I Won’t Be There For You…

A few days ago I read an article about an alternate ending that was trending online for the TV show Friends.  If you loved (or still love) Friends, you might want to skip this blog and return when I’m back to writing about the rest of my depressing life, because this theoretical ending ain’t gonna leave you with a fuzzy feeling in your heart for the New York gang that stole our hearts in the 90s.  

The theory goes that Phoebe is actually a meth addict and has basically spent ten years watching the rest of the gang from out on the street where she lives and imagining that she is one of them.  The suggestion, put forward by a fan, is backed up by the fact that during the show’s ten-year reign, Phoebe’s character told the others that her mother was a drug dealer, that she hung out with a group of friends behind a dumpster and that she was homeless.  

It’s a dark theory for a show that was primarily a decade-long romantic comedy.

  

If the show had ended in such a way, it wouldn’t be the first time a long-term and beloved sitcom was found to be purely the imagination of one of its cast members (spoiler alert!).  Roseanne, starring its namesake Roseanne Barr, was revealed in its final ninth season to be a story written by the character Roseanne Connor herself.  Some of the major plot lines, such as the Connor’s lottery win, never actually happened, and certain character aspects were changed; Roseanne’s sister, Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf, was in fact a lesbian, not their mother, Beverley, and Mark and David, the boyfriends of her two daughters, Becky and Darlene, were actually switched and dating the other daughter.  

The meth theory in Friends throws a creepy shadow on the whole show.  Phoebe’s character is so eccentric and kooky, that it is quite believable that she could have spent the whole time cooking this up (excuse the pan, I mean pun).  Her major storylines, such as being a surrogate mother to her half-brother’s triplets, being in love with scientist, David, who lived in Minsk, and having an evil twin, Ursula, always seemed far-fetched, although in line with her bizarre personality.  So did the use of aliases such as Regina Phalange and Princess Consuela Bananahammock (can you imagine Rachel or Monica using these names?).  But thinking about them as being generated from the imagination of someone addicted to methamphetamine, they seem plausible.  To me, Phoebe always was the outsider and never gellered, sorry gelled, the way the rest of the ‘cool’ ones did. 

Thinking about this made me recall something that happened soon after I left school.  I had a group of around ten friends, and we were all outsiders.  A few weeks after we’d finished school for good, I met one of my friends and we hung out on a big willow tree in the village where I lived.  I remember being shocked as she told me that nobody really liked me.  To make it worse, she went through each so-called friend one by one, to say she doesn’t like you, and she doesn’t like you, and so on.  It was a bit of harsh reality for an already shy, unconfident 15 year old to hear, and in my view years later totally unnecessary, since it would have been easy for us all to go our separate ways now that we weren’t bound together by school lunchtimes.  

I am friends with one or two people from my old group of school friends  now, mainly via Facebook, but it took a long time before I could believe in those friendships.  The girl who was so hurtful all those years ago is not on my friends list, and would not be without a full and begging apology for her adolescent behaviour. 

It is this experience, together with my ability to imagine feelings from men that were never there, which leads me to believe in the potential for this alternate finish to Friends.  I feel such sympathy for Phoebe if this ending were to be the case; so meth-addled that she doesn’t know truth from reality, and probably wouldn’t command such sympathy from her “friends”, should they see her staring creepily through the window of Central Perk at them drinking their skinny lattes and double shot cappuccinos.  

The problem with endings such as this one, is that they do not leave you happy to walk away from a beloved series with a smile on your face and a sense of satisfaction and closure.  For anyone who’s ever seen David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, I was always too creeped out to walk away from the season two finale with nothing but gritted teeth and an accusatory how-could-they-do-that towards Lynch and his crew as I tried my best not to be permanently scarred by the final scene.  Twenty-five years later with the third season expected in 2016 or 2017 and I’m hoping they’re going to address that seriously bad choice of endings.  But Twin Peaks, a supernatural crime drama, with a penchant for its weirdness and strange characters, cannot really be compared with Friends, which on the whole was a show about six pretty normal people hanging out in a Manhattan loft.  

While I was a fan of Friends, I was always more of a Frasier lover.  I think perhaps the fact that the former was about a group of male and female friends, who were, let’s face it, the in-crowd of their own show, which made me uneasy.  Friends started three months after I finished school, which meant that I no longer had a big group of friends that hung out together and I certainly didn’t have any male friends until my mid-twenties, which was around the time that Friends came to an end.  

TV shows, like films and books, will always be an outlet to another world; a escape from real life, from our mundane and often uneventful lives.  As we get to know characters, especially those that are there with us week-in, week-out over years and in this case, a decade, we think of them fondly because we have lived their lives with them.  Their sadness, their joy, their laughs and their tears.  To imagine a different world for them, an alternate ending that leaves a bad taste in our throat is not what we want for the Dale Coopers of this world, let alone the Phoebes or the Rachels or the Joeys.  

Unless you have a DeLorean that is capable of rewriting alternate realities, we want to remember our characters just as they were thank you very much, in The One That Made Us All Laugh. Which episode was that? That’s right, every single one of them.  
Read the MSN article about the Friends theory here.

All You Want to Do is Criticize

Don’t criticize my friends.

Don’t criticize my ideas.

Don’t criticize my lifestyle.

I’m fed up ‘cos all you wanna to do is criticise…

Ok, so you didn’t criticise my friends. But you did criticise Jack Bauer. And I like to count him as one of my oldest and wisest friends.

I very rarely watch television any more. Since shortly before I started university and my marriage crumbled, there has been a box-shaped hole in my life. Before that I had many American TV shows that I was a regular and avid viewer, 24 being one of them.

So when I finally get my hands on a copy of the latest, ninth season of 24, forgive me if I would like to put some time into watching it.

There are several reasons for that. One, that I want to follow the journey of one of my favourite American dramas. Two, that I’m a bit partial to Jack Bauer. And three, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy somebody else’s bad day for once.

I don’t need to be reminded that my problems won’t disappear after an hour of watching 24. I’m not completely stupid you know.

You insinuate I am wasting my time, when all I am doing is relaxing and taking time for myself during this busy period in my life.

I am the navigator of my life. I will make my own decisions. If life turns to shit, so be it. But I want the credit for making my life great.

I’m finally realising what I want in life, and what I don’t. And it feels pretty damn good.

Criticize – Alexander O’Neal (1987)

The Great Face-Palm

Yesterday I wrote a blog called All in a Day’s Work, in which I talked about how I’d been declined an interview for a copywriting job with the company I work for due to my lack of professional writing experience. Today a friend has reminded me that I passed up an opportunity to write, which could have put me in a much better position for applying for that job.

A few months ago, my best friend and her boyfriend set up a website selling handbags. They asked me if I would write some blogs for it. I shared their excitement for the website, and wrote an initial blog. While it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, Nick gave me some feedback and we discussed ideas for other blogs.

After that, I wrote nothing.

I felt bad for letting my friends down, but they had other people writing for them, so I told myself it was ok.

I don’t know why I couldn’t write another blog. I think maybe the reason is that I knew there was one line in the blog that particularly wasn’t appropriate for that website. But I told myself that was my writing style. And I think at the time, that was all I believed I could do.

It would have been fairly easy to write a few blogs under the themes we had already discussed. So why didn’t I?

I have to admit this is not the first time I’ve sabotaged my own writing career. When I used to work for Siren FM, we regularly interviewed a lovely Australian woman in London who ran an online magazine-style website for women. Shortly before I moved to London myself, I approached her about writing for the website, and sent her a copy of one of my carefully-chosen blogs.

While her feedback on my blog was good, she told me that for the website she needs more solution-based articles. So for example, if I’m going to write an article about how rubbish online dating is, I should really end the article with some alternative ways that women can meet men.

I never wrote anything for that website. I think again I was scared to write something different than what I already knew. Also, I thought how can I write an article giving people advice when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing in the first place?

I’ve recently been on some time-management and problem-solving courses at work, and in both I used writing articles (as opposed to just blogs) as an example of something I wanted to achieve. Thinking that I might finally get round to writing an article, a few weeks ago I visited the website. What I found was an article on my childhood friend who had written the book. And it hit me: while I could have been writing for this website, she was being written about. I scurried away with my tail between my legs. The one good thing to come of that visit though was that I finally edited and published my months-old draft of what was to become Single, Successful and Falling Apart: What an Achievement That Would Be.

So this morning, as I lay in my friends’ spare bed in Manchester, even though it’s so early, I sit here face-palming myself that I let two good opportunities to advance my career pass me by, one which also would have helped out my friends. But face-palming won’t help in the long run. Neither will letting the fear of trying something new overcome me. To quote Baz Lerhmann’s 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived”. It’s time for me to override the fear and start writing outside the comfort zone of my blog, taking feedback on the chin when receiving it and using it to make my writing better.

I thank my Thirty-Something Crisis for one thing: letting me discover my ability to write. But more than that; to allow me to know that I can write. This is not a belief that is buried deep-down somewhere. This is an intrinsic, core belief. For which I am eternally grateful.