The One Where I Admit to Never Having Seen an Episode of Friends before Yesterday
Yesterday I watched an episode of Friends all the way through. This is something worth mentioning because despite being on air for a solid decade I never saw it. I wasn’t actively avoiding it. I have nothing against the show or the actors on it. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. I’ve just never gotten around to watching a whole episode. Never, until last night. Between my mother’s geekiness, my father’s general art sensibilities, and an effort to protect their children from the worst of commercial television I spent my childhood and adolescents in a sort of pop culture void.
My mother was working in the school system when The Simpsons first aired. We were forbidden from watching it since Bart Simpson was an evil influence on children. Remember, at the time the top family comedy was The Cosby Show where all problems were minor and could be solved in a half hour by listening to the wisdom of mom and dad. Somewhere in the mid 90’s my father sat down and turned on The Simpsons and no more was said about it.
But as far as 90’s cultural touchstones I missed Friends was a big one. Also Seinfeld, Ally McBeal, Blossom, Home Improvement, The Wonder Years, Sex and the City (we didn’t have HBO), Roseanne, The Nanny, Married with Children, Just Shoot Me, NewsRadio, Mad About You, Melrose Place, and Murphy Brown. I’ve seen bits and pieces of most of these since. Seinfeld has not aged well. I’ve seen every bit of NewsRadio and it is awesome. I missed a lot of the teen directed shows as well, like Dawson’s Creek and 90210 though that was mainly high school induced refusal to be interested in anything the cool kids were interested in. No, I wasn’t a hipster, just antisocial. Despite graduating the same year as the Scooby Gang I missed all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like NewsRadio I’ve since marathoned the whole thing and liked it a lot. Still can’t bring myself to watch Angel. He’s so whiney and mopey. If I’m watching that level of vampire angst I’d rather a Canadian accent be involved.*
I wasn’t completely cut off from the 90’s zeitgeist. My parents let me watch Night Court for some random reason**, and I was allowed to stay up late to watch Northern Exposure, but for the most part I could not have stood around the middle school version of the water cooler and talked about what was on the night before.
My current Work In Progress starts on the main character’s 45th birthday and the love interest is thirty seven. They say you shouldn’t make pop culture references in books because it dates them but we are very much shaped by the media of our youth and we use it to communicate with people our own age.*** Unfortunately do to the pop culture void of my own childhood I have to make these characters at least slightly nerdy. My most viewed shows of the 80’s and 90’s, in no particular order, X-Files, Beauty and the Beast (1987), The Sentinel, Babylon 5, Star Trek:DS9****, Kung Fu:TLC, Ghostbusters, Star Trek:TNG, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, She-Ra, Alien Nation, Are You Afraid of the Dark, NOVA specials, Quantum Leap, and an occasional episode of MacGyver. So when my main character sat down in front of Netflix to marathon something in order to forget about the state of his life he picked X-Files. Why? Because I’m working my way through X-Files right now and I have no idea what other very long running, marathon worthy shows would appeal to a character of that age. And I have the love interest complaining that his ex won’t give back his Battlestar Galactica box set.
I have a feeling this is going to be a recurring problem. I don’t write many younger characters because I have no idea what young people do these days (and lately I’ve been in a fuck anyone under 30 phase). However I also have no idea what people my own age were into when they were younger. I can easily look up what were the highest rated shows or top 40 hits but unless I take the time to sit down and watch them it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to make a reference to them feel natural. I guess I can start with Friends‘ reruns at 6:30 five days a week.
*Be the first to admit to knowing what I’m referencing and win a free copy of Bowerbirds. Seriously
**I still haven’t seen the last episode.
*** The first time we went to the Met in New York my partner keep on saying ‘Nine times’ and ‘Pie’ in a weird voice having no idea that I’d never seen When Harry Met Sally. I thought he’d totally lost it.
**** Yes I was a Lurker and a Niner at the same time. I believe in peace and fandom coexistence.