Google+ Followers

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

When FRIENDS Changed A Little

I'm watching FRIENDS from the beginning again. Don't you just love Friends? FRASIER was funnier, and cleverer, but it was the one about six New Yorkers that captured people's hearts. It was Chandler whose sense of humor influenced a generation and It's Rachel who everyone fell in love with. Say to a stranger in the street; "We were on a break!" or "Grandma's Chicken Salad" and they'll probably get the reference.

But something changed. Maybe it's just me who sees it but I'd imagine it's nearly everyone. There are a lot of establishing shots of the World Trade Center. They even used them in the credits. And now, they mean something different. What they mean, it's hard to say, but it isn't comedy.

It's the strangest thing--- you can be in the middle of a hilarious episode, and then as they transition between scenes; you might see a restaurant, a street corner, and then there they are: the two giant towers. It hits you every time.

Would you want them to edit out the towers? Of course not. Does it make the show less funny? Not necessarily. Somehow, the films and TV shows that we love seem to always be changing. Our lives are always going in different directions, our relationships are always growing or falling apart or changing their meanings -- why would we expect anything different from our art? The world changes. What I'm talking about, I'm not entirely sure -- but almost every episode of Friends is different now-- you're hit in the gut for two seconds when you see the image of those towers. There's something extremely sad about that but there's also something very powerful, too. And of course, it happens in everything else you watch in more subtle ways. Every single day we're a little bit more happy, or a little bit more angry, or bitter, or inspired, or lonely, or sad, or courageous --- and when we change, so do the films and TV shows that we take on our journeys, they look a little different.

Care to share?


  1. Great post. I remember how upset I was when editors went back into movies from years ago and edited out the Twin Towers, as if trying to erase it from memory.

    I think it's perfectly fine to mix comedy and tragedy together - even more than fine, I think it's what is needed. We need to see that life moves on, we need to have reminders of what we have lost, and we always, above all, need to laugh along the way. The moment we make a memory sacred, too sacred to even remember, we have doomed ourselves as a race to never be able to look back wistfully, to never allow ourselves the complexity and humanness that is mixing sadness and humor together.

  2. I've never noticed this before you wrote this, and it still doesn't strike me as relevant. I suppose I've never really felt the whole Twin Towers thing on a visceral level, so this one just doesn't work for me.

    I have my own set of memories about Friends, and when I watch it I think "ah, the late Nineties. I can't believe we used to live like that, dress like that". I remember my girlfriend Kay's student terrace, littered with empty pizza boxes, an episode always running on the VCR.

    1. I'm guessing you were really young then when it happened. I, myself, was only 9 years old. I remember hearing something about a plane crash while in school, and that I was upset when I got home because I couldn't watch after school cartoons on the good TV because my dad was watching the news...

      I did eventually start to comprehend the severity of that incident as I grew older though. I just really hate when people post jokes/memes on Facebook about that incident. As long as there are still many, many people alive who knew victims then it is too soon. Holocaust jokes are still inappropriate but at least there aren't too many people alive today who knew victims of that event in history.

      I digress... I'm not trying to insinuate that you are one of those people, it's just that most of the people who post those things on social media are mostly kids in high school or younger and just grew up hearing about it as "history", which to them is no different from Vietnam, the World Wars, etc. because they didn't "experience" that moment in their lives.

    2. you know what...whenever I watch this show...I see these twin towers, standing proudly with it's's the only thing that makes me sad... :( Oh god! :(

  3. I wasn't sure where you were going on this post when I read the title and little blurb.
    I agree with Phoenix, I like that they've kept those images in the show. They were a part of the New York landscape (and, frankly, always will be, even if they aren't there physically anymore).
    It's understandable for movies and tv shows that were filmed and/or released around that time to take them out, but the show was well established by that point.
    Great post, as always. :)

  4. If I remember correctly, "The Soprano's" edited out a clip of the Twin Towers from their title sequence after the 9/11 tragedy. You're certainly on to something about how material that is totally unrelated to the aesthetic intent can become moving or influential in some way. "FRIENDS" is certainly not a show that I consider artful, but the way that it captured the flow of NYC is admirable. The Twin Towers were iconic of 1990's New York and taking them out of something where they belong would be like taking Audrey Hepburn's cigarette smoking out of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - so I agree - the legacy of entertainment is an important visual document in our history.

  5. I haven't seen FRIENDS this way. For me it was a way of life that I always wanted but somewhere I knew I would never be able to live it. But I guess I will notice the towers and think of this post from now on...altho the 9/11 thing did not affect me as much as it should have considering I was only an hour away from where it happened.

  6. I just rewatched a few friends episodes the other day and didnt even notice it.
    I don't think that they should edit the towers because they were part of NYC while the show was being filmed. That won't change. I also don't think it makes the show less funny.

  7. Wow - the comments here are interesting, and kind of baffling to me.

    "I've never noticed this before you wrote this, and it still doesn't strike me as relevant." -- what a lovely comment!

    There also seems to be a belief in the comments that I think the towers should be edited out, which I definitely don't, not at all.

    I was merely trying to point out that seeing two buildings that I saw collapse live on TV killing thousands of people and marking the beginning of a new era of our aggression against the Middle East; it registers with me.. I can't look at them and have it not register what happened.

    I still love the show, and find it hilarious.

    Phoenix, your comment was beautiful. Mr London, I'm sorry my feelings are not relevant -- but your judgement of what is relevant and what is not is, as always, most welcomed.

  8. When I say "strike me as relevant" I thought I was clearly saying how your argument feels to me, not how your feelings feel to you. It's a shame I have to point that out. Never mind, I probably shouldn't have said it anyway.

  9. I'll be there for you ( friends title song) !! :)

  10. I totally agree, and I feel the same thing in my gut and in my heart every time I see the towers in between scenes. I always try to point it out if I'm watching with other people. I think they shud be shown, remembered, and prided that we are lucky enough to have footage of their power and beauty. I have been trying to find an answer.... how many episodes of friends (besides the opening of the show) are the twin towers shown? Thank you for the great post.