I love ‘Friends’

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Ke Rensi

Four­teen years af­ter end­ing its 10-sea­son run, Friends (19942004) grabbed head­lines again in China as sohu.com sud­denly pulled the clas­sic Amer­i­can sit­com be­cause the copy­right has ex­pired.

The hash­tag #Friend­sof­fline has gen­er­ated over 1.7 mil­lion reads on Weibo, with many fans call­ing for Sohu to re­new its Friends’ rights.

I can’t help but feel a lit­tle nos­tal­gic.

I first watched Friends on CCTV 10’s Out­look English. Around the mid-2000s, the hit ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram oc­ca­sion­ally fea­tured seg­ments of Friends and explained the English phrases used in them. A clip from the eighth episode of the 10th sea­son, “The One with the Late Thanks­giv­ing,” made an im­pres­sion on me. The scene where Ross, Joey, Rachel and Phoebe peek their heads in through the chain on the door and begged Mon­ica and Chan­dler to let them in was pretty hi­lar­i­ous.

My love af­fair with Friends of­fi­cially started in the sum­mer of 2006 when I binge-watched all 236 episodes. I be­lieve that was how I developed laugh lines around my mouth.

Every­one has a fa­vorite cast mem­ber, and my fa­vorite cast mem­ber has al­ways been Chan­dler. His char­ac­ter arc – a timid, sar­cas­tic IT guy grow­ing into a gen­tle, com­mit­ted hus­band and fa­ther with­out los­ing his sense of hu­mor – was en­dear­ing.

I didn’t like Ross for be­ing a jeal­ous boyfriend, and I didn’t like Mon­ica for be­ing a con­trol freak, but as I watched Friends re­runs over the years, I changed my mind. Now I’d love to have some­one like Mon­ica as my house­keeper!

Friends opened my eyes to fan cul­ture. I re­mem­ber gasp­ing at fan art like a scale model of Mon­ica’s apart­ment and de­lib­er­at­ing over quiz ques­tions like “Did all the ‘friends’ kiss each other?”

The show’s huge Chi­nese fol­low­ing blended fan­dom with ed­u­ca­tion. I down­loaded sev­eral view­ers’ notes about the script.

The note­tak­ers care­fully stud­ied the script and com­piled lists of new words and pop cul­ture ref­er­ences for English learn­ers. I’m for­ever in­debted to their pas­sion and gen­eros­ity.

Al­though some scenes from Friends seem quite in­ap­pro­pri­ate now, Friends re­mains to be a fas­ci­nat­ing cat­a­log of Amer­i­can pop cul­ture for English learn­ers in China.

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