September 27, 2010

Compelling characters are everywhere

Molly Brewer and Rachel Bateman have both blogged about FRIENDS lately, and I'm pretty excited about that.

You see, FRIENDS is my all-time, absolute, 100% Favorite. Show. Ever.

FRIENDS is one of the first things Bear and I bonded over. He loves the show even more than I do, and can recite most of the episodes word for word. As teenagers, we watched every new episode together, even if that meant one of us had to tape it and wait to watch with the other person.

In 2004, we even kinda crashed a FRIENDS series finale viewing party hosted by a local radio station. You see, the radio station had advertised the viewing party for weeks, and on the day of the FRIENDS finale, Bear and I arrived at the restaurant really early to get good seats.

Instead, we found that the 'viewing party' was basically FRIENDS being played on the bar TVs.

Small TVs.

In a loud, smoky, uncomfortable bar. Most of the people there looked like regulars who were having a drink after work.

Bear and I were so disappointed. The radio station had advertised FOOD! FUN! FANS! TRIVIA! PRIZES!, and by then we didn't have time to make it home before the show started. We had no choice but to watch the series finale of our favorite show at the bar.

Luckily, just as we got settled at a table and resigned to our fate, we spotted a local radio personality walking into a private room off the bar. We approached the assistant manning the door and asked what was going on. Come to find out, the viewing party was something you had to win tickets for, and somehow, despite both of us hearing the ad over and over for weeks, we'd not realized it was winners-only (I'm still not sure about that part. I NEVER remember hearing anyone actually win the tickets. Weird much?).

Seeing the disappointed looks on our faces, the assistant told us the winners were allowed to bring friends, and that if someone showed up with less than their allotted number of people, we could attend!

Sure enough, a winner showed up with her husband and 2 extra tickets, so Bear and I were able to attend! We ate free food, watched the series finale on a big screen surrounded by a room full of die-hard fans, and knew the answer to every trivia question flung at us during the commercial breaks. We won a t-shirt, a mug, and another mug (which we gave to the lady who'd let us use her tickets) and then stopped answering questions to give the others a chance.

It was, in a word, AWESOME.

And why do I love FRIENDS so much?

Because of the characters, hands down.

Everyone can find a bit of themselves in Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, or Monica. They are so dynamic, so real and complex and human, that you can't help but love them. Even when they are doing something they shouldn't (you were on a break, my foot, Dr. Gellar!), you can't help but understand and care about them.

Throughout the series, I cheered on neat freak Monica and emotionally damaged Chandler as they navigated marriage, I teared up every time neurotic Ross and spoiled Rachel almost got back together, I cried as kooky Phoebe bore triplets as a surrogate and desperately wished to keep just one baby, and I always, always wished lovable, sandwich-loving Joey success and happiness.

You find yourself very, very invested.

There's been a lot of talk recently about compelling characters in literature, and it got me thinking... it doesn't get much more compelling than the FRIENDS group, and those characters are obviously not of the literary type.

Compelling characters are everywhere, from our favorite TV show to popular (or not-so-popular) music to our crazy uncle two states over.

Not just in books, everywhere.

A nice reminder that life is full of lessons that we as creative people can tap into and apply to our work if we only keep our eyes and hearts open.

Who are some of the most compelling (non-literary) characters you can think of? Which FRIENDS character are you most like? (I'm definitely a Monica.)

A note: Unfortunately, I've found it necessary to turn comment moderation back on. Hopefully this will eventually prove unecessary, but for now, sorry, guys. :(


JEM said...

I couldn't possibly pick a favorite Friends character, but I do looooooooove that show! It was consistently funny every season, which is not something most TV shows can boast.

Sarah Enni said...

UMMM Can you say Seth Cohen in The OC. I'm sure Adam Brody is nice and all, but I just want Seth.

And could I BE any more like Chandler?

Rachel Bateman said...

I am definitely a Monica as well, though I had friends who called me Phoebe for a short period of time (when I was going to Massage Therapy school - apparently that was really funny for them). But, yeah - I am a Monica.

I am going to cheat a bit and say that my favorite non-literary character is Dexter Morgan from DEXTER. It is cheating because the series is actually based on a series of books, but parts of his character diverge from the books quite a bit and I like the TV characterization better.

Claire Dawn said...

I'm probably a Chandler.

For compelling characters, I'll have to go with the only show I currently watch in English, Gossip Girl.

Minus the fashion and high society bit, I'm very Serena. You know, that girl that everything kind of falls into her lap, who pretty much never makes the right decisions. Plus, I love flawed characters. And Gossip Girl is ALL FLAW baby!

Pam Harris said...

Ooh, great post! Marquita and I LOVE Friends. Could we "be" bigger fans? Okay, that was my lame attempt at a Chandler impersonation. My fave non-literary character would probably be Billy Costigan (Leo's character) in The Departed. He was just so damaged and layered--he definitely deserved an Oscar nom for that role. I also really like the Winchester brothers in Supernatural. I also really like...okay, maybe I'll just have to write my own post about this. Great topic!

Abby Stevens said...

JEM - Yep, even 6 years off the air, there are very few shows as consistently funny as FRIENDS was.

Sarah - I never did watch The OC, but I am familiar with Adam Brody. ;)

Rachel - Ahh, I can see why they would call you Phoebe going to Massage Therapy school, lol. I've not watched DEXTER, but I've heard it's amazing! I had no idea it was based on a series of books.

Claire Dawn - I've never watched GG, either. (Can you guys tell I don't watch much TV?) I love flawed characters, too - they are just so much more interesting!

Pam - YES! Love Billy Costigan! Love everything about THE DEPARTED. I can't wait to read your post!

Pam and Sarah - Do you remember when Ross was making fun of Chandler for the way he talked? "The hills are alive with the sound OF music!"

Molly said...

I love, love, LOVE this post- was actually thinking of writing a similar one, both about Friends and Gilmore Girls. They’ve both made me think about what makes a good character, and what makes a good story. GOOD TV (genuinely good, not guiltypleasurethisshowissocornyiloveit tv) has characters that we love, and our job as writers is to figure out why. In my experience, my favorite TV shows aren’t about a specific plot, but rather characters with a world happening around them. Now is the challenge to take what we love about the characters on TV, and translate it to paper, which is a bit more difficult. ;) I'm Phoebe. There was a quote from The One With the Flashback that I actually laughed out loud- it was something like, "I need to live in a world where people spill!" (in regards to Phoebe moving out of Monica's apartment.) Thaaaaat is me. :)

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