Pop Culture Digest
Ten years is a long time. And for a television sitcom to survive through a whole decade — now that is truly monumental. On Thursday night, some 80 million viewers tuned into NBC’s Must See TV. to watch the final episode of Friends at 8 p.m. Commercial slots of 30 seconds were worth $2 million according to Jay Leno whose Tonight Show featured the six members of the Friends cast live later the same night. It’s no surprise that the commercials had to pay big bucks because of the hype and the legions of loyal fans who wanted to know what would happen on the much-anticipated final night of Friends. Remember, this is the year after Warner Bros. originally wanted to end the series before NBC convinced them to air one more season, intent on having the backbone of the network’s high-grossing Must See TV back for one more season.
The show began with a full hour of clips highlighting some of the funniest and most poignant scenes from its 10 year history. From Joey (Matt LeBlanc) doing lunges while sporting Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) entire wardrobe to Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) wearing their wedding dresses and saying their ‘I do-s’, these are the classic scenes that make Friends a favorite television series for millions of fans.
So what finally happens on the big night? For those who missed the Friends’ last night together, you’ve got the diehard fan summing it up for you in a nutshell. In “The Last One,” Monica and Chandler find out that they’ve become parents of twin babies. When they bring the twins home, we get a glimpse into Phoebe’s future when her husband, Mike (Paul Rudd), declares that he wants “one of those.” Ross realizes that he still loves Rachel (big surprise) and right after she has left for the airport, he realizes that he doesn’t want to move on without her. The typical guy-chasing-after-girl scenario has Ross sitting in the passenger seat of Phoebe’s taxicab, which happens to be swerving and speeding at a ridiculously fast rate. The scene is brought to a climax when they realize they drove to the wrong airport. But of course, Phoebe intercepts this sad ending when she calls Rachel and tells her about a bad feeling with the plane’s malfunctioning “filangee,” creating a series of events which cause a long enough delay for them to arrive at the airport.
Throughout the episode, Friends screenwriters littered the plot with red herrings that could have led to several possible ends. For a split second, we’re led to think that Chandler would talk Monica into adopting only one baby. When Rachel walks into her plane even after Ross’ brave confession of love, audiences everywhere were on their toes screaming, “Noooo.” But who are we kidding? Such endings don’t exist in comedic sitcoms and especially not in Friends.
With about less than 20 minutes left, the show quickly wrapped up with Rachel surprising everyone by showing up at Ross’ door — yes, she gives up Paris. They kiss and make up for six year’s lost time and while we watch them embrace one another, we can all sit back, let out a sigh of relief and rejoice in knowing that Ross and Rachel are finally together again.
Perhaps one of the most touching scenes happened when Joey and Chandler decide to break their adored foosball table to save the baby chick and duck that Joey had bought as a house warming gift for Chandler and Monica. Seeing the shattered pieces of the foosball table, we’re again sadly reminded that Friends will no longer accompany us on Thursday nights.
When the cast stands inside Monica’s empty, bare-walled apartment and each member forfeits their keys one after another, we all can’t help but think, “Wow, this is it.” The empty apartment stripped of its familiar wall decorations and funky furniture speaks strongly because we all know that clearing out the set was the real deal. Whether as characters in the show or actors in reality, each member of the cast was standing in the apartment for the last time.
Some of us may feel that the finale was the perfect ending to a great show. Of course there might be others who feel not quite satisfied. Then again, we have to ask ourselves, for a show that has lasted this long, can any ending be justified? Whatever the response, Friends has finally bid its farewell to Thursday nights.