How should ”Friends” end?
Imagine you’re a writer on ”Friends.” You’re dealing with the Ross-Rachel-Joey love triangle and the usual what-to-do-with-Phoebe conundrum when your boss storms in: ”We might be off the air in May! We have to figure out how to end this series!” You stress out. You pig out (and you always kind of had issues with Brad Pitt.) You get this idea — ”Friends” ends with Rachel dying in childbirth — and somebody leaks it.
You know what happened next: The story made the tabloids, the fans went ballistic, and the network swore it would never go through with a plot twist so twisted. And can you blame NBC? Ending ”Friends” with Rachel’s death would be like Britney Spears belting out Metallica’s ”Search and Destroy” in an encore. I’m thrilled that ”Friends” will, in fact, be back next year for a ninth season, but I’m scared that the writers will go even more bonkers and end it with The One Where the Fat-Turned-Hot Guy (Pitt) Goes Columbine on Everyone. So I think it’s time to get the finale ball rolling. Here goes…
Perhaps I suffer from clique envy, but there’s a cynical part of me that would love to see The One Where They All Get New Friends. At an audition, Joey bonds with some nubile young actors (hello, spinoff!). Meanwhile, Rachel’s mother throws a baby shower for her and, in a hormone-induced haze, Rach finds her daddy’s credit card that she cut up in the pilot and moves back to the Island. Monica and Phoebe realize that without Rachel-glue, they have nothing to talk about so they split off, to a support group for perfectionists and a folksy cabaret joint, respectively. Again: spinoff! At a Knicks game, Chandler runs into some dudes from ”work” in the nosebleed section and Ross, fed up with the long line, leaves to meet up with some mammalogists on the Upper West Side. Like so many of their best episodes, the breakup just kinda happens.
But then, de-Friending would be pretty damn contrary to the entire series — we don’t want to see ”Friends” enter ”Seinfeld” prison camp! It might seem more organic if the episode was titled The One Where Chandler and Monica Realize They’re Married. Over one of those lazy in-the-apartment breakfasts that real New Yorkers never have, Chandler and Monica explain that they have to bail out of a memorial service for Phoebe’s cat because they are expected at a dinner party. Rachel hints that she’d like to tag along (potential stepfathers!) and they reveal that it’s a couples-only affair. Upon their exit, the remaining friends, feeling rejected in a Bridget Jones sort of way, make a pact: They’ll each take a month and hang out only with mature singletons. They set a date to meet at the coffee shop, but to show up only if they don’t like their new lives. Last scene: the coffee shop, their couch deserted. Fade.
Okay, I’ve recovered from the Ben and Jerry’s binge-inducing depression brought on by that scenario and know that it’s better to go out with bang than a ha-we-got-you! whimper. So what if NBC takes their not-for-families ethos to a whole new level with a psycho ending: The One Where Gunther Goes Postal and Blows Them All Away.
Kidding people, kidding. Always better to end with life…maybe a new way of life! How about The One Where They All Turn Gay? Imagine the GLAAD flag waving if a massage session between Phoebe and Monica went to the next level. And in walk Ross and Chandler. Ross faints. Chandler grins. Cut to Rachel, out with what she swears is the last afraid-of-an-unwed-mother guy that she’ll endure. So, on a whim, she rings up Winona Ryder — her old Sapphic sorority sister — and they plan to rendezvous atop the Empire State Building. Back to the scene of the massage, where Ross comes to, realizes he’s kind of weirded out — ”What’s with all the women I love going gay? Maybe I’m gay too.” — and finds Chandler to be, um, up for going there. As for Joey, two words: gay porn.
Then again, going for the rainbow coalition would be, you know, so out of the blue. What if, in classic literary fashion, something from the past was resurrected: The One Where They All Fall in Love With Their Cheat-Sheet Fantasies. By some only-on-TV twist of fate, bizarre encounters with their objects of lust lead to — omigosh! — lasting relationships! And imagine the guest stars!
Ehhhh. Who wants to see these actors, who’ve made us cackle for nine years, upstaged by the likes of Yasmeen Bleeth? Admit it. We all want the same thing: The One Where Ross and Rachel Finally Get Over It and Get Married. So a wedding is cliché, so what? We’ve watched the savvy sixsome evolve from date-to-date, naked-fat-guy-watching newbies to baby-having, big-speech-making adults. Seeing the Friends find domestic bliss would be pretty damn cathartic.
Here goes: Rachel in labor. Trapped at an audition, Joey misses the call. Rachel sees a future in Westchester (and it’s not the Demerol) in her birth coach Ross. Boom. They go. Ever the former fat chick/competitor, Monica interprets Ross & Rachel-dom as some kind of we’re-a-better-couple-than-you move. So, she and Chandler immediately house hunt for something bigger and better…in Montclair, N.J. After years of floundering in soaps, Joey realizes that hot dumb actors belong in L.A. That leaves Phoebe, who, after a life rife with homelessness, motherlessness, etc., finally gets the blow (abandonment!) that sends her songwriting to the next, marketable level.
Everybody’s happy — happy to be in the next stage of their lives. Which is good, because then, when the cast enters their 40s, having failed to morph into movie stars, they come back on the air via ”Old Friends”, which opens with the Rembrants doing a jazzed up ”That’s what Friends Are For.” Hey, a girl can dream.