Dee Discusses: Friends Season 1

Posted: September 30, 2013 by Dee in Dee, Friends, General Media, Television
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So here’s the deal. I got the full series of Friends on DVD awhile ago. The complete works was on sale and I just couldn’t resist. The thing was, I hadn’t seen this show since it was on the air. What I’ve found is that this show means a lot more now that I’m in my twenties. It’s kind of funny! These characters were in their mid-twenties when it was on, and now I’m there,  so everything they dealt with? Much more relevant to me. I’m really glad I did this because I’ve discovered a new way to love it. I did watch Friends when it was on TV, so I vaguely remember most of these storylines, but there are a few I forgot over time. Funny story, one of the very first blogs I ever wrote was about this show. I figured I’d do a little write-up drabble about every season as I watch them. Why? Because you can’t stop me and it’s my WordPress, that’s why.

Friends was a sitcom on NBC and it inspired/influenced a lot of modern day sitcoms. It was influenced by several from the 80s and before, so it wasn’t exactly a new concept. But it was so very 90s and it was incredibly popular. It’s about six friends over the course of ten years. They live in New York City. They’re gorgeous and smart and ambitious. Obviously the show itself focuses the strongest on the fact they all have strong friendships. That comes before the romances in many ways, because otherwise their group would’ve broken up as soon as Rachel and Ross got into a feud. But more on that later. The first season had to introduce the major characters, their first arcs and personal traits, and they were all very different from one another. But similar enough you can believe they get along. They hang out in a coffee shop and share stories about life, their pasts, their jobs, their relationships, and it’s a comedy so they’re witty and fun to be around. Needless to say, these quirky characters grew on people fast, to the point where a lot of modern culture still remembers the show, even if they haven’t seen it! I know teenagers who weren’t around when the show was on, or never saw it themselves, but they still have vague knowledge about what happened on it. Now that’s impressive.

The show boasted big ratings, guest stars, storylines that went over all ten seasons, and an intensely close relationship between the main cast. Guest stars often said that the six of them were just as close in real life, and it seems to have continued even after the show went off the air. It should be mentioned that they agreed as a group that they would only accept the same amount of money across the board starting in season three. That meant all six of them had exact contracts and salaries, leading Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer to even take pay cuts since they were the bigger stars at the time. The actresses became some of the highest paid women on TV at the time, and they all took raises together and royalties from the show. It was an impressive display of unity. So let’s start with season one. I’m going to go by story arcs of the characters one by one, and then an overall look at the season.

Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) – Ross was originally considered to be the “main character” by the writing staff until it proved itself to be much more of an ensemble. He was a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History, and older brother to Monica. He was Chandler’s college roommate, and Rachel’s long term off and on boyfriend. He loved her since high school, when he was an awkward nerd, but she never gave him the time of the day. At the start of the show, Ross was in the middle of a divorce with Carol, the only woman he’d been with. She was a lesbian, something that blindsided him and would be a problem for his future relationships, because his trust issues grew from it.  Carol was pregnant however, so they decided to have the child, and Ross struggled with finding out his place in his son’s life since he would be born with Carol (and Susan) as the prime caretaker. At the same time he struggled with his feelings for Rachel now that she was back in his life, and his jealousy over her new relationship. The season ended with him going to China, and Rachel realizing she had feelings for him only for him to return with his new girlfriend Julie. Ross had a monkey for awhile, and it was a dumb idea and luckily didn’t last long. What were they thinking? (They lampshaded this later in the show.)

Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) – Rachel was a popular girl in high school and grew up wealthy and on the ditzy side. She planned to get married to Barry the dentist, but not out of love. She’d been convinced that getting a good husband and being a housewife with a lot of money was what mattered, but she fled the wedding when she realized she didn’t love him. She came to New York City to find Monica, the only person she felt she could talk to, despite them no longer being best friends. Her father cut her off as a power play, and she was forced to get a job at the coffee shop and live with Monica. Rachel restarted her life, something that would be a long going struggle for her, and her eventual success was hard earned. The first season mostly involved her connecting to her new friends, trying to figure out who she was and what she wanted, and having her first fling with the neighbor Paolo. Rachel was oblivious to Ross’ interest most of the time, but at the end of the season she found out the truth, and went to meet him at the airport. But he was with Julie. Dum dum duuuum. Ugh I’m already sick of writing about Rachel and Ross, ngl.

Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) – Monica was an unpopular overweight girl in her teenage years, but she was best friends with Rachel from a young age. Eventually she decided to slim down (after a conversation with Chandler that gets revealed later on the show), and used her interest in food to make a career in cooking instead. Monica was something of the middle point of this group, partly because it was her apartment that they were always in. She had the most connections with everyone on the show too; Phoebe was her former roommate, Ross was her brother, Joey and Chandler lived next door, and Rachel was her childhood friend. Monica was overly neat and OCD, and on the controlling side. This  was introduced as early as season one, although she got more intense about it as the show went on. Monica was unlucky in love and constantly treated as a disappointment by her parents. She regretted never letting loose, something that came up in one of the episodes when a wild woman stole her credit card. The woman did all the things Monica wished she could, and it encouraged her to try to spice up her life a little. Monica was the mother hen of the group and didn’t get a lot of credit for it.

Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) – Chandler was the comic relief on the show, and considering they were all funny in their own way, that said a lot. He was always cracking jokes and being a wise guy, and it became part of his character background. Chandler came from a broken household where his father left his mother for another man and became a drag queen. He was raised with other drag queens and his mother was an inappropriate sex book author. He used humor as a self-defense mechanism. In many ways Chandler started out as the most immature of the group, despite possibly making the most money out of the whole group due to his boring but stable (statistical?) job. At one point he quit in order to try and follow his passion, but he was offered enough money he gave in. He was heterosexual mates for life with Joey. He originally asked another guy to live with him, but by luck Joey got the apartment instead, and it was for the best since they became inseparable. Chandler was also very bad at relationships, too awkward to get along well with women, and too immature to commit. He started a relationship with an ongoing joke named Janice, but kept dumping her for a variety of reasons.

Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) – Phoebe was the space cadet of the group. She was a hippie chick who grew up on the streets and had a severely tragic past but seemed strangely upbeat about it. She liked to play guitar with very, very strange songs in an out of pitch voice, and she was a massage therapist. Phoebe used to live with Monica, but her OCD and controlling nature made her decide to move out so they could continue being friends. Phoebe got along well with everyone, but her closest friend was Joey, who they occasionally ship teased her with, but nothing came of it. Phoebe often had less storylines than the others, but this season introduced her callous sister Ursula, who was also on the show Mad About Me. It was a play on the fact that Lisa Kudrow was a reoccurring role there, so they decided to write it into Friends. Phoebe was funny and strange, and she often provided a good ear for the others.

Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) – Joey was much like Phoebe, in that he never got quite as much to work with as the other characters. They both got more as the seasons went on, but in the beginning they were slightly simpler characters. And also walking jokes much of the time. Joey was the good hearted but dumb witted member of the group. He was the only boy in a family of sisters in a loving Italian household. He wanted to be an actor although he never got much work, because he wasn’t very good at it. He was inseparable with Chandler and got along with everyone else well. He was a ladies man and had his characteristic “how you doin'” hit on line. He preferred loving and leaving women, although he never treated them poorly. They started to give Joey a little bit of material in the end when he helped a single mother give birth. He always had a heart of goal and was dedicated to his friends … just not very smart.

That’s the main cast and their major storylines. Obviously this is when the Ross and Rachel “will they or won’t they” BS started. It’s famous now, and at the time it worked, but since they dragged it out for ten years I’m a little hostile to the storyline. They were never my favorite characters either, so I was frustrated by the clear bias the writers had toward the two of them. To be fair, now that I’m older I find Rachel’s story a lot more interesting. I appreciate more that she was building a life out of nothing and had no direction. While all of the characters become more intense and Flanderized over time, their original personalities and backgrounds are solidly introduced this season. Chandler and Monica very quickly became my favorite characters, Chandler in particular because I love quick and clever people. He never failed to get me laughing. I relate a lot to Monica in a few ways, so that too made me lean on her as a favorite. I noted above that Joey and Phoebe weren’t given as much as the others, but that might be a reflection of them figuring out what to do with the whole cast still. In later seasons they got much more to do.  Overall I liked the season. It was a good intro. I quickly got a good idea of the characters and what to expect from them and the style of the show. I found them funny and charming, and there was always at least one storyline that kept me interested in per episode. It ended with Ross’ son Ben being born and then Ross returning from China with a new girlfriend. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

I’m in my late twenties now so I appreciate the storylines much more. Navigating relationships, friendships, family, work, fun, and how much real life can suck, it’s all relevant still today. Yeah they were unnaturally good looking and had ridiculously perfect apartments, but it was more realistic than I realized at the time. I had a great time rewatching this show, and onward to the second season.

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Comments
  1. […] I started to talk about my Friends re-watch and got sidetracked. Season one was discussed here! I own the whole series on DVD and it was a blast going through all of them again. It’s […]

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