Every book about youthful angst isn’t trying to be The catcher in the rye and every sitcom about a group of friends isn’t trying to be Friends.
Friends and TV watchers, today I urge you to stop quoting, talking about and mostly importantly, comparing new shows to Friends. Friends was something beautiful that happened to our lives. We laughed, we cried, we wished people would get off planes for us but now, it is time to let it go.Let it go, I say. I know it’s tough and it will take time but this is 2012 and really, we need to move on and fill the Friends shaped hole in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them as much as you do; their incessant coffee-drinking, their sexual exploits, their hilarious jokes, everything. But I’m really tired of critics comparing every new show about a bunch of friends with Friends. So, this column right here, is me defending the “friends rip-off” Happy Endings.
Happy Endings premiered last year on ABC and is currently in it second season. It is about Alex, Jane, Dave, Penny, Max and Brad, a group of friends who live in Chicago. Alex and Jane are sisters, Jane is married to Brad, Alex left Dave at the altar, Max is a lazy gay dude and Penny is the crazy, obnoxious goof.
The show fills us to our hearts content with witty banter (one of the few things I love in television dramas), pop culture references (not obscure and brilliant like Community but real ones I could use in general conversation) and the absolute whacky plot lines (the believable kind. Not the ‘only happens on TV kind’).
The show never treats love and romance too seriously but understands so much about it. The comedy is intelligent yet downright silly. The actors bring a sense of improvisation to it, which makes it look unwound, like a real group of friends hanging out. Casey Wilson who plays Penny brings her in-your face physical comedy to the show. Sure, intelligent comedy is lovely but falling down a flight of stairs is just rib-hurting hilarious.
In an early episode of Community, Abed mentions how he is Chandler and Annie is Phoebe (“they never really had stories together”). (I guess he forgot the famous contest to see whether Chandler would finally admit he was doing Monica) And that strikes me as something really important. In Happy Endings, everyone is friends with everyone. The group comprises of spouses, exes and siblings, yet Jane is friends with Max and Dave and Alex are fully formed characters and not two halves of a couple.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that every show about a rat pack, whether it is How I met your mother or It’s always sunny in Philadelphia isn’t trying to be Friends. Let go of the comparisons. A bunch of oddball friends hanging out is not really the most novel sitcom format but more than one good show can come out of it.