The Rewatch: Friends - Season 6

Certain shows, like The Golden Girls, are timeless. Sure, there are some dated references, but for the most part, the jokes and situations are just as relevant today as they were when the show was airing. One thing I've been noticing about this Rewatch, though, is as time goes on, and television gets better and better, Friends is beginning to fossilize. You wouldn't think a simple sitcom about a group of people hanging out would age rapidly, but the tone, writing, and plotlines of Friends are looking more archaic with every passing season.

That's not to say that it's a bad show now; it's just very of-the-moment in a way that I didn't expect. The '90s technology, the continued reliance on gay panic jokes, Bruce Willis with hair... All of these make the show look older than it really is. Season 6 did have a few welcome changes, though. I mentioned in the Season 5 post that Friends is weakest when it focuses too heavily on the romances within the group. While there is still certainly plenty of that going on, this season definitely has a better balance of non-romance episodes, in which they get back to the silly friend interactions that made the show so successful in the first place.

However, as shows goes on, characters tend to calcify into extreme versions of their biggest personality traits, and that is definitely beginning to occur here. For the most part, everyone still acts like actual human beings, but Season 6 is when you can start charting things like Monica turning from organized neat-freak into compulsive, anal-retentive shrew, or Ross from clumsy-at-relationships to full-on psychotic liar. When the comedic situations turn from things like "This lady is messy!" to "I'm going to keep my marriage a secret from the bride herself!" you know things are getting too wacky, too fast.

The first and last batch of episodes of the season focuses on the shifting romantic relationships between Ross/Rachel (attempted annulment, eventual divorce) and Monica/Chandler (moving in together, marriage proposal), but in the middle, there are some real gems. As I said in Season 5, Friends really shines in their Thanksgiving episodes, and Season 6 is no exception. There's also a fun two-parter in an alternate universe in which Monica is still fat, Joey is still a soap star, Ross is still married to Carol, and so on.

This is also the season in which Ross is a professor, and has an affair with one of his students (Elizabeth). That may have worked as a one-off episode, but Elizabeth sticks around for several episodes, and is far too boring a character to justify the time spent on her. Ditto for Joey's temporary roommate Janine. Guest stars apparently work best on this show when their appearances are brief. The episodes that really work best are the ones that stick to the core cast, and just let their personalities bounce off of each other.

Notable Guest Stars: As mentioned above, there's Alexandra Holden as Elizabeth and Elle Macpherson as Janine, neither of whom should have gotten as much screen time as they did, the former because her character doesn't have enough personality, and the latter because... let's just say her range is limited. Bruce Willis also shows up as Elizabeth's father, and is similarly over-used. There are some good flashing guest appearances, though, from Reese Witherspoon as Rachel's sister Jill to the always-wonderful Missi Pyle as one of Ross' ill-fated dates. The usual recurring folks (Elliot Gould, Christina Pickles, Tom Selleck, Maggie Wheeler, etc.) are also back, and they're always a welcome presence.

What's Keeping Ross and Rachel And Their Apparently Greatest Love in the History of the Earth Apart This Time: After the drunken wedding in Vegas, there are several episodes devoted to its dissolution. Ross trying to keep their marriage going in secret is one of the dumbest things ever written for this show, but I can't deny that there are also some genuinely funny aspects to this most recent split. After the divorce is final, they're able to get back to a state of platonic friendship, which is nice to see, though I'm aware that it won't last.

Best Episode: This one's easy. "TOW Ross Got High" is the season's Thanksgiving episode, and it is just wonderful. Between Rachel's disastrous trifle and the Ross/Monica exchange where they hysterically expose each other's secrets to their parents, this episode fires on all cylinders from beginning to end.

Worst Episode: A trio of the Elizabeth/Paul episodes ("TOW Ross Dates a Student", "TOW Ross Meets Elizabeth's Dad", and "TOW Paul's the Man") could certainly vie for this dubious honor on account of how dull they are, but the worst episode of the season shouldn't just be the absence of good. There should be something actively bad involved. That's why, despite the involvement of Missie Pyle and Joanna Gleason, I have to go with "TOW Ross' Teeth", which may as well be called "TOW Dudes Should Loudly Proclaim Their Heterosexuality at Every Opportunity". Joey is mad because the woman who pays him rent is making their apartment too girly. Ross is ridiculed for putting on makeup. For fuck's sake, '50s educational shorts didn't have this much pressure to hide your personality quirks in order to conform.

In looking at the season as a whole, I'm conflicted. There are definite bright spots, but the show also appears to be taking a turn. It's tough to identify, but we may be approaching the point of the proverbial shark jump. The big arcs of the show are moving forward, but as it progresses, it's becoming more about the characters' love lives than any joy in spending time together. In short, Friends isn't about friends anymore. Will Season 7 continue this trend? There's only one way to find out. Onward!


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime