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In Defense of Friends, Porridge for the Mind

People who say they love good TV usually have one thing in common: They hate the show Friends. They call it unfunny, implausible, and contains not characters, but shells of characters built around well-worn archetypes (the slut, the dope, the obsessive compulsive, the jokester, the fool, and the space-cadet). You’ve heard it all before.

“Do I like Friends? Ew. Friends is like <insert pejorative term here>!”

Well fuck that. Friends is a GREAT show. And here’s why:

It’s hot, warm porridge for the mind.

When people list the best shows of all time, you’ll hear the same cast of characters. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and so many others. And don’t get me wrong—these ARE great shows. All of them serve a purpose. They’re well-written, exciting, and thought-provoking. They’re shows that make you feel something. They encourage you to think.

Well Friends is something else entirely. Friends is meant to make you feel nothing. It’s like an off-switch for the mind. It’s 22 minutes of a television fireplace, flickering a dim light while repeating the same roars and crackles. It asks nothing of you, yet gives you a small sense of comfort.

You don’t even need to pay attention.

Want to play with your iPad while it’s on? Friends doesn’t care. Need to go to the bathroom? Don’t even pause it. You won’t miss anything. The simple, repetitive antics of Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe will continue as if you never left. Repetitive being the operative word.

Friends requires absolutely no thinking. You know EXACTLY what’s coming. Is there a pretty girl around? Ross will fumble around and make an ass out of himself. Chandler will nervously crack self-deprecating jokes. Joey will become the smooth alpha male, uttering his catch-phrase, “How YOU doin’?”

Is there a mess somewhere? Monica will FREAK THE FUCK OUT. Does Rachel have a job to do? She’ll screw it up or flake out. Need someone to break the silence with a non-sequitur or some mystical garbage? Phoebe is your woman.

Every character does exactly what you expect them to, momentarily freeing you from the prison of thought.

Isn’t that what we all need sometimes? A break from the constant THINKING THINKING THINKING. Everything demanding your attention. People needing answers. Your phone’s home-screen lighting up to tell you more things you don’t need to know. Your cat photo was liked. You got a spam email. You received a text from someone you’re on the fence about dating. Candy Crush needs you back for another round.

FRIENDS WILL SAVE YOU FROM THIS ATTENTION JAIL.

Facebook: “Do you want to go to this improv event from someone you only met once yet still invites you to EVERYTHING he does?”

Friends: “NO, WATCH ROSS COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS LESBIAN EX-WIFE INSTEAD.”

Mom calling: “Let’s talk about what you’ve had for dinner the last two weeks honey!”

Friends: “NO WAY, JOSÉ. WATCH JOEY LAND A PART AND THEN IMMEDIATELY FUCK IT UP.”

Phone company: “Please pick up. You haven’t paid your bill and we’re shutting off power.”

Friends: “WATCH RACHEL—Actually no. Take care of that one. THEN COME BACK AND WATCH HER HILARIOUS ON AGAIN OFF AGAIN ON AGAIN OFF AGAIN ON AGAIN OFF AGAIN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH ROSS.”

Television shows serve different purposes. Law and Order wants to let you peek at the inner-workings of the justice system. Breaking Bad wants you to see how fine the line is between following the law and breaking it. Mad Men wants you to experience the alienation and isolation we all feel in our daily lives.

Friends wants you to give the fuck up. It’s the soma of television shows.

And you should take some immediately.

Mmm. Porridge.

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