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The Friends are dead, long live Buddies
14 May 2004
The moment approaches when Friends will breathe its last 'Wuh- huh!' on this side of the Atlantic, causing a frenzy of excitement in the media. The front cover of the Daily Mail promised to 'reveal' the ending, while the Observer's most perceptive columnist, David Aaronovitch, treated us to his usual swill of off-target conjecture and stating the bleeding obvious.
'Most gags are delivered in seven or eight words,' he wrote, 'They are taut, painstakingly constructed and rely on verbal wit...'
No shit, Sherlock. Noting the less upbeat nature of most British sitcoms, he opined: 'Had Friends been made in Britain... [it] would have featured an HIV-positive Joey, a drug-addled Phoebe who flings herself from the balcony, the moment that Ross discovers that Rachel, not Monica, is his sister, and the murder of Chandler by Monica in a row about their failed lap-dancing
No it wouldn't, because British TV companies have being trying to replicate the lucrative charm and optimism of Friends for donkey's years, and the best they could come up with was Game On and Coupling. And to date, we can't recall a sitcom that's made AIDS and incest its main selling points. Although it would probably be funnier than Hardware.
We'll stop slagging Aaronovitch in a second, because it's really not healthy and we ought to get out more, but we have to ask: if Dave A can't even write something sensible about Friends, why should we listen to his pontificating about the real world? (The previous week he said we should see coalition brutality in Iraq in the context of even more brutality in Arab states. Why, David? Why should we do that? Oh, we get it - we Western liberals are so full of misguided loathing for our own culture we can only criticise America and Britain! Of course!
Next week: TFT explains why Saudi Arabia should stop being soft on women and the causes of women.)
But the real question for bereaved Friends fans and TV networks alike is: what's going to replace it? There's not a lot out there in sitcom land.
Will & Grace is funny but, by definition, too minority interest (although we're still not convinced Will is gay. We've never seen him kiss a man). Coupling is/was too unfunny. Becker is too bitter (even though he's got a heart of gold, really.) My Family is another retread of grumpy dad/long-suffering wife. There's always Black Books, but considering it's about alcoholic, emotionally stunted underachievers, it barely qualifies as a sitcom. More like 'real life as we lead it'.
There's only one solution: we'll have to create our own replacement for Friends. Here it is:
An original 30' situation comedy
A group of trendy, attractive young people strike 'wacky' poses as the theme music plays:
We're all young and we live in New York City
We've got great teeth and we're really very pretty
We all look like models but we can't get dates
Will we, won't we sleep with our mates?
We have big problems but they're all quite fun
After half an hour we're back in equilibrium.
Buddies! We're all buddies!
Buddies buddies buddies!
Act 1, sc 1. RAQUEL and JOSS, two attractive twentysomethings are in a $5,000,000 apartment. JOSS has slightly silly hair.
JOSS: Hi Raquel. What's up?
RAQUEL: I don't like my hair.
JOSS (gesturing at his own hair): Well, wuh-huh!
Hysterical canned laughter, then...
RAQUEL: No, there's nothing for it - I'm going to dye...
Enter JOE, who hears only 'I'm going to dye', looks shocked, and immediately leaves.
RAQUEL: ...my hair. Do you think I'd get more attention if I was blonde?
JOSS: It worked for the Nazis!
Canned laughter. Fade.
Act 1, sc 2. Another $5,000,000 apartment. A hippy girl, LEAF, and VERONICA are sitting around. Enter JOE.
JOE: Omigod you guys! Raquel's going to die!
LEAF: Oh no! She owes me twenty dollars!
VERONICA: Leaf! This is serious!
LEAF: Well, wuh-huh!
More canned laughter.
JOE: Guys! Raquel's gonna die! This is a real bummer!
Enter camp friends, JACQUES and SQUEAKY WOMAN
JACQUES (ultra-camp): Ohhh! Did someone call?
SQUEAKY WOMAN: Gimme a [rest of gag audible only to dogs]
JACQUES: I met this guy he was so hot and I'm not talking New York fireman in the Twin Towers hot I'm talking [rest of gag incomprehensible because it hinges on arcane American reference.]
Enter JOSS and RAQUEL.
RAQUEL: Hi guys! You know, I'm gonna change my hair colour.
JOE: Ain't you got more important things to think about right now?
RAQUEL: Well I did promise Mom I'd help her clear out a closet with hilarious consequences.
VERONICA: Racquel, you've gotta face the truth!
SQUEAKY WOMAN (drinks pint of bourbon): Yeah, honey, that hair ain't Milan catwalk, it's New Jersey cat-astrophe. Where d'ya get it styled? In the [rest of gag incomprehensible due to another arcane American reference.]
ALL: Well, wuh-huh!
Further episodes of Buddies are available from TFT. Please state which plotline you require:
- The one with the mismatched personalities in flatshare arrangement
- The one with the tortuous confusion
- The one with the labyrinthine deception
- The one with the ill-considered remark overheard by someone hiding somewhere for obscure reasons
- The one with the ill-advised lie
- The one with the guest appearance
- The one with the personal row followed by heartwarming reconciliation