A Rematch With “Friends”

Highlights from a Fan’s Second Journey Through one of America’s Greatest Sitcoms

“Friends” was a show I grew up with. Even as a teenager, when many of the topics were above my head and beyond my age, the comedy, the friendships and the character quirks were all relatable.

I always enjoyed the sports-related facets of “Friends.” There was an episode where the team played three-on-three football in the park on Thanksgiving. There were many episodes when Joey, Chandler and Ross referenced the Knicks, Rangers, Mets and Yankees in the show’s setting of New York City.

There were plenty of reasons I enjoyed the show, but there were so many thing I missed when I watched it growing up. Over the past four-plus months, my wife Molly and I watched through the entire series, me for the umpteenth time on many episodes I’ve watched for years. But for her, it was the first time. So we’ve both noticed different things.

From my perspective, here’s a look back at some of the things I missed the first time I watched the series. WARNING! Spoilers past this point if you haven’t watched the entire series.

* Matthew Perry battled alcohol addiction and other challenges throughout the series’ run from 1994-2004. I didn’t realize until I watched the show in order just how much you can see the physical evidence of those trials. Sometimes from episode to episode or season to season Perry looks like a different person. His weight and complexion change drastically.

* Matt LeBlanc (Joey) often reminds me of Tony Danza from his “Taxi” years, through the manly, goofy, yet sometimes dumb-jock qualities they both possess.

* Guest stars galore! There’s a different star at least every several episodes. The guest appearance is common for a sitcom, but not this common. “Friends” provided a roll call for longtime Hollywood greats and rising stars.

* Ross and Rachel lived in a perpetual state of “on again, off again.” I’m just as confused as Ross was: are they on a break or not? (more on that below)

* The ending was incredibly satisfying. A sitcom is not the place to leave viewers wondering what happened. TV comedy should not mix with a Dallas-like “Who Shot JR?” And “Friends” delivered on wrapping up the most important questions. Ross and Rachel end up together. Monica and Chandler adopt children and move to a house. Phoebe finally settles down with one guy and gets married. And Joey, well, he gets his own spinoff, though it doesn’t last long.

This is a blog primarily about sports. In a world that praises obsessive binge watching of streaming TV and movie services, I’ll argue our approach of watching 10 seasons of “Friends” in fewer than five months qualifies as a sport. And if that’s not enough proof for you, maybe I’ll follow up this post with a second installment someday. I could easily pick out the top five or 10 greatest sports moments in “Friends.” I’d start with the Gellers, either “Red Ross” or one of Monica’s never-ending competitions.

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