Sunday, January 22, 2006

With Friends Like These...

The guys at have revealed that NBC is working on a series of one-hour specials starring the Friends cast. All six members of the original cast are rumored to be returning, which would give us the equivalent of a third of a season of new Friends episodes.

When I began exercising twice a day after my heart surgery, I entertained myself by watching DVD seasons of Friends as I was working out with weights. It took quite a while for me to catch up on the series--I didn't start watching Friends live until the end of season 7 or the beginning of season 8--but I was very impressed with what I saw. While some of the episodes ventured into formula, the characters were among the most personable I had ever seen on television.

I came to admire Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer in particular--each is superlative at physical comedy, but the chemistry when they're together is remarkable. Of course, Jennifer Anniston had an irresistible charm on screen and Courtney Cox-Arquette was endearing in a quirky way, but it was Schwimmer and Perry who gave the show its best moments. (Never cared that much for Matt LeBlanc's shtick-laden portrayal of Joey, which is why I was surprised that this character was chosen for a spinoff... but that may have been due to LeBlanc's savvy awareness that he had no other options. And I was absolutely bored by Lisa Kudrow's painful attempts at eccentricity in her portrayal of Phoebe, and I was glad that used her as more of a supporting cast member/foil than as a central figure in most of the episodes.)

I hated to see the series end; I was so interested in these people that I wanted to see where their lives took them next. I came to see the separation of these friends as sadly symbolic of the paths that our lives take--but I think we all hope that, unlike the show, our friendships will never change. I liked these characters--and that's a rarity for contemporary television, as far as I'm concerned.

So the news that they're coming back is quite welcome. Even better, though, is the rumor that a new spinoff might come out of this--a spinoff starring Perry, Schwimmer, and LeBlanc. Now what this means for Chandler Bing's marriage, I can't say--how could he remain married without Courtney Cox-Arquette in the series?--but what it means for NBC, I can say. It means that they can retire the flat, infrequently funny Joey and give us a quality ensemble-cast series that might continue the Friends legacy. And it means that NBC has a chance at recreating a bit of that "Must-See TV" magic.

It's too early to say it's a done deal, but let's hope so... for them and for us!

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