Tv I miss 'Friends'. Or rather the first season of 'Friends'. I miss the 'ugly naked guy'. I miss the deliberately strange Pheobe. I miss the unrelated Chandlerisms. I miss the Monica who was a mature woman living in the city. I miss Joey when he wasn't too stupid. I miss Ross when he was in love with Rachel. I miss the Rachel who was a waitress. I miss the times the characters would just sit around chatting about stuff without an impetous. I miss the time when even filler episodes were classics. Sitting down to watch an original episode is like greeting an episode of 'Fawlty Towers' - you've seen them so many times, yet you can't help but laugh (even 'The One with the Stoned Guy' makes me titter now, despite Jon Lovitz). Heck, I even miss Marcel - and the fact that this show was kooky enough to have a monkey as a semi-regular character. Over the years as new writers have come, we've moved from character to plot.

Watching the seventh series (still continuing a year behind on Channel 4) is an entirely missable prospect. It's difficult to put your finger on why it isn't as good. Perhaps it's that the details of the characters have been obliterated. Or that any semblance of a guest cast hardly get a look in - or if they do it's because they're stars from other shows. Is it Matthew Perry's now wayward performance? Or the fact we know that Lisa Kudrow is capable of some much more, especially having seen her work in 'The Opposite of Sex'. Or that Joey has become needlessly dumb in the face of looking for easy jokes. Or that Courtney Cox looks unremitingly bored. Or that The Schwimmer seems to be spending more time directing - and is of the opinion that shouting is a good substitute for comic timing. The only suspect to come out of any of this is Jennifer Aniston. I can quote whole lines of the first series:

"Gum would be perfection. Gum - would be perfection. Could've said gum would nice - could've said I'll have a stick. But ... no ... no... no ... for me - gum is perfection. I loath myself...."

Even the second soundtrack is messier and just not as cohesive as the first, 'Hootie' and 'REM' replaced by 'Robbie Williams' and an appalling mix of 'Smelly Cat' (which I also miss - when was the last time we saw Pheobes perform at Central Perk?). Thank God the eighth year will be the last. I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore....

(and it seems BBC Manchester feels the same way - next weeks 'I Love 1994' features a segment - anyone taking bets on them talking recent series down?)

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