Growing up, I didn’t have cable. My parents viewed cable as an unnecessary extravagance, and described their views in such a way that I was convinced that anyone who did grow up with cable was impossibly rich or recklessly poor. While other kids were watching MTV (and, once, making fun of 3rd Grade Me because I didn’t know who MC Hammer was), I was busy losing my shit when we finally got a TV that came with a remote, meaning I was no longer tasked with approaching the TV anytime someone wanted the channel changed and doing the honors by pressing a button keypad that went ka-chooonnnnk and blinked a white supernova between channels.
Well, we’d had a remote before. But it’s worth noting that it was about the size of an iPhone and attached to the VCR (yeah, uh, it only worked for the VCR) with a cord, and I’m pretty sure it only paused the videotape. Anything else required another trip to the microwave console that for some reason served as our TV stand.
Because I never had cable, I rolled my eyes (I still do, actually) at friends who said there was never anything on. That couldn’t be true, I knew, because my TV only got 6 regular channels. It got between 8 and 10 fucked up channels, and by that I mean that you could only see them during certain times of the day and only one was any good (it picked up The Box, which is where I saw Marilyn Manson’s “Dope Hat” video played back to back with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Put ‘Em on the Glass” and I was terrified). The other ones were either church TV, public access that aired local church TV, or some even sadder version of the Home Shopping Network.
I also grew to love primetime TV, especially NBC’s eventual domination of Thursday night that started sometime when I was in junior high. That was when Friends debuted, and while I knew at the time that it wasn’t the funniest thing I’d ever seen, I also had no idea about how apartments and jobs really worked yet, so I was left to assume that everything that happened on that show was plausible. This is perhaps the most hilarious thing about Friends, and it only occurred to me about 15 years too late. The jokes were canned and predictable, but sweet jesus can you imagine what kind of racket Monica and Rachel were really running to afford that West Village apartment on the paychecks of two waitresses (and don’t even tell me that Monica was a chef, okay, because she was always home at night and during holidays and that one kitchen she was in once looked even more ridiculous than Rachael Ray’s)? They could have been doing anything. Selling fashionable drugs. Credit card fraud. Escorting. But even those things aren’t really believable because I’ve known people who did them and even they couldn’t afford that kind of rent.
I watched Friends because it was okay and it came on before ER. I loved ER. I would also like it known that I have never been sexually attracted to George Clooney, which I think was probably an indicator of my future place on the “Um, I guess I get it, but I still don’t care” end of the Ryan Gosling spectrum. If everyone else thinks a man is the sexiest man in the world, I will be the one woman in the corner going “Yeah, but can he take a punch?”
Which is not to say that I gravitated towards the unsexiest men. Like Ross Geller. Ross was certainly the unsexiest of the men on Friends, but his empirical unsexiness isn’t really the issue here. The issue here is this:
ROSS WAS THE WORST.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Ross Geller was the antithesis of everything I would eventually think a desirable man (or even a decent one with whom a romantic relationship would not be an issue) should be. Ross is whiny, possessive, egotistical, pretentious, emotionally manipulative and completely incapable of typically manly pursuits such as changing a tire, holding his liquor, or, like I mentioned before, taking a punch. Ross Geller is a bitch. Ross Geller is a wiener. Ross Geller is a terrible friend, an even worse boyfriend, and in a current version of the show, I’m willing to bet that he’d own a fedora and spend at least three episodes slut-shaming women and their evil Friendzone. Ross Geller and the characters like him – I’m looking at you, significant episode portion of Xander Harris – are awful because they’re supposed to be likable and deserving of the prom queen.
I wasn’t crazy about him then but I fucking despise him now, and any time someone talks about how great Friends was, it’s almost like I have to leave the room. Because no one wants to hear about how the only decent character – like, the character’s character – was Joey. Sure, he was a dumb slut, but at least he was kind. At least he was a good friend.