So I watched the "Friends" series finale last night, like gazillions of others. Admittedly Avril and I don't watch a lot of TV programs religiously -- less than you can count on one hand I think -- but "Friends," with its goofy amicability and snappy dialogue, was usually fun to watch. It was basically a soap opera with more laughs, but I started watching in back in 1994 and got addicted to the silly show.
The finale was, like most overhyped and overanalyzed climaxes, a bit on the mediocre side. I was so sick of the finale before it even aired it would've been hard to meet expectations, but, spoilers following: Did we really need to drag the excruciating Ross 'n' Rachel thing out yet AGAIN, as if anyone with an IQ over 10 didn't think they'd end up together? The endless false starts, sappy chases and declarations really drained my enthusiasm for this episode, which became the "Ross 'n' Rachel" show to, I felt, the exclusion of the other characters. Joey and Phoebe, in particular, didn't get much closure at all. Also, "Friends" has never been that logical a show, being in sitcom-land and all, but dubious things like a woman not knowing she's carrying twins really stretched the old plausibility factor on this one. The best moments of the show for me were the ones that didn't try so hard, like Joey and Chandler's scenes at the foosball table or Gunther's little moment in the sun. But it wasn't terrible — just a bit overwrought for what was, in the end, a very lightweight show and happy to be one.
Frankly, I've been thinking about it lately and of the several TV shows leaving the air this year the one I think I'll miss more and the one that time will show to be the better comedy is "Frasier,", which, ending after 11 years, hasn't gotten a fraction of the hype "Friends" did. But even if it aired a year or two too long, "Frasier" at its best has captured the kind of wacky farce comedy few shows have managed -- it has more in common with a "Fawlty Towers" than a "Friends." It balanced smart and dumb like few comedies have successfully done. Like many others I drifted away from "Frasier" in recent years but this season has been firing on all cylinders creatively. A few episodes -- the one that featured the return of Frasier's first wife, TV kid's show host Nanny G, Tuesday's episode with its nifty backwards flashback chronological structure -- rank with the classics. The characters have achieved a richness on "Frasier" that few shows managed -- Kelsey Grammer has been playing the good doctor for 20 years now, since "Cheers." And unlike "Friends," to my mind "Frasier" blended sentiment and comedy far more smoothly, without relying on soap-opera dramatics quite so much.
"Frasier" ends to less hype and less ink spilled next Thursday night, but in the end, I think I'll miss "Frasier" more than "Friends."