Lately I’ve been watching the TV show “Friends”. It’s a show that I watched every week when it was on first run TV but I never watched it in syndication or in repeats. About five years ago I did run the whole series as I worked. I hesitate to say I “watched” it then because I really just listened to it as I was working. It didn’t get my whole attention but I enjoyed it as I remember.

So I’ve only seen the episodes twice at most and the last time was half a decade ago. That makes is fairly fresh to me as opposed to my favorite shows that I’ve seen many times. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” comes to mind as a favorite whose episodes I have watched at least three times a piece already. “Austin Stories” is a short lived series with only twelve episodes but I’ve seen those twelve at least a half dozen times since the show ran in 1997. I’ve seen all the episodes of “Lovejoy” a few times too. And though I haven’t watched it in years I used to watch “Seinfeld” in syndication all the time. “Friends” never qualified as a favorite by those standards but I liked it.

I was interested to see how “Friends” held up after all this time. I just finished watching the third season so this isn’t an analysis of the whole series but the show was on my mind tonight so I thought I’d write something down. What made it get on my mind was the fact that I thought the show had finally gotten good in the middle of season three.

I didn’t think the first two seasons of “Friends” were terrible or anything but I would describe them as too “Sit-commy” for my taste. I could see a lot of the jokes coming from a mile away. Not all of them, like on many sitcoms I don’t like, but probably about a third of the jokes were hammy sitcom jokes. There were good ones but plenty of cringe worthy jokes too.

So what changed? I mean besides the writers and actors doing a better job because they have some experience with the characters under their belts? That seems fairly obvious and is the overall driver of quality but I’m referring to a specific creative difference. I think that difference is the character of Ross (David Schwimmer) changing and getting wackier.

For the first two seasons Ross was the character who was level headed and couldn’t do much wrong. He wasn’t the funny one (Chandler), he wasn’t the dumb one (Joey), he wasn’t the spoiled one (Rachel), he wasn’t the neurotic one (Monica), and he wasn’t the flakey one (Phoebe). He was the boring one who things happened to. His wife turning out to be gay and having an unplanned child with her. Situations happened to him. He was his situation.

With the middle of season three Ross’ character starts to change. He starts to do wacky and unpredictable things. I remember at the end of the series that some people were complaining that Ross was too wacky and no longer realistic but I also remember him becoming my favorite character after being my least favorite one. I like wacky. Of course not having seen the series in ages I had forgotten that Ross’ character gets funnier as time passes.

Before seeing Ross’ change I was contemplating not watching the rest of the seasons. I kept watching only because I had nothing else I wanted to watch that would allow me to zone out and relax (I’m really better at doing stuff than relaxing) for twenty minutes or so (my attention span for TV is short) every now and again. But now that the show has stopped being too sit-commy for me I’m going to keep watching. I’m even a little excited to see the upcoming seasons now that I remember why I liked the show. It might not be a favorite but it’s a good laugh.