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Friends Ends

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Tearful fans wave goodbye regretfully, detractors snarl “good riddance” – Friends gets the big bon voyage tonight:

    THE LAST ONE – Series Finale
    8:59pm 2004-05-06 ALL NEW!
    “FRIENDS” SERIES FINALE – AFTER TEN YEARS THE FRIENDS PREPARE TO SAY GOODBYE — Filled with humor and bittersweet emotion, the series finale of “Friends” finds Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross embarking on the next chapters in their lives. The six of them have been there for each other through all the ups and downs of becoming adults. Now it’s their last day together, and it’s one of momentous events and last-minute surprises. Even as the friends make major decisions on their futures, there is a bond between them that will last forever – no matter where their paths lead. TV-14

The Friends site has an entire section devoted to the finale, including a “party guide,” a timeline of the show, video clips of the cast discussing favorite moments, stuff like this:

and various other nonsense and electronic knickknacks.

Advertisers are paying Super Bowl rates for the show – maybe Janet Jackson will appear halfway through:

    Advertisers are paying up to $2 million for 30 seconds on the “Friends” finale this week, making it the Super Bowl of sitcoms.

    That puts Thursday’s one-hour finale, which NBC has estimated will draw an audience of at least 50 million people, second in price only to the Super Bowl this year. CBS took in $2.3 million for a half-minute of ad time on the Super Bowl.

    The Academy Awards took in $1.5 million per 30-second ad spot on ABC.

    “This is one of those rare media events,” said Charlie Rutman, president of Carat USA, a major buyer of advertising time for large companies. “It’s a program that has captured a generation and a lifestyle for 10 years. It’s become more than just a television program.”

    Some of the companies advertising in Thursday’s finale, like Hewlett-Packard and Gatorade, are debuting new commercials on Thursday, just like companies do for the Super Bowl.

    Hewlett-Packard’s ad will show how the company’s technology helped create the animation for the upcoming “Shrek 2″ movie, said Scott Berg, director of worldwide media for the company.

    Debuting a new ad “makes it that much more special and it sets you apart from those on the stage who might just be running more typical ads,” he said.

    Gatorade will be continuing its series of ads featuring a youngster who gets to play sports with his heroes. The new ad will feature Jason Kidd, Lisa Leslie and Yao Ming.

    The “Friends” finale is considered invaluable not only because of the large audience, Berg said, but because viewers will likely pay closer attention than on many shows. There will be less channel surfing during commercials, he said. [AP]

NBC is also building other programming around the show, in which advertisers can avail themselves of the “aura” at cheaper rates:

    NBC is adding programs related to “Friends” to run before and after the hourlong finale at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times, just as the networks broadcasting the Super Bowl present hours of pre- and post-game programs. At 8 p.m., there will be a 60-minute clip-show tribute to “Friends.” And on “The Tonight Show” later that evening, the cast of “Friends” will appear with Jay Leno. Commercials for those shows cost less than spots in the final episode.

    “We’re in the aura of the ‘Friends’ finale, and it’s a little cheaper to be in the aura,” said Steve Demos, president at White Wave in Boulder, Colo., a unit of the Dean Foods Company that will run a commercial for its Silk soymilk during “Tonight.”

    ….The Ciba Vision unit of Novartis is running a commercial for Night and Day contact lenses during the “Friends” clip show that it also ran after the end of Super Bowl XXXVIII. “We look at a mix where we can get the best value,” said Jeff Cohen, vice president for lens and lens-care marketing at Ciba Vision North America in Atlanta.

    …Advertisers are producing spots specifically for the final “Friends” in the same way they do for the Super Bowl. For instance, Allstate will present its spokesman, the actor Dennis Haysbert, comparing real life and sitcom life. The spot is created by Leo Burnett in Chicago, part of the Publicis Groupe.

    ” ‘Friends’ is about life changes for young American adults, and Allstate is all about protecting those same people today and preparing them for tomorrow as their lives change,” said Lisa Cochrane, assistant vice president for integrated marketing communications at the Allstate Insurance Company. [NY Times]

USA Today’s Robert Bianco sees the show’s greatest strength as amiability:

    For 10 years, the key to the remarkable appeal of TV’s last true blockbuster sitcom has been right there in the title: Friends. This NBC staple not only explored the ebb and flow and value of friendship, but in its own TV way it also reflected the virtues of friendship itself. On a very basic level, this was a show people liked – a comfortable, reliable resting place that people enjoyed visiting once a week. If ever a sitcom could be called amiable, it was Friends.

    It’s easy to both over-praise and undervalue amiability, and Friends has had its share of both excessive hype and unwarranted backlash. It was not the best comedy of the ’90s, the last great fertile period for sitcoms – that was Frasier. Nor was it the most socially conscious – that was Roseanne. Or the most popular – that was Seinfeld.

    Yet where its competitors grew stale, collapsed or petered out, Friends carried on to become the most consistently entertaining of all, and the one that is likely to wear best over time. Passion cools; affection is more constant. Friends inspired nothing if not affection.

But is amiability really the highest virtue? Bianco says no:

    Does our fondness for Friends make it one of TV’s all-time greatest sitcoms, on par with I Love Lucy, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H or The Cosby Show? No. Great sitcoms, like great art, challenge us in some way: They take risks, they innovate, they force us and the medium to grow in ways Friends never quite did.

    But if it didn’t reach the very top, it got awfully close. Friends was brightly written and perfectly portrayed by that under-Emmyed cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

I could never be a regular TV critic – you have to watch too much TV. The more TV I watch the more irritated I get: the formulas become harder to ignore, the more I think about what else I could be doing with my time.

But anyway, the Boston Herald has an interesting look at the career prospects of the show’s stars:

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel): If you believe the tabloids, Aniston and hubby Brad Pitt are trying to have a baby. But the 35-year-old is also the Friend with the best shot at big-screen success. She received rave reviews for the indie hit “The Good Girl” and enjoyed box office success with “Bruce Almighty.” Next up for the girl who launched a thousand haircuts: the thriller “Diary” and “Gambit,” a remake of a 1966 film. Aniston and Pitt also have their own production company, Plan B, and already have the film “The Time Traveler’s Wife” in the works.

Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe): Unlike her flaky alter-ego, the oldest Friend (she turns 41 in July) has two careers going strong. After roles in “The Opposite of Sex” and “Clockwatchers,” she has forged a place for herself as a supporting actress in hip films. Kudrow also formed a production company with actor Dan Bucatinsky. Their first project was the ABC Family movie “Picking Up and Dropping Off.” She also produced two pilots under consideration for next season.

Courteney Cox Arquette (Monica): The first post-“Friends” production for the 39-year-old is the July birth of her baby with husband David Arquette. She and Arquette also produce “Mix It Up,” a series on cable channel WE about couples solving their decorating troubles. The former “Scream” queen will star in the upcoming horror film “November.”

Matt LeBlanc (Joey): The 36-year-old recently shot the pilot for his spinoff, “Joey.” The series will inherit the “Friends” time slot, and so far the show has followed all the rules in the spinoff playbook. Pick the series’ least explored character, relocate him (in this case, Los Angeles) and keep some of the same people involved (“Friends” executive producer Kevin Bright will produce).

Matthew Perry (Chandler): Could Perry be any more worried about his movie career? His recent “The Whole Ten Yards,” a sequel to “The Whole Nine Yards,” was a flop. His upcoming films include “Fever” and “The Beginning of Wisdom,” which co-stars his dad (and former Old Spice spokesman) John Bennett Perry. Chances are the 34-year-old will be one of the first Friends to stop by “Joey.”

David Schwimmer (Ross): The 37-year-old had his own Chicago-based theater company, The Lookingglass Theatre Company, long before “Friends.” He directed several episodes of “Friends,” and he’s already committed to directing LeBlanc’s “Joey.” Since “Friends” wrapped in January, he has not taken a break. He directed two NBC sitcom pilots for next season, including the one starring Alyson Hannigan (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Could he be the next Ron Howard?

No, he has more hair.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    The finale was, well, amiable. I thank the actors for serving as the nation’s best TV friends and for reminding many of us of what it was like to be young and filled with possibilities.

  • Bob A. Booey

    I’m a genius and I’m borrowing your blog to take it over for a second cuz it’s a lil boring…

    I don’t think the finale was surprising to anyone at all: Friends has consistently aimed for the middle of the road and the finale was no different. I thought for just a second that they might have some balls and let Ross and Rachel’s neediness go unanswered, but not in Sitcom Land. After all, “he’s her lobster.” I’m only thankful that line from hell didn’t find its way back in like the chick and the duck and the dog statue.

    Here’s what I’ll take away from it:

    *It’s good that Matthew Perry finally lost enough weight to where he actually finally resembles himself again by the finale. Too bad it took him about 3 seasons of looking disturbing to get to that point … and no, the bad red-faced tan did not help. I think the last 3 seasons of Friends could be described as “The Ones Where They All Get Bad, Fake Tans and Gain Weight in Hollywood.”

    *The final phone call gimmick with Rachel didn’t quite work as well as they wanted it to, I think. Sure, it was a sweet enough moment but none of the dialogue reached the level of past cheesy moments on the show. The plane thing worked once before — I’m glad they put a twist on it, but it wasn’t a particularly inventive storyline. I think it’s from some movie I’m forgetting … the answering machine bit.

    *The last shot of the door was a bit uninspired. I forget which sitcom did a similar exit (Cheers with the empty bar?).

    *The episode wasn’t all that funny. It had a couple of good lines, but no big laughs or memorable dialogue.

    *Jennifer Aniston is finally starting to hit the wall. The show ended at the right time because she was not looking as hot as she once did in that last episode. Phoebe hit the wall a long time ago, but that’s alright since Lisa Kudrow is the brightest, and oldest, member of the cast (yet consistently asked to do the least in her acting). Courteney’s finally starting to look pregnant, but she’s always held up for an older woman.

    *The commercials for “Joey” look terrible. I don’t know how much of the writing team carried over, but give me a break … boob jokes? I don’t think this will be another Frasier, since that show completely changed the tone of Cheers and made unique characters that avoided cliches as much as possible. Joey’s roommates with a genius rocket scientist nephew (can a show Jump the Shark with its plot conventions before it even airs?), which is a DOA idea. I think it’s good for at least 2 seasons because of LeBlanc and the Friends habit (which will give it solid ratings for its first season if the show isn’t a complete turd), but NBC might have to think long and hard about what kind of show they want. Otherwise, we’re looking at another George Patterson, Watching Ellie, whatever-that-one-with-Kramer-was fiasco. Not quite that bad since it IS a spinoff and Joey was one of the more likable characters, but you get the idea. “How YOU doin” situational gags with LA starlets can only last you so long. My bet’s on Schwimmer or Kudrow for the first cameo in May sweeps, probably Schwimmer. “Ross is in town for a paleontology conference at UCLA and meets Joey’s genius scientist brother (think of those jokes) yet somehow leaves Rachel at home despite their relationship bliss.”

    *It’s a good thing Schwimmer’s a smart guy who loves theatre, because as bright as he is, he’s horribly typecast beyond repair and doesn’t have the range as an actor to get Ross out of people’s heads. I’m sure he’s more than set for life with the Friends paychecks — I hope he’ll work on getting challenging material out there since he seems to have interest in more than just the broadest, mass-appeal stuff.

    *Lisa Kudrow, since her character was so limited, might also seem typecast, but I think she’s smart enough and has more range than we think that would allow her to emerge from the Phoebe role and do different, interesting things. She’s a lil too old to make it big in film, but I agree that she could do some very interesting work.

    *Perry might be the most talented actor of the bunch (that’s not saying much), but I’m really not sure what role he could play successfully in movies.

    *I agree that Aniston will have the best career on the big screen, by virtue of her age, looks, and being Mrs. Brad Pitt (however long that lasts).

    *LeBlanc is the most practical, being the first to jump on the spinoff bandwagon. He learned his lesson from the few movie projects he’s tried — anyone remember the baseball monkey picture? He realizes he’s not a real good actor and that Joey is a once-in-a-lifetime cash cow for him. At the start of the show, it seemed like he (along with Aniston) would have the most breakout potential since he WAS good-looking and a fresh face. No longer.

    That’s about all I can think of now since I’ve already forgotten most of the episode. It was alright as an ending (certainly not as bizarre and disappointing as Seinfeld), but nothing really memorable that reminds you why you loved the show.