THE ONE WHEN “I STARTED TO FEEL OLD”: 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF FRIENDS FINALE

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May 6, 2014 marked the ten year anniversary of the finale of NBC’s Friends. And seriously, does that not make you feel old? Because it sure does make me feel old. There are plenty of places on the internet this week that are talking about the historical significance of Friends (go to HitFix and read Sepinwall’s piece, it’s excellent), and I in no way want to leave the implication that I don’t believe it has major historical significance. Because I do. I really, really do. But that’s not what we do here at YBTV. Here, we talk about how TV impacts us on a personal level, so that’s what I will do here in this post.

When Friends started in 1994, I didn’t watch. I was 10 years old, and honestly, the only TV I regularly watched at that point was: (1) Houston Astros baseball games; (2) Hill Street Blues reruns with my dad; and (3) Beverly Hills, 90210 with my older siblings. By the time I was 14 or 15 though, I had become aware of this little show on NBC and had watched every episode on VHS tape (I really hope the people who read this blog know what VHS tapes are). We had recorded the episodes off reruns (another thing kids today don’t know much about), and I watched them with my friends, out of order of course, at least 5 times each.

By the time I was a junior in high school, Thursday nights were “the night” at my house. You, young people, may not remember this, but back in my day, people used to gather in large groups to watch TV other than the Super Bowl. Every Thursday night for my junior and senior years of high school, somewhere between 12-20 people would get together in my parents’ game room (where the big TV was, obviously), and we would all watch Friends together, as a communal experience.

When I went off to college in the fall of 2001, the show had started to show some growing pains. It’s not easy to do 234 episodes of sitcom television. And, that eighth season of Friends suffered as so many shows do when they’ve been on that long. Finding new, interesting stories became harder, these characters we came to know and love became cartoon-like, and all in all, the show became less funny. We had long story arcs of Joey being in love with Rachel and Chandler living in Tulsa, among other misfires. Even though the show slipped though, it always remained watchable and you never regretted spending time with your six closest TV Friends.

Friends was never a perfect show, but it did change the world. Just look at what happened after Friends premiered. Every year since that 1994 television season, each network has tried to duplicate what Friends had. But, the thing is, you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. To find 6 people that good looking, with that great of chemistry, and that impeccable of comic timing…How could you do it again? Though a couple shows have come close (Happy Endings being one of them), there will never be another Friends.

Along those lines, consider that the finale of Friends was watched by 53 million people! Just this year, another long running, well loved comedy, How I Met Your Mother, had it’s finale. You know how many people watched that episode? 12.9 million. And here’s the kicker: That is considered a massive, massive success. Friends was really the last of the shows that were appointment television for tens of millions of people each week.

As alluded to above, Friends is even more important to me on a personal level than for the television landscape as a whole. Friends is the show that started me down the path to television dork that I have landed on today (just as Snatch and Fight Club helped guide in my love for film). The connection I felt with Chandler Bing is likely still reflected in my personality as a grown man. The joy I saw that group of people getting out of television in my parents’ game room taught me that television has the power to do more than just entertain. Television can bring people together, and it can sometimes even teach us life lessons and make us think.

Friends episodes, each of the 234 (save the pilot) started with the trademark TOW (meaning either The One Where, The One With, or The One When) and were written as well as any comedy that came before it, and influenced so many comedies that would come after it. Everyone has a favorite Friends episode, although, choosing only one could be tricky. Maybe you love TOW Chandler in a Box? TOW The Blackout? TOW No One’s Ready? Or, are you a classic Friends fan, who says the only answer to this question is, TOW All the Embryos?

Regardless of which episode is your favorite, it’s likely that there are many moments from Friends that stick out in your mind as if it were just yesterday. That’s the mark of great television. Friends may be gone. But, it is certainly not forgotten. Friends made an immediate impact on the television landscape, and it’s fingerprints can still be seen all over the place today. Friends, like Seinfeld, Cheers, and The Cosby Show (to name just a few) is timeless, and it is among the first shows I plan on showing to my children one day.

My love of television can be directly traced back to two shows. The Sopranos, and the six hilarious people sitting on those couches at Central Perk every Thursday on NBC for 10 years, our Friends. Thank you David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Thank you for the memories, and thank you for showing me what television would come to mean to me throughout the rest of my life.

-CJ

*Editor’s note – CJ may feel old, but he is really only 30. 🙂

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WHAT TO WATCH: MAY 2014

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Well kids, here we are back again for another month of TV (this year is kind of going by incredibly fast, right?). May is an interesting month. Not nearly as busy as September, January or April, but significantly more interesting than used to be May. Traditionally, May would be the time when your network shows would be wrapping up their seasons, and the networks would be moving into summer reruns or limited run summer series. That’s not as much the case in today’s changed TV landscape.

May through August will likely not be as stacked as some months, but they will likely be very top heavy, with some cable networks premiering some truly excellent works (mainly HBO and FX, but AMC also has some interesting things coming up this summer).

So let’s get to the list:

10. The Americans: Season 2 finale (FX, May 21) — I’m starting with three shows that I absolutely adore at the bottom of this list. Shows that will almost definitely be in my top 10 (if not top 5) for the year. I do this just because they are finales, and the main purpose of this list is to make our readers aware of premiering shows. If you want to know about The Americans, you can refer back to our February list, where it was the number 2 entry for the month. Its inclusion here hopefully will be taken by our readers to mean that the season has lived up to any and all incredibly high expectations, and has been an excellent, likely improved, follow up to the sensational season 1.

9. Hannibal: Season 2 finale (NBC, May 23) — And, the number 1 entry on our February list was Hannibal. This is a show that surprised the hell out of me in its debut season. I had incredibly low expectations, was surprised to hear early reviews of its greatness, and loved the season overall. Season 2 did not have such benefit. I went into this season expecting, if not demanding, brilliance out of Fuller, Mikkelsen, Dancy and co. The season has turned what we know of this world on its head, and has been one of the fullest and richest experiences on TV in recent memory.

8. Mad Men: Season 7A finale (AMC, May 25) — Speaking of full and rich experiences…We just posted my review of the early season within the last week, so I won’t go on too much about Mad Men. But one thing that was not mentioned in that post was continued excellent guest casting for season 7A, with the additions of Not-Dog Travis (Dan Byrd), 90’s crush Neve Campbell, and Veronica Mars’s own Jessy Schram (who I just adore).

7. Rosemary’s Baby (NBC, May 11) — The networks are starting to figure out, the best way to get an audience is with miniseries and limited run series. This modern day telling of the Ira Levin novel is only 4 hours, and stars Zoe Saldana and Jason Isaacs. If we are going to continue to be lazy and refuse to come up with new and novel ideas, your best chance at getting me to watch is keeping it short (4 hours) and casting actors I’m interested in seeing (Saldana and the always excellent Isaacs). I’m making no long-term commitment NBC, but I’ll at least watch Night One.

6. Crossbones (NBC, May 30) — So, it seems like NBC is in the summer show business, doesn’t it? A pirates show starring John Malkovich. Oh, and brought to you by Michael Bay, did I forget to mention that part? Everything about this tells us it is going to be hideously awful, yet, I can’t help but be oddly intrigued. Let me also add, as I was doing my research, I noticed a strange name with the writing credits, Neil Cross. This is the man that brought us Idris Elba’s Luther, one of the finest shows of the last 5 years. Also, David Slade is credited as a director for the series (it appears he directed the pilot, as he did for Awake and Hannibal, which set amazing tones). With these guys involved, there has to be something there, right?

5. The Normal Heart (HBO, May 25) — I’m not going to pretend to know a great deal about this HBO movie, other than the fact that I’ve heard people talk about the fact that it’s an HBO movie. And, by just knowing that fact, I know that it’s going to win all the Emmy’s. Plus, with a cast including Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Denis O’Hare, and Joe Zaso, even the fact that it is directed by Ryan Murphy can’t necessarily deter me. Based on a 2011 Broadway play, and dealing with HIV/AIDS activism in the 1980s…Again…All the Emmy’s.

4. Gang Related (FOX, May 20) — Our first look at FOX’s summer programming. I’m not sure I know why I’m interested in Gang Related, other than maybe to just say I love Terry O’Quinn (obviously), and the guy that plays Alvarez on Sons of Anarchy is also in this show. I guess it could be good, or it could be absolutely dreadful. Only time will tell I suppose.

3. In the Flesh (BBC America, May 10) — So this is a show that sat on my DVR from last summer until early this year. I believe it is even a show I pointed out in my top TV of last year as a show I had missed which may have been included. Having watched the first season, yeah, it probably would have been. In the Flesh, not unlike The Returned, is a zombie show without a lot of “zombies.” Set in the UK after a zombie outbreak, a cure of sorts has been found, and those that have been infected are attempting to re-integrate into society. It is clear that they are infected, but their symptoms are kept in check. Many people in the small town which the show is set in are unsurprisingly uncomfortable with these people being allowed back home. It’s a slow, thoughtful show. Season 1 was only 3 episodes, but they’ve upped it to 6 for season 2.

2. Penny Dreadful (Showtime, May 11) — The next Showtime show has probably the most impressive pedigree yet. Created by John Logan and being exec produced by Sam Mendes, and starring names such as Josh Hartnett, Helen McCrory, Timothy Dalton and the perfect Eva Green, it has all the makings of a great one. The show appears to be a mix and match horror anthology type show set in Victorian London and involving the likes Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula. I love it when shows take big swings, and with the brain trust of Skyfall on board, I will be too.

 1. Louie (FX, May 5) — It’s so good to have this show back.

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Alright, that’s it for this month.  We will see you again in June.

-CJ

 

PARKS AND REC UPDATE: RENEWED IN THE LEAST EXCITING WAY POSSIBLE

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Here at YBTV we love Parks and Rec.  So, we are beyond excited for actual confirmation that the show will be getting another season.  The network had previously indicated that Parks and Rec would be getting a seventh season back in January, but now I believe it can be considered officially confirmed.  The announcement came in a press release about the renewals of Grimm, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D.  Oh well, we don’t necessarily care how the news got to us, we are just looking forward to spending more time in Pawnee with Leslie Knope and company.

Other NBC renewals that have been announced include:  The Blacklist, The Voice, and Celebrity Apprentice.  There are still many NBC shows out there that we are still waiting for news on though (of particular importance to us, namely Community and Hannibal).

-LJ & CJ