I didn’t understand what the big deal was about FXX’s “every episode ever, non-stop, across 12 days” marathon of The Simpsons last month. Sure, I adore The Simpsons, regularly quote it with friends and relatives, and have let it influence my comic sensibilities far more than I sometimes realize. I vaguely recall having Simpsons bed sheets at one point. I was the kid, following my older brother’s lead, who used to tape The Simpsons on VHS, often times taking the time to edit out the commercials. Halloween simply wasn’t Halloween to me unless it came with a marathon of The Simpsons’ best “Treehouse of Horror”episodes. Basically, The Simpsons was a huge part of my life.
Then it started going from classic to simply okay to sometimes downright bad, and as the seasons progressed keeping up with the new episodes turned from a delight into a chore. I would delight whenever a particular good episode would pop up on one of the many channels running old re-runs, and happily bought the DVD box sets for the first 11 seasons or so when they came out. It was a show I loved, watched over and over again, and managed to maintain a grand fondness for despite its inevitable downturn. What need did I have for some marathon when for years now I’ve had the ability to watch pretty much any episode I loved whenever I wanted?
Funny thing about that, though – Netflix has made me lazy. The thought of digging out some old episodes of a show on DVD seems positively antiquated now compared to the prospect of simply streaming directly from Netflix with little to no fuss. What FXX was doing with The Simpsons wasn’t quite the same, but they were similarly taking the DVDs away from me and saying, “Hey, The Simpsons are going to be on non-stop for 12 days. Stop by anytime and be reminded of why it is your love for this show used to burn so brightly.” It totally worked. I loved being able to drop into FXX and relive the good times, avoid the bad times, and be delighted at how much better the show had gotten in recent seasons, which is around when I stopped watching.
I’m going through a similar set of emotions to today’s news that Netflix has secured the streaming rights to every episode of Friends, set to become available for binge streaming in the U.S. and Canada starting Jan. 1, 2015.
- But, wait, Friends is pretty much always on in re-runs somewhere.
- I already own the first 6 seasons on DVD.
- Friends got pretty bad in those final seasons.
- Not all of Friends humor has aged particularly well.
Here’s Netflix’s video announcement [don’t watch if you don’t want to know what Gunther looks like now]:
This is another show I used to tape on VHS. I’m the guy who will still quote Ross and cry out, “Pivot! Piv-Ot!” whenever I help people move. I’ll also probably throw in a bit of Joey’s continued cry “No more Joey and the Chan-Chan man!” from when Chandler moved into Monica’s apartment, leaving Joey behind. Every time I hear U2’s “With or Without You” I might think of its odd black and white music video or that awesome bootleg live recording I have, but I’ll also recall the way it kind of became Ross & Rachel’s song during the second season. For reasons I don’t fully understand, it seems like every other time I come across an old Friends re-run while flipping the channels it’s “The One Where Ross & Rachel Break-Up,” and I simply must stop and watch the whole thing every time. It is sitcom storytelling perfection, managing to somehow make a break-up due to infidelity both hilarious and heartbreaking.
However, I’ve also seen all the great episodes many, many times, have come to terms with the less-than-stellar final seasons, and have mostly moved on, long since removed from the days of having to see any film or other TV show the Friends cast members are in just because they were once Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica.. What need do I really have to be able to access every single episode of the show whenever I so desire on Netflix?
I say all of that now, but FXX’s marathon reminded me of the great joy of the communal re-watch. So many people I know or follow were watching and writing about the glory of re-discovering The Simpsons, and come Jan. 1 the experience will begin anew with Friends. I should probably acknowledge the possibility of this Netflix re-run dump being the first time some people will actually ever see Friends, just as many are discovering Gilmore Girls for the first time right now thanks to Netflix. However, Friends was once so ubiquitous in pop culture I find that possibility hard to fathom.
What about you? How do you feel about Friends coming to Netflix? Do you dread the reminder of how awkward it was watching Matthew Perry’s rapid weight changes and sudden but temporary need for glasses during those later seasons when he was battling pill addiction away from the show? Let me know in the comments.
Friends Finale Look Back