How 'Friends' Should Have Ended
The enduringly popular television show deserved this very different denouement
In 2004, 52.3 million Americans switched on their televisions to watch the final episode of Friends. Countless others watched, too — across 175 other countries, in 40 other languages. It was the fourth most watched finale of all time, and the culmination of a decade spending 30 minutes each week with six attractive, white protagonists in New York City.
The writers of Friends — which is returning for a one-off reunion on HBO and Sky this Thursday 27 May — worked tirelessly to make sure their ending was sentimental, satisfying and funny. And it was.
Rachel got off the plane for Ross, Chandler and Monica adopted twins, Phoebe and Joey found happiness. It was also predictable, trite and flawed.
I would like to tell you how Friends should have ended.
But first, a note on my qualifications. I have watched this sitcom more times than most living human beings. To start, I was extremely unwell growing up and it was my greatest solace. When I was nine years old, I got glandular fever horrifically and that developed into what we now call chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). It’s an illness that makes you utterly bed-bound, with a full-body exhaustion you cannot overcome.
I developed anorexia in my teens and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by the time I was 17. Throughout those years, I barely went to school. My time was mostly spent at home, alone, in my mother’s bed, staring out the window and wondering when I might have the energy to participate in my own life.
My condition baffled doctors, who’d prescribe me various pills or get me to try alternative medicine. There simply wasn’t a cure, or a solution, or a successful treatment. Truly, my greatest coping mechanism at the time was to witness Jennifer Anniston’s flawless comedic timing, over and over.
I watched the show obsessively, because it was just about the only thing that could divert me. I’d watch old, black-and-white films sometimes, too, but mostly it was just Friends on repeat for a decade because it was the most tolerable sort of banality. As an adult with a Netflix subscription, I watch it when I can’t sleep or during a depressive episode, to keep me company as I wait for my serotonin to kick in.
As further justification for my gall in rewriting the ending of one of our most enduringly popular television shows, I’ve also written 83,339 words on the topic of friendship — a book called The Friendship Cure. In it, I spoke to countless people about platonic love.
Perhaps my favourite complaint came from an interview with a 23-year-old woman who battles extreme loneliness, and said that she feels betrayed by Friends because it promised her the sort of relentless companionship that involves eating breakfast with your mates before work every day. Her reality didn’t match up; she never got her five perfect friends, her orange sofa or her neat romantic ending.
Speaking of which, that’s my biggest problem with the ending of Friends: the way it so tidily terminated a show about friendship with two thirds of its characters in romantic partnership with one another. I get that writers spent a decade making us beg for Rachel and Ross to get together and there may have been riots in the streets of Los Angeles if they hadn’t, but I also just quietly wish they’d found the courage to give their characters a slightly more exciting conclusion (not least because Ross Geller became a jealous, territorial creep).
And so, behold: my alternative ending to the TV show Friends.
Rachel and Ross
Rachel stays on the plane, turns down Ross’s plea for her affections tactfully and actually takes the Louis Vuitton job in Paris. This is because she cares about her career and Ross is deeply mediocre, despite being the father of her child. She flourishes in Europe, becomes fluent in French and dates a string of attractive men before settling down with a man who knows how to support her ambition and her fire. She and her daughter Emma are very happy. Ross flies over for visitation regularly.
Ross ends up with the woman known as “bug lady” from season one — an attractive woman who works in the insect section of a museum and requests dirty talk during sexual encounters, which basically makes her perfect. They swap dinosaur and insect stories for the rest of all time and raise two very well educated children. She legally changes her name to Rachel so as not to cause awkwardness every time Ross gets her name wrong.
Joey becomes a millionaire when he develops a dating app that enables famous people to date ordinary human beings discreetly. It’s called How You Doin’ and has an initial public offering of $100 million, a large chunk of which Joey spends on flying out the world’s greatest meatball sub chef to his home for every meal. He pays a monthly stipend to his identical hand twin to perform hand tricks in a Las Vegas residency, which Phoebe attends via Skype from New York every night in support. Joey is a bachelor forever, as he deserves to be.
Phoebe and Mike
Meanwhile, Mike and Phoebe have a genuinely happy marriage. They get regular couple’s therapy just to keep the harmony and engage in wild, strange sex. Together they launch a moderately lucrative business called Princess Consuela’s Banana Hammocks, specializing in miniscule swimwear for well-endowed men. Mark continues to play the imaginary piano astonishingly well. They adopt three children and start a family band that plays Smelly Cat at cat cafes.
Monika and Chandler
And perhaps most importantly, Monica and Chandler do not end up together just because the writers felt pressured to pair off Friends cast members. Instead, we get a great friends-who-hooked-up-and- then-got-on-with-their-lives storyline. They sleep together in London but that’s as far as it goes. There is no chemistry between them sober so they abandon the whole ridiculous thing as quickly as it happened. It was a one-night stand and then they go back to being friends, though they’re able to joke about that time they had sex forever more without actually getting into a deeply unsuitable romantic relationship where neither is compatible with the other.
Monica marries her two true loves, Richard and his moustache, and they have one child as a compromise between no children and lots of children. She continues her career as a successful chef, he does his eye science stuff and the kid is very tidy.
Chandler ends up with Janice.
A FEW SIDE NOTES
Chandler’s mother writes her bestselling erotic bestseller about a man called Ross, based, of course, on her brief tryst with Ross. It transpires that Gunther is actually Swedish royalty. Emily dies an untimely death. Rachel’s sister, played by Reese Witherspoon, and Rachel’s old high school nemesis, played by Brad Pitt, get their own spin-off show.
– The Daily Telegraph
'Friends: The Reunion' is available to watch on TVNZ OnDemand.