — although, admittedly we are only 11 episodes in.

30 Rock took this eye-winking, elbow nudging type of humor to the next level by not even bothering to funnel the characters’ self-knowledge through a logical vehicle, like Mrs. Bing’s romance novels. Her bigger-picture insights into the world of Friends are presented as a product of her work as an author, so the audience not only accepts it as realistic, but perhaps doesn’t even realize that she is straight up telling them which character to identify with. 30 Rock made a living of having their characters make comments that hinted they had similar over-arching knowledge about the TV show they populated, but the humor stemmed from the nonchalant way in which it was presented — and then how quickly everything moved on.

You shall be missed, 30 Rock:

‘Do You Think They Still Have Yesterday’s Daily News? I Just Want to Check My Horoscope and See If It Was Right’

– Phoebe

I’ve never believed in horoscopes. I’ve always considered them about as realistic as Ke$ha’s chances in the 2016 presidential race. But, to be fair, I’ve never put them to the test.

That ends now.

Phoebe can be full of great ideas, and this is one of them. So, I looked up my horoscope from the last couple days from the most reliable horoscope provider available (aka, the first one that came up when I Googled ‘nonsense’) to see how closely they reflected reality.

Horoscopes are actually from Tarot.com:

FEBRUARY 4th:

HoroscopeSomehow you seem to know exactly what’s going on as information about your future comes to you through your dreams. Don’t ignore your intuition today because it enables you to touch a deep spiritual truth. However, you must willingly surrender your logic and accept any inconsistencies that arise in your imagination now — even if they add confusion to the picture. Let the story unfold naturally and figure out the meaning later.

RealityI dreamed about a peanut butter sandwich who was the sheriff in a town full of condiments. That’s certainly confusing inconsistencies from my imagination, so I guess they nailed that one. In terms of a deep spiritual truth?  I learned that every time you Google ‘Super Bowl commercials’, an advertising executive gets its wings.

FEBRUARY 5th:

HoroscopeYou might think that you have the ability now to absorb data directly from your environment as if you were lying on a beach and soaking in the sunshine. Overt action is not needed today; instead, use your intuition. Have confidence that your instincts are leading you in the right direction. If you’re experiencing doubt, trust that feeling, too; it may be wise to wait until you are more certain about what you want to do next.

RealityWent outside for 2 and a half minutes and got sunburnt, but I never seem to learn much from that. Overt action was not only unneeded, but un-taken (I’m lazy). I’ve never lacked confidence in my own instincts — I’m much like a gazelle that way. I’ve also never experience doubt. (The band No Doubt was named after my life)

Overall, not bad horoscopes. Not bad at all.

‘I Can’t Believe You Said Woo-Hoo. Even Don’t Say Woo-Hoo.’

– Joey

This episode takes a bizarre twist early: When Monica sees an attractive man at a newsstand, she catcalls him at Phoebe’s insistence. The man turns around, smiles, and promptly gets hit by a speeding ambulance.

That occurrence seems of little importance to me. Monica’s behavior, though, brings up the interesting gap between how people react to a physically attractive person vs. what is actually considered attractive behavior. Let’s consider some popular things a person might do when they first encounter someone they’re attracted to:

  • Catcalling / Whistling – By using this approach, you’re really hoping that the attractive person’s only criteria for a mate is that they can make noise. Congratulations, you pass!!
  • Approaching the person – This is obviously the best choice, but sometimes it’s hard to get your foot all the way into your mouth.
  • Blushing – We can blame the human body for this one. Nothing says ‘Take me home tonight’ more than suddenly and uncontrollably turning red. Oh, no — that doesn’t say ‘Take me home tonight’. It says, ‘I have herpes’.

‘There’s No ‘J’ in Engorged’

– Monica

The more closely I pay attention to Friends, the more and more I think Rachel is actually a pretty inspiring character. It’s a little too easy to see her as a blonde, semi-ditzy shopaholic, but the girl fled from a lifetime of being a trophy wife to live a more self-fulfilling life in NYC, and seems to throw herself completely into whatever she is doing.

In this episode, Chandler’s mother inspires Rachel to write her own romantic novel. While most people would be ashamed of even being caught reading a romantic novel (which, it occurs to me, Rachel ALSO does several seasons later), Rachel makes copies and passes them out to her friends for feedback. Just saying, there’s something to the easy way she can be herself without fear of judgment.

‘You Think It’s Easy Giving Birth to Seven Children?’

– Joey

Other cool stuff from this episode:

  • Phoebe’s love song about the man in the coma:
    • You don’t have to be awake to be my man / As long as you have brainwaves, I’ll be there to hold your hand
  • They don’t know the name of the man in the coma — which means he didn’t have a wallet on him — which means that he stole that magazine at the very beginning of the episode. Someone clearly deserved to get smashed by an ambulance.
  • Ross kisses Chandler’s mom and Friends introduced ‘the code’ — more on this in the future
  • Phoebe’s line ‘We thought you were different, but I guess it was just the coma.’
  • The typos the gang finds in Rachel’s dirty novella:
    • heaving beasts
    • nipfles
    • ‘the man’s huge pens’
    • public hair
  • How upset Joey gets when Ross doesn’t find his mother attractive.

Next Article: Season 1, Episode 12 : The One With the Dozen Lasagnas

Previous Articles:  Season 1, Episode 10: The One With the Monkey

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

Follow Tucker @TuckaMay

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