I had never imagined that thinking about the ending of a television sitcom would affect me so profoundly. Perhaps now I can better understand how previous generations of TV fans felt when shows like The Honeymooners, MASH, and Cheers left the small screen for good.
I don't want to overstate the fact that F*R*I*E*N*D*S was a great show, which it was both in the popular imagination and from a technical/critical standpoint and while the cast can take a large part of the credit it is really the writers who should be proudest. Anyway, I am getting off on a tangent here ... let's just agree that the show is fabulous and leave it at that?
When F*R*I*E*N*D*S first gained mass popularity in 1995 I was a junior in high school. I distinctly remember going out on a date (date = a large pizza loaded with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, and any other cholesterol inducing ingredient was available, miscellaneous often intellectual conversation under the moonlight, some stargazing, and generally sex on some deserted country road around 1:00am) with my boyfriend at the time (Steven).
Probably one of the things I will always remember about Steven is him driving down the road on which our high school was located around 11:30 one night. We had the windows down, the cool fall air rushing in all of the windows as he flew down the curvy single lane at sixty five in a thirty five mile per hour zone, the F*R*I*E*N*D*S theme song playing on the radio and me in a cute top and jeans having what felt like the time of my life. We parted on mostly amicable terms at the end of my junior year when he went off to college.
As it happened I had another connection to F*R*I*E*N*D*S that I remember pretty well. At the beginning of my junior year my English teacher nominated me to write for the local paper, he felt the experience would do me good. The first article I wrote and saw in print was an article about the popularity of F*R*I*E*N*D*S, and the ways in which networks were trying to duplicate the formula (single twentysomethings coming into their own) with mixed success, none of them seemed to be able to duplicate the winning combination (Anyone remember Ned and Stacey? -- My point exactly!) I interviewed students and teachers. I was so proud to see myself in print that my head like the Grinch's heart, grew three sizes that day!
Eventually of course I graduated from high school, got a job at a local grocery store and entered a community college then went on to a four year degree in English. Again I graduated and took on a job as a glorified secretary at my alma mater. I got married and watched most of my high school and college friends do the same. Suddenly, there we were, all of us twentysomethings figuring out our place in the world for the first time, and maybe for the first time we had a guide in F*R*I*E*N*D*S, however unrealistic a guide it may have been it was always there.
And now, two years removed from college and having never pursued many of those high school ambitions F*R*I*E*N*D*S will be going the way of the dodo, minus reruns of course. Somehow, I find myself wondering if my husband would think I have completely lost my mind if I asked him to take me out, back to my hometown for a night under the stars with pizza and rolled down windows in the night air and "I'll Be There for You" on the radio...