'American culture is mean, but pop culture is rewriting the old story'


In this column, I discuss the meanness of American culture, and how pop culture has been trending in a different direction:

I've lately been entangled in a high-stress, emotional roller coaster relationship with NBC's "Friends."

I never expected things to end up like this. When the hit show was first airing between 1994 and 2004, it barely made a dent on my register. I was in second through 11th grades, and I thought it was dreck. I got off the "laugh track train" early, opting instead for "The Simpsons" and "Monk" (and of course, my beloved Charlie Rose). No show was going to tell me when I should laugh.

Quick aside, if I may, on how much the soundscape alone has changed on television: During the "Friends" era, every square box with a screen in America vomited a steady, never-ending stream of, not only prescribed laughter, but also the twang of an electric guitar, with very little variation, and in short enough bursts to barely be considered music, playing over quick establishing shots of stock scenery of New York high rises.

For the last two decades, I've personally sought after a less intrusive sensory experience in my television watching. I've enjoyed shows like "The Office," which perfected deadpan comedy for prime time, proving that a show's ability to be funny is not always related to how loud it is.

But lately, the walls of my own household have echoed again with the very laughter and twangy guitar riffs of which I speak, as Katie has started going through episodes of "Friends" on Netflix. She has long insisted that the show is enjoyable, so I decided, for the sake of my marriage, to give it a reevaluation. Perhaps with the maturity and insight I've gained as I've become a seasoned adult, I would now begin to see what I was missing before.

And you know, I kind of did.

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