Tag Archives: TV

1552: An American Workplace

Finally reached the end of the American incarnation of The Office today, and I was very pleased with how it all wrapped itself up. I was very pleasantly surprised with the series as a whole, in fact — though the early stages of the first series where it was literally nothing more than a word-for-word remake of the English version were… not poor, but disappointing; and the latter part of the complete run did perhaps drag on a little longer than it needed to. Still, the finale was good, and the nine seasons of episodes meant that by the end you have a very strong understanding of all the characters involved.

I liked the balance it struck between some genuinely touching stories and somewhat formulaic character comedy. Many of the characters in the show almost had a “catchphrase” — not literally, but an iconic means of behaving — but the show, on the whole, managed to ensure that these party tricks weren’t used so much that the people using them became one-dimensional joke machines. Angela’s prim and proper attitude was subverted by what happened to her in the later seasons with regard to her relationships, for example, while the seemingly alcoholic Meredith points out in the last episode that the side of her captured on film — the side that drank too much, frequently got her tits out and behaved completely inappropriately — was only part of the entire picture.

And this was part of the point, really. As a spoof “docudrama”, both the English and American versions of The Office play with the idea that it’s possible to steer a narrative that you have no external influence on through careful, selective editing and manipulation after the fact. It’s a common trick in reality TV; some shows even supposedly have disclaimers that you may not be portrayed entirely accurately if you appear on them, because the footage will be edited to fit the “script” rather than to give a truthful picture of what actually happened.

In the case of The Office, of course, the whole thing was scripted and planned out from start to finish, and it was, at times, hard to forget that side of things. Jim and Pam’s romance was a little too perfect at times — even with the several pieces of tension introduced in the final season. Similarly, characters such as Dwight, Erin and Andy were almost too much of a caricature to be truly “believable” at times; this certainly didn’t hurt the show if you treated it as an ongoing comedy drama rather than attempting to suspend your disbelief and treat it as an ongoing documentary, but it did lose a little of the magic that the English original had.

That said, thinking back to the English original version, David Brent was an obvious caricature that, on many occasions, behaved far too ridiculously to be “believable” as a real person. The difference is that alongside his obvious nonsense, everything else was a lot more understated. The Tim and Dawn possible romance was constantly left dangling — something the American version simply couldn’t do with the considerably larger number of episodes it boasted — and even when it seemed to “wrap things up” had a certain degree of ambiguity about it. Not so much with Jim and Pam — though again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Jim and Pam’s relationship and how they overcame their difficulties and stuck together was a pleasantly heartwarming tale when all’s said and done.

On the whole, then, I really enjoyed the whole series, and the last couple of episodes were an excellent finale to the entire run. It’s a very distinct beast from the English original — I’m not sure if it’s better overall, but it certainly managed to maintain our attention for nine seasons of twentysomething episodes each rather than the original’s two seasons of six episodes each.

It’s a good watch, then; less dependent on outright uncomfortable comedy than the British original, and more focus on slow, gradual character development over time. The whole run could have possibly stood to be a couple of seasons shorter — things dragged a little in the middle — but it started and finished very strong, and I’m very glad I took the time to watch it from start to finish.

The question is, then, what’s next?

1550: Alpen Sponsors Characters on Dave

It’s been a while since I talked about how shit adverts are, so let’s talk about how shit adverts are. Or, more accurately, how shit those annoying “bumpers” or whatever they’re called before and after every ad break on a particular channel are.

I’m thinking of two specific examples here, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good one, even thinking years back. Remember the annoying girls frantically scrabbling around with a hammer and a bowl of popcorn before Friends came on? I don’t think I can ever remember what that was fo– wait, Wella Experience, so I guess it did its job to a certain extent. Or did it? Annoying girls frantically scrabbling around with a hammer and a bowl of popcorn before Friends came on didn’t make me want to purchase any of Wella’s Experience products, whatever the hell they were. No; it made me irritable, and it made me fast-forward the moment the screen faded for the ads whenever I watched the episodes on video, which is how I typically ended up watching Friends.

The two specific examples I’m thinking of from 2014 are both from the channel Dave, it of the perpetual Top Gear, QI and Mock the Week reruns. The first is for Admiral multi-car insurance, and the second is for Alpen.

They’re both shit, and not just because they’re repetitive — although by God they’re both repetitive as fuck when they’re repeated a considerable number of times every evening — and they’re both shit for the same reason: they don’t make any sense whatsoever.

Take the Admiral ones. Here’s one. (Actually, these are a little different from the ones that air on TV, but these are the ones that Admiral has inexplicably chosen to upload to their YouTube account.)

And another.

They appear to be attempting to make a catchphrase out of “ooh, that’s primetime!” because, you see, they accompany “primetime” shows on Dave. Trouble is, that doesn’t make any sense. “That’s primetime!” isn’t something people say, and it’s not something you can force people to say. Not to mention the fact that the ads don’t have anything whatsoever to do with what they’re supposedly advertising — multi-car insurance. And no, saying the words “multi-car insurance!” during the advert when something completely incongruous is going on is not advertising multi-car insurance. Like the annoying Wella girls, these ads make me less inclined to ever make use of Admiral’s services.

Then comes Alpen, who have much the same problem. Alpen, as the campaign goes, sponsors “characters on Dave”, or in other words, the shows that are on in the mid-to-late evening and typically involve recognisable, well-known comedians.

A month or so ago, Alpen’s campaign made a reasonable amount of sense. There was a dude tramping around his alpine apartment eating porridge. Geoffrey Palmer said “porridge full of character”, then there was a close-up of the porridge. Fair enough.

Now, however, there’s a bearded bloke who waffles on some idiotic nonsense about what he thinks characters “are” (“Characters have eyes in the back of their head! Hello, mountains!” — he’s standing in front of a window with a view over some mountains), then Geoffrey Palmer says “Alpen sponsors characters on Dave” with a rather worn-out voice, as if he knows what he’s being asked to do is utterly stupid. And no porridge, full of character or no. (Unfortunately there’s no videos of these sequences easily available. Sort it out, YouTube!)

I just don’t understand why or how someone signed off on these. Both the Admiral and the Alpen ads are clearly supposed to be funny, but they’re also obviously composed by people who have absolutely no idea how to write comedy and thus have absolutely no business whatever writing comedy. Or attempting to, anyway.

Anyway, yes. That’s what I’ve been thinking about this evening. What a happy and exciting life I lead, no?

1502: The Only Shortcut That Matters

Looking for something to watch over breakfast the other day, I decided I’d check out Ricky Gervais’ latest work Derek. I was expecting Gervais’ usual brand of “cringe comedy” exemplified by The Office and Extras – perhaps with additional cringe factor thanks to the character he was portraying — and not anything special. Over the course of the show’s few episodes, though, I was very pleasantly surprised to find what is, without a doubt, Gervais’ finest work to date — and not just from a comedic perspective.

Derek, lest you’re unfamiliar, centres around Gervais’ titular character, a middle-aged guy who may or may not be autistic and who works in a nursing home. Joining him in the main cast are his friends Dougie the caretaker (Karl Pilkington essentially playing himself) and Kevin the unemployed, along with Hannah — the manager of the nursing home — and the various old folks who they take care of together.

It’s one of those shows in which not a whole lot happens, yet what does happen always feels meaningful. In keeping with Gervais’ previous shows, it’s presented in “docudrama” format, with candid footage interspersed with talking head shots from Derek and the gang reflecting on what’s been happening. Over the course of the series, we get to know Derek and his friends extremely well, seeing them through both happy times and sad ones.

Derek is unsurprisingly the highlight of the show, initially appearing to be a bumbling, gurning simpleton but occasionally showing flickers of sharp wit — such as the sequence where he makes Kevin explain a dirty joke to him until it’s not funny any more, then explains to the camera afterwards that he did get it really, he just pretends not to because he knows it annoys Kevin.

More than wit, though, Derek is in possession of an incredibly compassionate soul — and he’s not the only one. Hannah is described by several characters as only caring about the happiness of others, even at the expense of her own, and she constantly wrestles with the path her life has taken, wondering if she might have done things differently if she hadn’t dropped out of school early. There’s a particularly awkward scene where one of her former peers at school shows up to bring her mother in to the home, but Hannah comes off best out of the whole exchange by the simple virtue of not having alienated everyone around her.

It’s an incredibly touching, moving show throughout — and not just at the times when one of the elderly residents of the nursing home passes on. There’s at least one moment in every episode where something very simple but utterly profound happens, and it moved me to tears on more than one occasion. The last episode in particular, in which a long-term resident of the home finally passes on and causes all of the cast to reflect on their respective life situations, is both heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time — particularly when we see the normally gruff, “laddish” Kevin break down in tears as he comes to the realisation that Derek “took the only shortcut that matters: kindness.”

Critics of the show have called it transparently emotionally manipulative, and perhaps it is — the liberal use of Coldplay on the soundtrack is testament to that — but personally I’m not sure there’s anything all that wrong with that. In Derek, Gervais has written an unusual but admirable character whom we could all do to observe the positive traits of; he’s also crafted a show that is enjoyable, eye-opening and which encapsulates the philosophy of “don’t judge a book by its cover” very neatly. It’s well worth a watch — just have the tissues handy.

1486: Funny Ha-Ha

As I type this, a Dave broadcast, repeat, whatever (probably repeat) of a Frank Skinner stand-up show has just finished. It made me laugh rather a lot. I haven’t watched a Frank Skinner show for quite some time and I was pleased to see he doesn’t appear to have changed all that much — he still primarily tells imagery-heavy stories about sexual encounters, and in doing so paints quite the vivid picture with his words.

Catching this show got me thinking a bit. I haven’t watched a whole lot in the way of stand-up comedy for a long time, whereas it used to be something I really enjoyed doing. I think part of this is due to the fact that I don’t really know who’s good these days — and the little modern stand-up I have seen doesn’t really appeal all that much. This may partly be due to the fact that you tend to catch stuff like this on Dave or BBC3, the latter of which in particular is aimed at young and stupid people.

Comedy goes in cycles and phases, and the comedians who are popular at any given moment give a good snapshot of culture at the time. A few years back when Eddie Izzard was popular, for example, that kind of fast-paced, clever humour was fashionable — everything tying together. Today, it seems that one fashionable style of comedy is the string of unrelated one-liners, one after another — funny, sure, but it doesn’t quite “click” with me as much as the intertwining threads of something like Izzard’s comedy.

I haven’t seen a lot of musical comedy of the the kind best exemplified by Bill Bailey and Tim Minchin recently, either. This is a real shame, because both of these performers are clearly very skilled musicians as well as witty comedians. Both still occasionally show up on comedy panel shows — a good means of catching favourite comedians long after their standup isn’t seen quite so often on the television — but, you know, I’d pay good money for a new Bill Bailey show.

I saw Bill Bailey live when I went to the Edinburgh Festival from university, and it was a magical experience. I, and many of my companions who were also in attendance, immediately fell in love. Many of us were familiar with Bailey’s work on TV shows, but perhaps not his stand-up; after that, meanwhile, it wasn’t long before all of us went and picked up all his DVDs.

I don’t really have a point to all this. Perhaps I’m asking in a roundabout way whether there are any good comedians out there who are worth seeking out. For reference, I enjoy stuff like Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard, Dara O’Briain and that sort of thing. (I’ve even been known to enjoy Michael McIntyre, though as I recall you’re not supposed to admit that sort of thing. But ah, fuck it.) Any must-see comedians out there that I’m missing out on?

1430: Step Into My…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been watching the US incarnation of The Office recently. And I have to say, I’m a big fan — even more so than I liked the UK original, in fact. And I liked the original a lot — the three DVDs that made up the complete UK series in its entirety joined Spaced and Black Books as titles that were in my regular “rotation” for a while — things I’d watch over and over again when I just wanted to zone out and not really do anything.

I watched the first episode of the American The Office mostly out of curiosity. And the first episode disappointed me a lot, as it was little more than a word-for-word recreation of an episode of the original series.

However, clearly the team behind the new American version understood that this wasn’t good enough, because by the second episode, there was enough new stuff to distinguish it significantly from the original. And by partway through the first series, it’s a completely different show that never looks back.

For my money, it’s a better show, too. It still has the same kind of uncomfortable humour as its UK counterpart does, but it carries off better and more consistently. It makes better use of the “docudrama” format, with a lot more in the way of sidelong glances to the camera and otherwise acknowledging that the characters are being filmed going about their business, rather than gradually drifting into a relatively straightforward “comedy drama” format.

Michael Scott, the David Brent equivalent, is a much more sympathetic character, too. At least part of this may be due to the fact that he’s not played by Ricky Gervais. I personally have no issue with Ricky Gervais, but it’s sometimes difficult not to see him as just Ricky Gervais rather than David Brent. Perhaps it’s just because I’m not particularly familiar with Steve Carrell and there’s none of the associated baggage that comes with Ricky Gervais — whatever the case, I think Michael Scott works much better as a character than David Brent does, since although he’s obnoxious, stupid and utterly, utterly tone-deaf, there are numerous occasions when you will find yourself feeling genuinely bad for him.

The Tim-Dawn equivalent will-they-won’t-they romance between Jim and Pam is explored in much greater depth, too. The fact that nothing was ever really quite resolved in the UK version was one of its hallmarks, and indeed so far in the US version, nothing has become particularly “conclusive” as yet, but it’s already gone further than it did in the UK version. Their relationship is interesting, depicted — and rather familiar, too.

A real highlight is the supporting characters, though. In the UK Office, I’d be hard-pressed to name many of the supporting characters other than the fantastic Keith, of Scotch egg-eating fame. In the US version, meanwhile, each of the other characters is fleshed out rather nicely; we perhaps only see each of them for a few minutes in most episodes, but we start to get a sense of who they are and what they’re all about over time — and each of them has their own little story arc, too, which is nice. The focus is still very much on Michael Scott’s troubles as a boss and the relationship between Jim and Pam, but this bit of extra detail just helps to flesh everything out that little bit more.

I’m about into the third season or so now, I think, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next. There’s certainly plenty of it to enjoy!

1378: Oh, Ambassador

Given Dave on Demand’s apparent inability to stream anything to my computer at present — we wanted to watch the last episode of Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish – I decided to check out Mitchell and Webb’s new show Ambassadors earlier, and was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.

Mitchell and Webb are an excellent comedy duo, and have proven themselves to be pretty adaptable and flexible through stuff like Peep Show and their sketch show. Of course, David Mitchell usually plays characters that are reasonably close to his real-life persona — or perhaps he adapts his real-life persona to be closer to the characters he plays? — and Robert Webb usually plays slightly supercilious, smug arseholes, but the pair of them actually have a surprising amount of range outside their most well-known roles as Mark and Jeremy from Peep Show.

Ambassadors is a good example of this. The show wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but then, I went into it reasonably blind, so this perhaps isn’t altogether surprising. I was expecting something along the lines of a modern-day Yes, Minister type thing, with bumbling, incompetent British officials having to deal with comic shenanigans in some far-off country, but what I actually got was something a little more serious. Oh, there was still plenty of ridiculousness along the way, for sure, but the ridiculousness wasn’t the main point of the show; in other words, it was more of a “comedy drama” than a straight-up comedy.

Mitchell plays the British ambassador to the fictional country Tazbekistan, while Webb plays his second-in-command — who is actually a little more assertive and confident than his “superior”, but who is also being blackmailed for some reason or another that hasn’t yet become altogether clear. They’re supported by a strong cast of other actors playing officials from both Britain and Tazbekistan, and the first episode revolves around Mitchell having to juggle the seemingly conflicting questions of whether to negotiate the release of a human rights activist or a lucrative arms deal with Tazbekistan for helicopters that can “pick off a rabbit from 70 miles away.”

I can’t say I’m massively switched on politically and thus can’t really comment as to how “biting” the satire inherent in the show really was, but leaving that aside, the show itself was entertaining enough. Mitchell and Webb are always very watchable, and seeing them play characters other than Mark and Jeremy (or variations thereof) is rather pleasing. If nothing else, Ambassadors certainly shows that the duo have the capacity to be serious when it counts — and when strange things do happen, their particular brand of deadpan humour contrasts well with the sillier things going on.

I’ll be interested to see how the show develops. With hour-long episodes and the addition of drama to their usual comedy, it’s a lot slower-paced than Mitchell and Webb’s previous work and thus it will be a good test of their abilities, and whether they can carry an interesting story as well as a series of amusing happenings. The first episode was certainly a reasonably strong start — I’m looking forward to seeing if it continues.

1366: Modern Life

I’m in a bit of a hurry tonight, so apologies if there’s any typos or bits that don’t quite make sense.

I’m in a bit of a hurry because in approximately 15 minutes’ time I’m going to be watching the one TV show on at present that I will actually watch when it’s broadcast – Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish.

I’m a fan of Dave Gorman’s comedy, and have been ever since I saw his show from a few years back where he travelled around trying to find all the other people called Dave Gorman in the world. He followed this up with Googlewhack Adventure which, besides teaching me what “Googlewhack” meant, was a similarly entertaining experience. And so far Modern Life is Goodish has been just as enjoyable.

Gorman’s comedy is fairly distinctive in that his shows are almost structured like a lecture, complete with Powerpoint presentations, visual aids and all manner of other things. He picks a topic and explains it in detail, taking great pains to provide evidence and proof for the things he’s saying, usually in the form of photographs or diagrams. He often lampoons himself, though, by launching into a detailed quasi-scientific explanation of something utterly ridiculous and pointless, yet treating it as seriously as if it were a lecture on, say, global warming, or Shakespeare’s influence on modern theatre or something.

Modern Life is Goodish has been particularly enjoyable to me as a lot of his observations are in line with things I think about the modern world. It’s always nice to have your own opinions (and irrational prejudices!) validated by someone else, and while I haven’t always found myself agreeing with everything Gorman says — particularly outside the context of his shows, such as on Twitter — I’ve found enough common ground in my limited experience of him to know that he’s someone that I like, and that I enjoy listening to.

The absolute highlight of Modern Life is Goodish, though, is his weekly “found poem” feature, in which he trawls comment sections of news stories from a topic he’s discussed throughout the rest of the show, then arranges them into, well, a found poem. Not only is this an enjoyable feature in its own right, it brings back incredibly fond memories of an English lesson back in secondary school where we were challenged to create our own found poem using only things we could see around the classroom. Our particular effort was an increasingly urgent exhortation to “Graham Coop” (actually someone we knew from a couple of years above us whose work happened to be displayed on the wall) to put out a fire in the classroom. (Pull out pin, Graham Coop!)

I’m not entirely sure why I remember that particular experience from school, but it’s one of those things that’s stuck with me for no apparent reason. Graham Coop wasn’t even a particularly good friend (though I did borrow Terminal Velocity from him at one point) and I haven’t spoken to a lot of those other people from school for a while; regardless, that particular experience has stuck with me, and I’m reminded of it every week when I watch Modern Life is Goodish.

I’ll leave you with a teaser from one of the early episodes. If you’re in the UK, you can find the most recent episodes on Dave’s website.

1338: Educating Everywhere

I watched an episode of Channel 4′s docusoap/fly on the wall show Educating Yorkshire earlier and, as I could have predicted, I found it most enjoyable.

You see, despite my unpleasant experiences at the chalkface a few years back, I still find myself interested in the world of education. I find schools to be fascinating places, with their collection of hundreds or even thousands of diverse people thrown together and expected to survive without killing each other. They’re a great source of stories, both from the perspective of the teachers and the pupils, and I am constantly fascinated by fiction set in schools. (This explains my love of the following things: Buffy the Vampire Slayer; appalling high school drama movies; slice of life anime; visual novels)

Educating Yorkshire is set up well to tell some of these supposedly real stories, and it tells them well. Over the course of the single episode I watched today, we learned about the school’s headteacher and his ideals; the students’ attitudes towards him; the “back stories” of two persistent troublemakers; and a few other things besides. Although everything that happened was mundane to the max, these stories were presented in a compelling manner that made them interesting.

One image I absolutely could not get out of my head, though, was how much typical disciplinary proceedings at a school resemble a police interrogation — or at least one as depicted in the media. Before long, I was picturing Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire yelling at a kid (“[DOUBT] You did it, didn’t you, you sick son of a bitch!”) and pondering if there might be a market for a video game in which you play a teacher and have to investigate these incredibly mundane transgressions.

Well, I’d play it, even if no-one else would. Though given some of the creative interactive experiences we’re starting to get today, now, I can’t help but feel I might not be alone!

1316: Get Hype

I’ve written about this on at least one occasion before, but the fact that Breaking Bad is on television again has reminded me of the curiously inverted effect that hyperbole has on me. In other words, the more people waffle on about how amazing something is, the less I want to pay any attention to it whatsoever. I’ve long since muted everything to do with Breaking Bad for this reason, as it’s completely dulled any enthusiasm I might have once had for something that is — by most accounts — very good.

Breaking Bad is a curiously extreme example of what I’m talking about. It’s doubly infuriating because everyone posting about it on social media is also being incredibly conscious of spoilers – Breaking Bad fans hate spoilers — and thus what we end up with at the time a Breaking Bad episode is broadcast is a string of tweets that say absolutely nothing. To be more precise, they tend to be nothing but a string of tweets of people going things like “OH MY GOD” and “WOW” which has absolutely no meaning whatsoever to those who aren’t watching the show.

Now, I’ll grant that Twitter provides a reasonably practical means for Breaking Bad fans to get together and discuss the show — or, more accurately, “react” to it in real-time — but it really doesn’t inspire anything like in-depth discussion, and thus I have to question the value of doing this, particularly as it has several knock-on effects: 1) people who don’t like Breaking Bad get pissed off 2) people who might have wanted to watch Breaking Bad at some point get fed up and decide they don’t really want to watch it until everyone shuts the fuck up about it and 3) the people who are actually watching Breaking Bad are only giving the show half their attention because they’re flip-flopping back and forth between the TV screen and their phone.

I tried the “livetweeting” experience a couple of years back when I got vaguely into The Apprentice. I picked up a few followers in the process and found some entertaining people, too, but it really wasn’t worth it; the number of people who got irritated at it didn’t really make up for the people I “met” in the process, and the interactions I was having with others who were “reacting” to the show in real time were superficial at best. I didn’t find it particularly valuable, in other words; certainly no more so than sitting around watching a show with friends in the same room, which is something I don’t tend to do — TV, for me, tends to be an accompaniment to something else (like eating dinner) rather than an activity in itself.

More than the fact I didn’t find it particularly valuable socially, though, I just found it frustrating to do – if I was tweeting while watching, I found myself unable to concentrate on what was going on on the screen, so eventually I gave up, much to the relief of my Twitter followers.

Ultimately, it’s your Internet; if you want to “ooh” and “aah” at Breaking Bad while it’s on, feel free — I simply reserve the right to mute your ass if you do it too much!

Grump over. Time to go to a pre-wedding celebration.

1100: The One where Pete Watches ‘Friends’ for the First Time in Quite a While

Page_1I went through a phase a few years back of watching just two or three different TV series over and over again on a cycle. They were my passive-consumption “comfort food”, if you will — things I turned to when I didn’t really want to do anything, but didn’t really want to fall into that pit of depressed ennui that normally ends up with staring at the wall for hours at a time. Those shows included Spaced and Black Books, which are two series I still own the DVDs for and will never get rid of, and Friends, which I have never owned a complete collection of but have had scattered home-recorded VHS tapes and a few purchased DVDs and videos over the years — also, for many years, it was on a constant cycle of repeats on E4 alongside Scrubs.

Friends is something that I’ve watched so many times now that I can pretty much recite it word for word along with any episode that’s on. It kind of fell out of favour with the public in its latter stages as many people saw it as outstaying its welcome, but I enjoyed it consistently all the way through. As I say, it was comfort food; you knew what to expect with every episode. It was never anything adventurous, but the characters were both relatable and attractive, the situations they got into often personally relevant, and the quips and jokes memorable and, yes, genuinely amusing.

I started re-watching Friends again the other day having come into possession of a complete collection, only this time around I’m watching the “extended cuts” that came out a few years back. These aren’t Lucasesque “special edition” versions, they’re simply about 5 minutes longer per episode, with numerous scenes restored to their full length and, in many cases, adding a whole bunch of additional context and depth to the characters and setting that simply wasn’t there before due to the constraints of the TV scheduling.

I’m really enjoying them so far. This extra footage means that watching the show again after a few years’ break strikes a wonderful balance between the comfortably familiar and the brand-new — and, given how well I know the original versions, I can immediately recognise when something is new. In many cases, scenes that had rather awkward and obvious edits on TV now make much more sense, and in some cases there are scenes that I simply don’t think were even there at all in the first place — Joey’s first meeting with his colourful agent Estelle, for example.

More than the pleasure of getting some “new” Friends to watch, though, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of comfortable nostalgia that watching this show always infuses in me. I’ve spent so much time with these characters inside my TV over the years that I feel like they’re my friends, too — a fact helped by the fact that I still, to this day, tend to group people in my mind according to which one of the main cast they most remind me of. (Shh. Don’t tell anyone.)

One thing I’d forgotten about is that the show appeared to coin the term “friend zone” back in its first season, where Joey uses it to describe Ross having waited too long to make his move on Rachel. I shan’t get into any of that endless discussion over people who use the term “friend zone” today because it’s inordinately tedious and frustrating, but I wonder how many people remember where it actually came from and its original context. A few years back, I would have deemed it unthinkable for someone to not have knowledge of Friends, but a lot of years have passed since then.

And yet, I struggle to think of a recent TV show I’ve been quite as attached to as Friends. I’ve enjoyed various American comedies that have come since – How I Met Your Mother was originally sold to me as something of a successor to Friends in many ways, and I have major soft spots for Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock — but for me, nothing will ever be quite the same as the time I spent with Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, Chandler and Joey. However well (or otherwise) you think it may well have aged, there’s little denying that for many people of a similar age to me, Friends was and is a touchstone of popular culture that will always carry at least some degree of personal resonance.