Monday, May 29, 2017

How I met your Friends, Part II

Hi everyone, 
Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the first part of my tabloid writing experiment.
Here is the second part of the story, in which we will see which show is the best- Friends or How I Met Your Mother.
So let's go quickly to the next category:

Most annoying character (Main cast)
My first thought for this accolade was Phoebe. This may surprise some people, because Phoebe is the free-spirited hippie chick who doesn’t stick to convention and lives in her own world, without being obsessed with money or what people think of her. On top of that, she seems to be the only one in the cast who sticks to her principles.
Image result for phoebe

But does she really? If you look at the details you will find that Phoebe is nowhere near as free spirited as it seems on the surface.
Phoebe always professes that money shouldn’t be the driving force in your life. She says she supports independent businesses over large, faceless, corporate chains, yet she buys an apartment’s worth of furniture at Pottery Barn, the most middle of the road furniture chain in the country. She gets angry with Rachel for even considering using a gift certificate for a massage salon that is part of a large chain, only for it to emerge that Phoebe is working there herself. She constantly states that she makes music for the love of it, but when the coffee house hires a second musician, and pays that one, she kicks up a storm about wanting to get paid too. Never mind that she is a terrible musician who writes horrible, infantile songs that make no sense.
She also constantly reminds the others that they should just be themselves and not pretend to be something they are not. Which is all fine, but when she goes to meet her boyfriend’s parents she dresses like a 60 year old librarian and puts on a fake British accent to impress her posh in-laws.
When dinner is served, she denies being a vegetarian and attempts to eat veal to impress them.
This doesn’t really matter all that much, because she’s not really a vegetarian anyway.

Apart from the Meet-the-parents episode, there are 3 other occasions when Phoebe eats meat: When she is pregnant with the triplets, she convinces Joey to give up eating meat in support and then promptly starts eating meat herself, claiming it is not her who eats it but the babies inside her. Monica once tricked her into eating ‘vegetarian foie gras’ which, she later admits, wasn’t vegetarian at all and, finally, Joey reveals that Phoebe was once “so angry she ate a cheeseburger”
So that is 4 occasions that we know of where she eats meat. Phoebe is a phoney and a pretend hippie with pretend principals she breaks like clockwork.
So for a long time it looked like Phoebe was a shoe-in or this accolade, but let’s just give her a break. She had a tough childhood with a father who ran off when she was 2 or 3, and a mother who comitted suicide, resulting in her being homeless at age 14. So maybe that’s why she is a bit off and doesn’t always think clear.

And anyway, I would have had to change my mind anyway after I had a closer look at Rachel Green’s character.

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Rachel is, quite clearly, the most horrible person in the world. You may think that this is based on the first episode, when she runs off from her own wedding and leaves her husband at the altar, but that is actually the only time she acts like an adult and makes a decision for herself.
From the word go, she is hell bent on driving Ross to suicide. Early on in the show, Ross confesses that he had a major crush on her in high school, something Rachel knew about. Ross then gets a girlfriend, and is happy, which does not sit well at all with ms. Green. She then tells Ross she is in love with him too, which leads Ross to break up with his girlfriend and get together with Rachel. This is the start of 10 seasons of them being in an on again, off again relationship. It always follows the same pattern- they break up, then Ross starts dating again, which angers Rachel. She will then seek to get things going with Ross again, but as soon as they get together she starts pushing him away again. She first breaks up with Ross, and then blames him for having drunken sex with someone else later. When Ross gets married again, she goes to the wedding to tell Ross she loves him, 5 minutes before the wedding, which leads to Ross saying the wrong name at the altar and, ultimately, the end of this marriage.
On a trip to Vegas, Ross and Rachel actually get married to each other on a drunken night, but ofcourse this is not to Rachel’s liking either so she demands a divorce the next day. In the final episode of the series, they get back together again in the penultimate scene, but I’m willing to bet that as soon as the cameras shut off, she dumped him again. Rachel is an egotistic, manipulative bitch. She is lazy and shallow and it is no wonder she makes a career in the only field where looks are more important than talent: fashion. She is also to blame for the trend of fashion enthousiast bimbos wearing t-shirts of rockbands despite not knowing even one of the band’s songs. Rachel Green is a horrible person and if she were part of your group of friends you’d hate her guts and be part of the I Hate Rachel Green Club too,  regardless of how good looking she is.

Image result for rachel green mc5 shirt

How I met your mother-
This was, again, a difficult choice, mostly because I actually like all the main characters in the show. As I had to pick one of them, I first considered Lilly because, as I stated before, she is a manipulative and deceiving dealmaker. She also proclaims to be a free spirit who wants to explore the world but in reality is, in her own words, “a hick from Brooklyn who gets home sick when she is more than 10 subway stops from where she was born”. She moves to San Francisco for the summer to pursue her artistic dreams, thereby dumping Marshall in the process, but secretly comes back to New York after 2 weeks and hides out in her apartment in Queens that she never told anyone about.
But again, like with Friends, I’ll give the wannabe hippie a break.

The reason for this is that I think that Ted should get the medal here. The reason is not that I dislike his character as such. Ted is a sound guy and if you knew him in real life, he’d probably be one of your best friends. 
The reason I picked Ted here is that he has got his priorities wrong. He is young, single, has a succesful career (and therefore money) and lives in the most exciting city in the world.
Yet instead of living it up and partying like it’s 1999, he spends the entire decade of his twenties looking for The One. This is something he could easily have done in his thirties, and he could have lived life to the fullest in his twenties. As it is, he splits his time between trying to tie down girls who aren’t ready for commitment, and having his heart broken by half a dozen who are but somehow don’t see him as the one. He is left at the altar by that incredibly annoying blonde woman from Scrubs, sees what is then the love of his life move to Germany to take up a course in cake making and tries to get into a serious relationship with a psychopath who wastes her time getting behind causes that are destined to fail. (Including an almost succesful attempt to frustrate the one project that defines Ted’s career as an architect).
Ted is a nice guy with his heart in the right place but, as I said, he’s got his priorities wrong.

The verdict:

Friends: Rachel is a horrible person. -5 points
How I met your Mother: Ted is a nice guy, and his love for architecture saves him from too big an embarrasment here. Still- so many missed opportunities. -2 points.

And now for a fitting end to the story:

The Wrap up
All good things come to an end, and so did both these shows. Writing an end to a long running show can be quite tricky. Some shows got it just right. Cheers, after 11 seasons, ended with an episode in which all the main characters from the show return to the bar, and then go home one by one, leaving only Sam in an otherwise empty bar.  As he is about to go back into his office, someone knocks on the door, most likely looking for a beer, to which he speaks the immortal words “I’m sorry. We’re closed”.

Image result for cheers final scene

BlackAdder had a similarly fitting finish. After 4 seasons, all set in a different period in history, the final scene in the final episode sees the cast of the show, set in the trenches of World War I for the final season, run towards the camera and into a hail of bullets from the Germans. Dramatic, but efficient.
Other shows were not as great at establishing a satisfying finish. Seinfeld, one of the funniest shows ever made, put the cast on a plane to Paris, and then had the plane go down over the Atlantic. Disaster is averted at the last second, only for the plane to land somewhere in rural Massasschussets, where they are charged with breaking some never-enforced law and they all end up in prison. The End.
My name is Earl didn’t so much have a finish as the show was discontinued after 4 of the planned 7 or 8 seasons because of administrative reasons, which also sucked. So let’s see how our shows did.

Friends: At the start of the 10th and final season of Friends, there are several story lines that need to be brought to a conclusion. First, Monica and Chandler decide to adopt a child, as they are incapable of conceiving children themselves. They end up with a girl from Ohio who has gotten pregnant but is not in a position to raise a child. In the final episode, she gives birth but it turns out she was carrying twins. Ross breaks up with yet another girlfriend, Charlie, who gets back together with her Nobel price winning ex-boyfriend, which makes Ross realise that the only woman he really wants is Rachel. He decides to confess to Rachel that he has always loved her, but there is one problem. Rachel has just accepted a job in Paris and is leaving New York to go live in France. 

As Rachel departs for the airport, Ross decides he wants closure on the issue, whether it is positive or negative and goes after Rachel to the airport, but he and Phoebe travel to the wrong one. As New York has 3 airports, he assumed she would travel from JFK as that is where most flights to Europe depart from. They then head for the right airport (Newark) and find that Rachel hasn’t left yet, as there was a delay caused by Phoebe who had called Rachel and insisted there was a technical issue with the plane, which caused panic among the other passengers. Ross urges her to get back together but Rachel goes on the plane anyway and off to France. When Ross gets home he finds a message from Rachel on his answering machine, but it cuts off halfway through with Ross none the wiser on her final decision. Rachel then walks back in the door, showing that she decided to get off the plane and stay in New York to get back together with Ross. During the final season, Phoebe gets married to Mike, the first guy she ever had a serious relationship with, and Monica and Chandler buy a house in the suburbs where they are going to raise their kids. In the final scene of the final episode, all the friends get together in Monica and Chandler’s apartment one last time and they decide to go for a final cup of coffee in Central Perk before Monica and Chandler move to the suburbs.

Image result for friends final scene

How I met your Mother.
Okay, take a seat and get a drink, because this is going to take a while.
When it is revealed that Barney and Robin are getting married (this happens at the start of season 8) everything else is more or less geared towards that. In the final episode of season 8, we get to see the Mother from the title for the first time, the unbelievably cute Cristin Milioti, as she buys a trainticket to Farhampton, Long Island, where the wedding takes place.
(Farhampton, by the way, does not really exist. I had a fun 20 minutes of playing with Google maps in  establishing this. Southampton, Westhampton and East Hampton all do exist on Long Island in real life, as do Bridgehampton and Hampton Bay. It is an incredibly beautiful and absurdly expensive area at the very end of Long Island that is full of summer homes for people like Larry Page, John McEnroe and the Kennedy family)
The rest of season 8 goes back to the regular format, except for the final couple of episodes when everybody is getting ready for the wedding.

The whole of season 9, then, takes place in the weekend of the wedding. Every episode and major scene starts with a time on screen and a mention of how long it is until the wedding, starting at 56 hours and then gradually counting down to the big moment. Several story lines take place with every one of the major characters having some issues to resolve.

Image result for marshall how i met your mother

Marshall has travelled to his childhood home in St. Cloud, Minnesota to inform his mother of their decision to move to Rome for a year. This is where it starts to get weird. When he arrives at the airport to go back to New York, he is informed that the East coast is dealing with the ‘Storm of the Century’ and that all air travel to and from there has been suspended. While air travel cancellations because of severe weather are not unheard of, Marshall’s subsequent decision to rent a car and drive the 1200 or so miles from Minnesota to New York is strange to say the least.
First of all, he could easily have flown to Cleveland or Pittsburgh or even Louisville. All those places are comfortably inland, so will experience no major disruption from an East coast storm, and are at least half the distance closer to New York. Secondly, the show regularly switches between Marshall, en route back to New York, and Farhampton, where the rest of the gang are preparing for the wedding. The weather in Farhampton, apart from the occasional rainy spell, is beautiful. Just for the fun of it, look where Long Island is on the map, and especially the Hamptons. Any major storm coming in over the Atlantic will hit Long Island before anything else with a vigour that will make the walls tremble and cows fly across the land. But hey, Marshall decides to drive halfway around the country anyway and, because of the situation, he is forced to share a gas guzzling hummer with a mean lady who works for  an oil company and with whom he constantly fights. 

Back in Farhampton, the others mainly entertain themselves by drinking and Lily finds a list, made by Ted, entitled ‘Things to do before I leave New York’. When pushed on what this means, Ted is forced to admit that he can not live around his friends knowing that his best friend is married to the love of his life and that he needs a new start and is moving to Chicago the day after the wedding. Ted asks Lily to keep this a secret as he doesn’t want to take the attention away from the wedding.

Ted has also bought a bottle of 30 year old Glenn McKenna single malt whisky to share with Barney to celebrate his wedding and their friendship. This whisky becomes a running gag throughout the final season as they break no less than 3 bottles of it during the season, each time when there is a shocking revelation. Ted’s original bottle, it turns out, was broken by Robin and Lily during a sword fight back home and they replaced it with cheap Scotch mixed with chocolate syrup and hand sanitizer. This replacement bottle is broken when Barney tells Ted, who subsequently drops the bottle, that he saw him and Robin at the Central Park Caroussel when they were looking for a locket that Robin buried there many years ago. Lily steals a bottle of Glen McKenna from a local liquor store, joking that security was weak, but this one breaks when Barney drops it as he sees his mother kiss his half-brother’s father. Ted then goes to the same liquor store and steals another bottle. This one perishes when he drops it because one of the band members (the unbelievably annoying Darren) bumps in to him, which causes Ted to floor him with a punch. This in turn leads to The Mother buying him a drink, as a thank you for getting rid of her annoying band member. It turns out to be a Glenn McKenna 35 year old, which the inn was stocking all along, but the bar man never offered this as the guests only asked for the 30 year old vintage. 

Image result for glen mckenna

As Marshall progresses towards New York and then Farhampton, Barney is behaving weird, as he constantly tries to come up with excuses for leaving the Farhampton Inn to go run some errands. Robin constantly tries to stop him from leaving, fearing he might run off. Eventually, Barney manages to sneak away and finds himself at a Laser Tag facility, where he is arrested for breaking security protocol. Robin is livid and goes over to bail him out. It is then revealed that Barney has put in a lot of effort to give Robin a rehearsel dinner she won’t forget. The laser tag facility is in reality an ice skating rink, and Barney has put together a Canada-themed party there because Robin was homesick. The party has ice skating, fire works and Canadian celebrities.

Throughout this phase, we get a number of flash forward scenes in which we see Ted and The Mother, whose name is Tracy, return to the Farhampton Inn a year later, then 2 years later and then somewhere in the distant future, indicating that Ted proposed to her at the lighthouse and that they had their wedding there too.

Marshall, who has by now missed the rehearsal dinner, drops off his rental car somewhere (why not hold on to it for the last part, you’ll be hit with a massive vehicle return fee anyway) and takes a bus to New York. Just before they get to New York, it turns out that the bus does not go to New York City, but to Buffalo, New York, on the Canadian border, some 500 miles away. Marshall pleads with the bus driver to let him off near New York City, but the driver says he can’t make unscheduled stops. Eventually, upon learning of his predicament, some of the elderly people on the bus fake heart attacks, forcing the driver to drive to the nearest hospital, which is in New York City. 

Marshall then takes a bus to Farhampton (why not the train, like everyone else?) but the bus breaks down 5 miles from the Inn. He then decides to walk the rest, and in the episode Marshall vs The Machines we follow his progress. Eventually, exhausted, he sits down by the side of the road and is picked up by Tracy in the band van. (Here’s another thing that doesn’t add up- Marshall is a fit, muscular, young man who works out regularly yet he can’t walk the 5 miles to the Inn.
I can walk 5 miles easily and I’m 30 pounds overweight, haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years and am a decade older than Marshall is on the show)

So Marshall gets to the Farhampton Inn eventually and immediately starts to push for having a big party, in order to avoid having a fight with Lily over him accepting a position as a judge in New York, thereby jeopardising Lily’s dream of moving to Italy.

The group drink deep into the night, which causes Barney to arrive at a state of drunkenness not seen before, a state they dub ‘truth drunk’ which means that Barney will honestly answer every question he is asked, something he has never done before. This leads to his friends finally, after 10 years of trying, finding out what Barney does for a living- he basically signs all legal documents for Goliath National Bank to absolve them from any responsibility. (Throughout the show, whenever someone asks Barney what it is he does, he says ‘Please..’ and laughs and changes the subject. It turns out that PLEASE stands for Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything. It also turns out that Barney is secretly working for the FBI who are building a case against the comically corrupt GNB).
The day of the wedding arrives with Barney being unconscious because of his drinking the day before, which leads to his father in law being none too pleased and his friends trying to get him up and running for the ceremony.
Robin and Barney get married, Ted meets his future wife Tracy and Lily announces that she is pregnant again. (It turns out she wasn’t drinking the entire weekend- every time she ordered a cocktail, it was really just Sprite).
There is then a lot of confusing back-and-forth between the past, the present and the future.
The next day, Marshall walks into McLaren’s, only to find Ted sitting there, having a beer. Ted confesses that he is not moving to Chicago after all because he met this girl at the wedding and he thinks she is the one. Perfect ending, right? Well, we’re not done yet.

We then jump three years into the future and find the gang being together again. After some catching up, Robin and Barney announce they are getting divorced, an action that they claim ‘is not a failed marriage, but rather a very succesful marriage that has concluded after 3 years’.

Further in the future still, we find out that Barney has accidentally gotten a girl pregnant and is now a dad.
We then switch back to Ted and Tracy’s wedding, and Ted tells his children an important lesson about perseverance and the beauty of true love, while on screen he kisses his bride, the love of his life. Perfect ending, right?
Ted then goes on, saying “and you know kids, I carried that lesson with me, on every moment in our lives. Even when she got sick..”

Hold it right there!  She got sick? What the hell?
The camera now switches to Ted at the side of Tracy’s hospital bed, where she is hooked up to a number of tubes, looking, in fact, rather sick. She is pale and has dull eyes and looks very skinny.
It is never disclosed what disease she died of, but if you look around How I Met Your Mother fan sites, most people guess it is cancer.

Image result for what did the mother die off in how i met your mother

Ted recounts the story of how they first met, on the train platform in Farhamptom (and how Tracy forgot her yellow umbrella in a club on St. Patrick’s Day, where Ted took it the next morning while looking for his phone, and then left it at his girlfriend’s, who just happened to be Tracy’s roommate at the time) and then a train obscures the view of the platform. They take the train back to New York together (a good 2 hours from where I estimate Farhampton to be) cementing the foundation for their relationship. The camera then switches to Ted, now with grey hair, sitting in the house he bought years earlier to raise his family.
“And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”

Now. That really is the perfect ending if ever I saw one.
The end.

Wait, why is there still 4 minutes on the clock?
It turns out that, after all, the perfect ending isn’t the end.
His children, apparently somehow not satisfied with the end, or even the fact that the story is finally over, something they have been waiting for for 9 years, (in the very first scene of the very first episode, one of them asks “Is this going to take long?”) start pestering him about the fact that their mother hardly features in the story (which is true) and that he still totally has the hots for Robin.
They then convince him to get back with ‘Aunt’ Robin, which he ofcourse does. Ted heads back to New York City to declare his love for Robin once again outside her apartment, with another blue French horn and, judging from her expression, this time Robin returns the sentiment.
The end.

Hold on. This is just not right.
First, it just doesn’t sit right with the viewers. They have spent 9 years watching a show called How I Met Your Mother, but the Mother from the title only appears for about 3 seconds before the start of  the final season, and even in the final season she has only about 40 minutes of screen time, most of that in flash backs and flash forwards. Then, to add insult to injury, she is killed off in added time without explanation. I think the only cinematographic ending that could have pissed me off more is if I had found at the end of Kill Bill that Bill was still alive.
I appreciate the synchronicity of having Ted return in the pouring rain with his blue French horn, just as he did in the very first episode, but I don’t think anyone was either expecting or hoping for this ending.

Then secondly, it is just not right for his children. After doing some calculating, people have worked out that Penny was born in 2015 and Luke in 2017 (accidentally the year I write this).
It is revealed that Ted tells his story in 2030 and that Tracy has died 6 years previously. They lost their mother at a very early age: 9 and 7 respectively- a traumatic happening in a young life for sure. Yet still their dad, when telling how he met their mother, reduces mom to a sideline character that is invisible for 90% of the running time of the story. Moreover, he spends most of the story regaling about his love for Robin and how his relationship with her and their subsequent break up has defined his life. Sure, his children are enthousiastic about it, be you can’t tell me that they’re happy with their dad babbling on and on about wanting to bang a family friend while reducing their mother to an also-ran, the number two in a one horse race he was only interested in once he realised that he was never going to get Robin. (Remember- they meet on the day Robin gets married to Barney)

Yes, I am a big fan of unexpected turns in stories, but this just doesn’t add up.

The verdict:

Friends: Predictable, everything ends up as expected- Chandler and Monica get their babies and move to the suburbs, Phoebe gets married to Mike, Joey is a succesful tv star once again and Ross and Rachel get back together. Everybody happy, cue the credits. 3 Points.

How I met your mother: If they had cut out the last 4 minutes (everything after Ted says ‘And that, kids, is how I met your mother), I would have been perfectly happy. I would even have forgiven them the nonsensical killing of Tracy. But this just doesn’t sit right. It’s just wrong. -4 points.

And now the moment we have all been waiting for: The Final Scores!
How I  Met Your Mother
The Setting
The Apartment
Funniest character (Main cast)
Funniest character (Supporting cast)
Hottest girl
Most annoying character
The Wrap up
Final score

Well.. would you believe that. Friends has won by a single point. 

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