So here I am watching some episodes of “Friends” again. As I mentioned in a previous blog I’ve been watching the whole series over again for only the second time ever. Well, the third time if you want to count the time I listened to it while working but I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to it that time. I’ve actually finished watching all ten seasons and here is my capsule judgement.

A few episode into season three until, let’s say, halfway into season seven were the peak times for the show. It was at it’s funniest then. The other years/episodes weren’t bad but I didn’t find them as entertaining. And for another broad stroke I’d say that I found the show to be at it’s worst when it was dealing with the big life events that every TV show deals with. If there was a birth or marriage going on, and there were a few, then that event would take over the show and generally bore me. Other people may like that stuff but I like the smaller more imaginative stories.

I also found it a bit hard to make it through the last two or three seasons. Maybe it was just Friends fatigue but those seasons didn’t hold my attention as much as the middle seasons did. It took me four months to watch all the episodes so I don’t know if fatigue was really a factor. It was more likely all the big events that took place in those final seasons.

Now here is the weird thing. After watching all ten seasons and coming up with judgements about them I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to watch Friends for a long time. It had been a bunch of years between the last time I watched/listened to the whole series so figured they’d go to the back of the cue. Way back. But the next day, for some reason, I was in the mood to watch some “Friends”. So I put on season one episode one.

There was a difference this time. I wasn’t really giving it my full attention. That’s how I “Watch” most TV. I have it on in the background as I work and mainly listen to it or have it on and partly watch it as I surf the web or do a little drawing. I do this mostly with shows or movies I’ve seen before but also with first run shows that really don’t hold my complete attention. With the repeats I might stop and pay more attention at a favorite part or when I need a break. Either way it’s a much less demanding watching experience.

That is – it’s much less demanding on my part. I don’t have to pay close attention. When I actually sat down this summer to watch the whole run of “Friends” the show I wanted to really see it. I wanted to see the jokes as the happened and appreciate the craft and timing of it all. I wanted to see if I really thought it was a good show. In the end I thought it ranged from a pretty good show to a good show.

But after I starting to run season one again in the background I re-evaluated. I then decided it was a more than good show. It was an excellent background show.

Other favorites of mine are not good background shows. “Seinfeld” or my current favorite “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” demand to be watched. They are pure comedy and I have to sit and watch them with my full attention. There are no feel good moments, sappiness, or long story lines to follow in them. Just attempts to make you laugh and I have to be there in the moment to catch the laughs. I see no point to having them on in the background because then I’ll just want to watch them and won’t get anything done.

Like I’ve said before I listen to a lot of TV and movies while working. My friend Dave, who does the same, and I even discuss the fact that we have a category movies that we call “Movies that are good to work to”. Usually these are dialogue based movies that are easily followed by listening but also include long rambling movies. “Jackie Brown” is one of Dave’s favorites.

“Made” comes to mind for me because that was a movie that came alive for me as a background movie. It was a movie that I didn’t even like much when I first saw it. But it was on cable TV while I worked and I got to hear it. It peaked the interest of my ear. I ended up always catching bits and pieces of it on cable until it became a favorite. It’s a very well written movie with lots of interesting twists, turns and dialogue. A great movie to work to.

“A Bridge Too Far” is another favorite of mine to work to. It’s a movie about World War II that’s generally considered a failure/flop because it’s long and rambling but that is exactly what makes it a great movie to work to. The boring parts are considerably less boring when I don’t pay attention to them and there is always some new turn in the convoluted plot coming up to peak my interest for a moment.

Ultimately I’ve determined that’s what “Friends” is for me. A great show to work to. The producer of the show describes it as a show about “A time in your life when everything’s possible”. I have to agree that is one of the strengths of the show. And that comes through even just as it plays in the background. And it could be possible that idea comes through even better when I don’t pay attention to the boring parts.