Tag Archives: Friends

U2 Jump Street: Before “Friends”

Penhall & HansonWith 22 Jump Street opening last weekend I thought it would only be appropriate to open up the digital archives and take a look at the source text, the original TV series, the pre-meta, pre-spoof, sincere-to-a-fault 21 Jump Street. And when thinking about what to write about I was surprised to learn that I never spoke about one of the most vivid memories of 21 Jump Street from my childhood, something that has stuck with me for decades, even if I wasn’t sure it was real until I just confirmed it. Something that, as a consequence, always bothered me about Friends. And that is the use of U2’s “With or Without You.”

It was easy to think that I had made it up. My memory said that the series on the fledgling Fox network once featured an episode in which Officer Doug Penhall (the incomparable Peter DeLuise) travels to El Salvador to locate his missing wife (in my recollections, however, it was not El Salvador – I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that El Salvador existed at the time – I just had a vision of Penhall going to some Spanish-speaking place, or, perhaps, due to the outbreak of the first Gulf War during that time, the Middle East somewhere). And I recalled that the emotional climax was set to “Without or Without You,” a song that I hadn’t put in context yet, by a band I wouldn’t really be aware of until they had a pretty popular video from the Batman Forever soundtrack. But that couldn’t have actually happened right? This the show in which Johnny Depp goes undercover as a high school student to break up an amateur weed-dealing ring, in which Peter DeLuise was still somehow eligible for the varsity football team, in which Holly Robinson-Peete cornered the market on denim. So there couldn’t have been an episode in which Penhall and Hanson get embroiled in a Latin American revolution, right? With machine guns and rebel armies and jungles and explosions? Nah. In which Penhall grieves over his dead wife at her makeshift grave? No. No way. Now an episode in which Hanson is afraid to share chocolate milk with an HIV-positive student? Sure. Richard Greico’s Booker getting super high and then absolutely dominating on the schoolyard basketball court? I’ll buy that. But not an epic, emotional, tragic trek through a Latin American nation in turmoil set against the most moving and gut-wrenching song from the Irish Beatles (before the pomposity and pretentiousness of later fare like “Beautiful Day”). We think not.

But it was real! Sure, if you look up that episode now – “La Bizca” (translation: “the cross-eyed”) – and watch on Hulu, or view it on your complete series DVDs (which I know you have), the song has been replaced with some generic stock music. To be fair, it’s amazing that they were able to use it for the original broadcast in the first place, so it would be greedy to expect to fire up your Amazon Prime and still hear the strains of The Edge’s guitar. But, thanks to some intrepid, heroic YouTube users, the original version exists (taken from what we think was a German broadcast, naturally), and it can be seen in its original glory, the way that Bono never intended because he probably didn’t know that 21 Jump Street was a thing.

And when we say “its original glory” we also mean before “With or Without You” was usurped and recontextualized by Friends when Ross and Rachel couldn’t agree on the terms of a “break.” Years after “La Bizca” we remember watching Rachel stare out her fake window in her fake NYC apartment as fake snow fell down and we were immediately bothered by this song being appropriated as the soundtrack to their not-really-star-crossed romance. These two selfish, self-obsessed, entitled yuppies let a little fight and a copy shop girl get between them, and they have the audacity to proclaim this as their theme song, the anthem to their dysfunctional, overwrought, will-they-or-won’t-they romance? That, we recall then and recall now, was very upsetting. The emotional depths of “With or Without You” should be reserved for a Doug Penhall traveling halfway across the world only to learn that his wife has perished in the midst of a brutal civil war, not for a fashion buyer and a whiny guy with a monkey who break up after every petty squabble. It’s an insult to “With or Without You,” and its an insult to the late Marta Penhall. Would you use Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to accompany Phoebe giving birth to her brother’s triplets? No, you wouldn’t. And this was arguably worse.

And when we say “its original glory” we also mean the manner in which “With or Without You” was used in the television series versus how it might be used in the movies; which is to say without any trace of irony, but instead just dripping with earnestness. The polar opposite of 21 Jump Street the movie (and its sequel), 21 Jump Street the show was hyper self-serious. Sure, you don’t have a series with Peter DeLuise at the forefront and not have your fair share of yuks, but the show did not allow for any degree of winking or self-parody, any even vague allusion to its absurdity. Racism in high schools and a Vietnamese extortion ring and a clown kidnapping his grandson and revolutions in El Salvador, this was never played for laughs, but for very special episodes at best, didactic social commentary at worst. But good or bad, the original 21 Jump Street was committed to the integrity of these stories, and that probably goes a long way towards explaining why Johnny Depp was so eager to flee the Jump Street chapel. It wasn’t the best show – not by a long shot – and it didn’t always do a great job of tackling the big issues – again, not by a long shot – but you can’t say they didn’t aim high. And if their aim wasn’t true – and it usually wasn’t – their intentions were.

Much like, you might argue, a little rock band out of Dublin.

 

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Elliott Ghoul’d: JT Joins the ‘SNL’ Five Timers Club But One Member is Conspicuously Absent

Justin Timberlake made his triumphant return to Studio 8H this past weekend, delivering the episode that it felt like SNL and its fans had been waiting for all season long. The affair marked Timberlake’s fifth turn as host, inducting him into the esteemed “Five Timers Club” that includes such SNL luminaries such as Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Alec Baldwin and Tom Hanks. In fact, it was during Hanks fifth hosting appearance in December of 1990  (and before fifteen of Baldwin’s sixteen hosting turns) when we first learned about the existence of the exclusive club, with a young Conan O’Brien (going by the alias “Sean”) presenting Hanks with his club robe. For the first time in just over twenty-two years we revisited this VIP lounge this past Saturday night, with Timberlake receiving his robe from another O’Brien, SNL writer and 7 Minutes in Heaven star Mike O’Brien. Martin, Simon and Hanks were once again present, as well as fellow club members Chevy Chase and Candice Bergen (and non-club but former cast members Dan Ackroyd and Martin Short). But shockingly absent from the distinguished proceedings was Five Timer Elliott Gould, who helped initiate Hanks back in ’90. Sure, by that time Gould hadn’t hosted for ten years, and hasn’t in the twenty-two since, but once a Five Timer always a Five Timer, right? In fact, Gould was the third host to join the club (behind Buck Henry and Martin), which essentially makes him a charter member. So why then has Gould essentially been excommunicated from Saturday Night Live? Why has someone who was so instrumental and loyal in those early SNL years become a persona non-grata at the Five Timers Club? Was it his role on FriendsA falling out with Don Pardo? Or, perhaps he and his friends stole from Lorne? Most likely, while fellow club members Martin and Baldwin climb higher and higher into the double digits, we’ll never know why Gould has been away for over two decades, whether by banishment or by self-righteous declaration of independence. No matter what though, they can never take away his pool privileges.

Btw, Lindsay Lohan is one hosting appearance away from joining the club. Should she be tapped for that fifth time, expect stricter membership requirements to follow soon after.

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Groaning Pains: Matthew Perry Goes On to a Better Place; Or How We Learned About Drunk Driving

With the proper premiere of Go On this week and its promising ratings, it seemed like the appropriate time to revisit our Groaning Pains series, specifically Go On star Matthew Perry’s short stint as Carol’s ill-fated boyfriend, Sandy. In other words, it’s time to discuss how we learned about drunk driving (and that a guy could be named “Sandy”).

When Friends premiered back in 1994 we may have been the only eleven-year-old in the country who thought to himself “there’s the guy who was in the Married with Children backdoor pilot and there’s the guy who was Carol’s boyfriend on Growing Pains that died from drinking and driving.” The former is Matt LeBlanc, whose Married With Children character Vinnie Verducci – Joey Tribbiani’s spiritual predecessor – was spun off with his father Charlie  (the immortal Joseph Bolonga) into the very short-lived series Top of the Heapand the latter is, of course, Matthew Perry. For years, Matthew Perry stuck in our mind because of his role on Growing Pains – 1) because his arc ended so tragically, and 2) because we never could quite wrap our heads around the fact he was named Sandy – and it would take a little while for us before we thought of Perry as Chandler Bing and not as Carol Seaver’s love lost, a cautionary tale.

Go on

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In Memorium: Ernest Borgnine; AKA The Importance of Being Ernest

As they say, these things come in thirties, and yesterday Ernest Borgnine joined the ranks of the many actors, celebrities and famous figures to leave us this year, passing away at ninety-five less than a week after Nora Ephron and less than two weeks after Andy Griffith.  Borgnine was one of those life-time, living legend actors, sort of a male Betty White, a performer whose career spanned more decades than most marriages, a half-century of a work on his resume.  By the time we knew who he was, or at least knew his name, he was already into the golden age of his career, a silver-headed silver back.  And we came know him best – for better or worse – as Manny the doorman on NBC’s The Single Guy.  Certainly, this is not the crowning achievement of his career, that would be his Oscar for 1955’s Marty, and the NBC sitcom is more of a footnote on his illustrious filmography, but it is the role with which we most associate him.  We didn’t choose to be twelve-years-old when The Single Guy came on the air, it choose us.  And how were we not supposed to watch the show between Friends and Seinfeld?  But that’s where The Single Guy was, 8:30pm on Thursday nights, the cushiest spot for any fledgling sitcom in all of television, and there on that show was an adorable, bushy-haired old man.  And that’s how we remember Ernest Borgnine.

In lieu of any choice excerpts from The Single Guy (if such a thing exists), here’s Borgnine talking about that show and its rapid demise.  His quiet bemusement over the show’s sudden cancellation and the questionable machinations of showbiz indicates that Borgnine the person was not so unlike the Borgnine characters: upbeat, gentle, and genuine.

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Must Flee TV: Community – The Twilight of the First Harmon Dynasty

Today we bring you the final entry in our “Must Flee TV” series, our thoughts on the end of ‘Community’ Season Three, and, well, the end of an era. 

Full disclosure: when we wrote our Dan Harmon obituary earlier this week we had not yet had the chance to view the final three Season Three Community episodes.  We felt comfortable going ahead with the in memorial post because there would be nothing in those final episodes of the Harmon run to change our opinion of his work and influence on Community.  Unless one of the episodes was a shot-by-shot remake of an unremarkable episode of Friends, he could do nothing to tarnish his legacy, and, actually, they probably could pull that episode off (and by Season Six he probably would have gotten to that too).  But, as it turned out, the show had still yet another level to go, there were still recesses of our mind left to blow.

Perhaps only when Fox burned off the last four Arrested Developments against the Olympics has viewing a block of episodes felt so bittersweet, such a painful joy.  But unlike the Arrested finale night, the last three episodes of Community left us with little closure, and much uncertainty.  If anything, we’re sadder now than we were at the end of Arrested (obviously we could not know that it would eventually come back on Netflix, and we would have been foolish to pin our hopes on such a thing, especially since Netflix was in its nascent stages then).  We know our show is coming back, but we don’t know in what form, if it’ll continue on the same genius path, if it’ll forge something new and different, or if it’ll be a morbid a shadow of itself, a crushing reminder of what was.

Up far ahead: Our top 5 episodes of the Dan Harmon Era…

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Must Flee TV: Friday Night Fits – About ‘Community”s Move to Friday Nights

We’ve admittedly, regrettably, been remiss with our recaps and analysis of NBC’s Thursday night comedies.  There was a time when we provided weekly thoughts on ‘The Office’ (luckily our neglect kicked in just around the time when Friday morning post-mortems on that show would have been unbearable) and periodic temperature checks on ‘Parks and Recreation.’  With the season already complete for half of these shows, and the other two concluding their runs this week, we thought it was high time that we put aside some real estate to check in on these programs, starting today with a discussion about ‘Community’ (whose season (and not series) finale airs Thursday night (preceded by two other new episodes and the ’30 Rock’ closer).  

NBC announced their Fall 2012 pick ups last week and, despite lots of rumors and hand-wringing, Community will return for a fourth season.  That much wasn’t quite a surprise to us.  Could NBC have axed the criminally low-rated comedy?  Sure, and they would have the cold, emotionless Nielsen numbers to back it up.  But, at the same time, they know what they’re getting with Community.  Will it ever break out into a Friends or even These Friends of Mine sized hit?  Unlikely at this point.  But does it have a devoted, die-hard fan base?  Absolutely.  Attractive cast?  You bet.  A smart, discerning, relatively affluent audience?  We guess.  Close to reaching enough episodes for lucrative syndication?  Definitely.  So the renewal, especially for the 13-episode order it received, is not all that shocking to us.  What was unexpected, however, was the announcement at the NBC Upfronts that come this fall Community will be found on Fridays, as the lead-in to…Grimm?

Read on: Go ahead and step back from that ledge…

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Jason Sudeikis About to Become the Sort of Celebrity He’s Currently Creeping Out

In three days Jason Sudeikis will host the 2011 MTV Movie Awards and he’ll officially have achieved a new level of fame, joining the esteemed ranks of such past hosts as Will Smith, Ben Stiller, and Mike Myers (and for some reason Lisa Kudrow).  And with Horrible Bosses coming out this July, in which Sudeikis shares top billing with Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston (2nd Friends actress in as many sentences!), Sudooks is poised to claim a spot on the A-List.  That’s still a few weeks away, but soon we’ll look back with fondness at moments like this, when Suds was still (barely) small-time enough to believably irritate some of Hollywood’s best, prettiest young actresses.  Although, even now, it’s a big stretch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And one more.

And, for good measure, one classic MTV Movie Awards clip.

Via Splitsider

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