I Really Wish E4 Hadn't Cancelled Friends
I thought it would never happen. E4 have stopped showing Friends.
Big deal? Absolutely. It's such a big deal that I was moved to revisit a piece I wrote in about 2006 in which I argued that reliable TV programming provides an excellent means of building a routine. And routines for some form an invaluable part of their sanity.
I called it "Television CAN Save The World! (or at least your sanity)", and I'm struck by how prescient and darkly prophetic it seems. I am now unemployed and deeply, deeply unhappy. I could really do with something like a daily fix of Friends. It would give me something to hold onto.
So, without further ado, here's some vintage me from 2006. Marvel at my use of ellipsis (which I would never use now), my reference to Mew and my invocation of knowledge gained during my "Introduction to Moral Philosophy" course:
Every day at 17.00 (and again at 20.00) E4 broadcasts a double bill of Friends. You could quite literally set your watch to it: “And at the end of the Appletizer Diamond Promotion advert the time will be 17.00 exact. (Beep, beep, beep)”. In many ways this marathon of mild, inoffensive comedy from across the pond is the highlight of my day. It’s pure escapism. When Friends is on, life doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not like I can relate to the lives of these rich, young, ridiculously attractive and appallingly shallow New Yorkers; far from it. But for an hour a day I can escape into a world where everything’s ok. Where conflicts are resolved in the space of a half hour cup of coffee, where people pause having spoken to allow for an invisible studio audience to laugh themselves into oblivion.
I’m not for one second claiming that Friends is an example of quality television. It frequently induces cringing. I find myself muting the TV when it’s likely that the audience will scream. A very reliable “heads-up” is when anyone kisses. Out-loud laughter’s infrequent, and many jokes miss the mark completely. And yet…I’m completely addicted. I find myself having withdrawal symptoms if I go without my daily fix.
And I’m sure that it’s exactly the same for many people. In a very post-modern move E4 have started to cringe at their own routine predictability: “Coming up next: More Friends (sigh)”. But they know for a fact that there’d be a right ruckus if they ever dared to change their scheduling. It’s the same with the daily 18.00 showing of The Simpsons, or the soaps that are on at exactly the same time every single night and subsequently repeated in a 2.5 hour endurance tests at the weekend. People have come to rely upon this schedule. It really is nice to know that at a set point every day you’ll have something decent to watch. It gives you something to look forward to. Case in point: Look how many people suddenly feel strangely empty when a series of Big Brother ends. That’s why we’re plagued with so many spin-off shows.
Any freshers who suddenly find themselves hundreds of miles away from home in a strange city surrounded by “frengers” (not quite friends, not quite strangers) can find solace in this sort of television. Once one has a routine it’s far easier for one to settle in. And before you know it, you’re enjoying yourself. I’m a second year now, and it’s fair to say that I’ve only just settled in. It took twelve months. However, I’m confident that had I access to a television set in my first year the process of settling in would only have taken…a week or two. No matter how adamantly we may try to deny it, as humans we are creatures of routine. Imagine a life without routine. You’d go insane very quickly. Aristotle knew it. He said that the virtuous life is filled with “worthwhile activity”. That might as well be a byword for “routine”. Look how bored and depressed the unemployed get. We NEED routine.
I’m all for daring and experimental television. But people should stop complaining about endless repeats. Some of us need those. Like the ozone layer and love, you’d only miss them when they’re gone.
And oh, lord knows how I miss them.