I, Ross, Take Thee Rachel

Friends started airing when I was 10 and wasn’t something I would have been allowed to watch, even if I had been interested. Plus, we didn’t get network TV – we lived too far out of town to pick up the signal for the free channels. We got the Disney channel and Nickelodeon, though, (with a satellite) so it was all good.

When I was 14 or so I remember hanging out at a friend’s house with a group of girls, flipping through the channels on the TV. Friends came on and a few of them started trying to explain:

“See that girl there and this guy? They’re brother and sister. In this episode he’s dating that girl over there, but they aren’t together anymore.”

“They were on a break and he slept with someone else!”

“Yeah, and now he’s getting married to a British lady. His first wife was a lesbian.”

“Wha?”

“Oh, and that guy there? He just slept with the sister!”

It devolved into a discussion of OMG, did you see the season finale? What’s going to happen?!!? I thought, geez, what a soap opera. I’m glad I don’t watch that crap.

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A couple years later, when I was 16, I went to France over spring break with my French class. My host family said they knew all about Americans and their addiction to TV, so they’d taped some English-language shows for me in case I couldn’t survive a week without television.

(In retrospect, this could have been a joke that didn’t come off. “Ha ha! In case you can’t last a week!” But, really, I got the strong impression they thought American teenagers were fat couch potatoes. They barely liked Americans at all, which made the week real fun.)

For the first several nights, to prove a point, I didn’t watch TV. By mid-week, I was done trying to impress them and ready to take any opportunity to hear a little English, so when everyone headed off to bed I put in the videotape. 

The episodes were from the end of Season 4, leading up to London. I watched the entire tape, staying up half the night. I saw Phoebe hugely pregnant with triplets. I saw Monica and Chandler sleep together. I saw Rachel run out of the apartment, get on a plane, and go to London.

But when I heard that very last line – I, Ross, take thee Rachel – I started screaming (silently, in my head) “this is the best! show! ever!”

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Of course, once I returned home we still didn’t get NBC. I only caught a few episodes here and there – mostly at work – until I went to college. My freshman roommate owned Season 1 on DVD and let me borrow them. After that I started buying DVDs on eBay. I’d been through five or six seasons when the finale aired. My roommate went to a viewing party at her sorority and I was alone in our room, with a Pizza Hut mushroom pizza, ready to party.

I didn’t get everything about the episode, but most of it hailed back to seasons I’d seen: the chick and the duck, Ross & Rachel, ‘we were on a break’. I felt like I was part of a bit of (rather inconsequential) history seeing the finale the same time as the rest of the world.

I still own the motley assortment of bought-on-eBay discs. At the time, I was an expert in country codes – used to figure out whether your equipment will play the disc and if English is an option. I went through a phase where I always watched with French subtitles, when they were available. Some of my discs have interesting subtitle options. I never ended up with counterfeit sets, at least not unless they were so perfect as to come with the right case and proper graphics on the disc labels. (I doubt they would be.)

I realize it’s a little bit ridiculous to write 600 words on my history with a TV show, but I’ve always thought fondly of discovering Friends in France. (And, unfortunately, proving my host family right. All I wanted to do was watch it!) I love the London episodes and Ross saying Rachel is still my very favorite moment of the series.

Comments

  1. I love Friends. Nearly every episode. And I love that they rerun it now so i can keep watching and giggling.

  2. I love Friends because it’s also tied to very special moments of my formative years. My friends and I devoured the show and to this day, quotes will pull me back to that time. I didn’t watch a lot of the later seasons, but the early ones are the best every time.

  3. Oh! I loved reading this.

    Friends started in the fall of when I was a freshman in college and my friend and I watched it every night in the dorm tv room. Good stuff.

  4. I enjoyed reading about how you were introduced to Friends. That is by far my very favorite show that ever was on TV. I find that most of life can somehow relate back to a Friends episode, and that is what really made that show so great. It was so authentic regarding things that 20 and 30 somethings deal with in life. I’m getting the itch to watch the whole series again just thinking about them.

  5. I love this post. 🙂

    I’m a little older than you, I think, so I watched Friends from the start. But when we got to the final season, I was in grad school in Germany, where they were a couple of seasons behind and dubbed horribly. I had my mom recording every episode (on VHS!) while I was gone, until I discovered that someone in my massive dormitory had pirated English-language episodes on the campus Intranet. Heaven. My friends and I would huddle around my little laptop to watch them.

    Ahhh, I miss Chanandler Bong.

  6. Even though I enjoyed watching Friends now and then when it originally aired, I never enjoyed it quite as much as I do now watching the daily reruns on TBS. There’s really something to all of the love crazed, idiotic and senseless shenanigans that make the characters so likeable to me now. In the end, it’s a show that’s about fun, not just being funny. How can you not love that – American or not 😉

  7. Oh my gosh, Friends! It was the very first TV show to which I was addicted, and I watched almost every episode live (except the first season, which I first caught about 10 episodes in).

    The first episode I saw was “The One with Mrs. Bing” where Ross kisses Chandler’s Mom and Joey catches them. I was 16 and I watched it on spare in high school with a friend who’d taped “Must See TV”. I was watching for Seinfeld (which I watched because EVERYONE did, not because I loved) and this happened to be on the tape. It sucked me in immediately. Hilariously, Dave was one of my only friends who’d seen any episodes, so we’d watch it together even before we started dating. Man, first season Chandler was the best, and Dave has a similar sense of humour.

    I loved Monica and Richard together. But I adored Monica and Chandler – I remember jumping up and down at the “they slept together in London” reveal. I might be one of the few who liked the heartbreaking Joey and Rachel story arc, as the show was going through a creative resurgence that season.

    Gah! Now I want to shotgun all 10 seasons. 🙂