The One With the Pop Culture Reference

300px-FriendsI think most of us have those pop culture juggernauts that we just… missed, somehow. You know, the one that, when you admit to being in the dark, makes people say, “What? You really haven’t read/seen/heard THAT?”

I generally consider myself well-versed in the most prominent pop culture of my lifetime: I’ve seen Pulp Fiction, watched The Real World, listened to ‘NSync, read Harry Potter, and seen most of it recapped on VH1’s I Love the _____ series. For me, the missing piece is a little show about a couple of friends in NYC.

Obviously I’ve seen Friends. Everyone’s seen Friends. It’s only on television all the time. But for me, “seeing” Friends means catching a couple minutes of a scene here or there; I’ve only seen a few episodes from start to finish. Judging by the reaction I got when I admitted this yesterday, this is uncommon.

The funny thing about these cultural landmarks is that even if you’ve never personally experienced them, you probably know a lot about them. Someone who’s never read Harry Potter can probably still name the Hogwarts houses and tell us You-Know-Who’s real identity. I know that the Friends crew consists of Ross and Rachel and Monica and Chandler and Phoebe and Joey and that Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle was the most significant ‘do of the ’90s except for maybe when Felicity cut her hair. I know the theme song and the smelly cat song and that the titles are all along the lines of “The one where…” It’s not that I’m totally ignorant of Friends; I’ve just never seen it from start to finish like apparently everyone else I know.

But apparently, this is unacceptable. And so, without further ado, I bring you, 19 years too late (which, honestly, how was I expected to watch a show that began when I was three?), a review of the pilot episode of Friends, which I believe I am watching for the first time (unless it turns out to be one of the few I’ve actually seen):

friends-season-1-cast

Friends 1×01: The One Where Monica Gets a New Roommate

friends_episode001_337x233_032020061501This 90s fashion is killing me already. Phoebe’s pigtails. Monica’s overalls. Also killing me, the laugh track. I’ve been spoiled by the comedies of late that have dispensed with this. Okay, okay, I’m going to try to be an excited kid in the 90s instead of a cynical 20something in 2013 while I’m watching this.

WAIT, MONICA AND ROSS ARE SIBLINGS? Considering I knew all of the characters’ full names I probably shouldn’t be so surprised with this, but wow, I guess I picked up less about this show through fannish osmosis than I thought.

I’m about halfway through the episode and I haven’t hit any laugh-out-loud moments yet—at least, nothing that’s made me laugh as hard as the laugh track audience is—but I’m definitely smiling a lot. I love shows that are about dumb, silly situations like this one where Joey and Chandler and Ross are doing a terrible job of putting together furniture. It’s very charming.

Ross-and-Rachel-1x01-The-Pilot-ross-and-rachel-10942120-720-480More 90s awesomeness: the massive cordless phone with an equally massive antenna that Rachel is using to call her ex. It reminds me of when Danny Tanner had a “car phone” in that one episode of Full House, with the brick-sized phone attached to a cord near the cigarette lighter. I think my dad might’ve had one of those too.

“Even if I could get it together to ask a woman out, who am I gonna ask?” followed by a fade-out to Rachel looking sad. This is very subtle. When do they finally get together, season forty? They do get together, right? Or am I wrong on that one, too? Is my whole life a lie?

Phoebe’s pigtails now have extra hairties all the way down. Worse and worse. And Rachel is on her own for the first time… wait, how old are these characters supposed to be? They look way older than me but I assume they’re supposed to be early-ish 20s? 23 or 24? I guess that makes sense, when I was in middle school I thought the 20+ year olds playing high school sophomores on One Tree Hill looked to be about the correct ages too.

Picture 3So now that I’ve finished the first episode I’m only… two hundred and some away from understanding one of the biggest elements of pop culture from the past twenty-five years, and two hundred and some episodes closer to not getting disbelieving reactions from my friends about it. Obviously I’m not going to liveblog each episode, but I might check in occasionally during notable episodes. On to episode two!

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2 Replies to “The One With the Pop Culture Reference”

  1. It’s only just really hit me that you won’t have that same nostalgic fondness for the bad 90s clothes and iconic plotlines of the show that an old Friends fan would. Just thinking about it now, I can see some plotlines that were part of the fun, rollercoaster experience back in the day that I wouldn’t necessarily have the patience for now that I’m older and (possibly) wiser, and there’s a good chance you could feel the same way on your first viewing. I just hope that doesn’t happen to you too much and you enjoy the series anyway. It’s certainly going to be interesting seeing you experience it all for the first time now instead of ~20 years ago!

    1. Yeah, I am definitely wondering about that. I know there are shows I’ve rewatched after time that haven’t held up or that I’ve reacted a lot differently to the second time around when I’m older, but there are other ones, particularly childhood shows, that I still watch through rose-coloured glasses because I loved them so much when I was a kid and I’m sure someone watching for the first time wouldn’t love them as much. But still, I liked season one a lot even if I thought there were some really ridiculous moments, so we’ll see! 🙂

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