‘The One With The Dozen Lasagnas’ (originally aired 1/12/95)
This one should be renamed ‘The One With All The Gay Jokes’… about 2/3 of the episode is dedicated to Joey and Chandler’s ‘relationship’ as roommates, with a lot of lesbian jokes thrown in when Ross, Susan, and Carol share a scene together. With four writers credited to the episode (the most for any non-season finale or double episode in the show’s run), there’s no doubt in my mind this episode went through many revisions – and because of the many writing voices being crammed into 22 minutes, ‘The Dozen Lasagnas’ suffers greatly.
Friends episode title names are gimmicky to begin with, but ‘The Dozen Lasagnas’ don’t really have anything to do with the episode, except a joke about ‘scraping off the meat’ by Monica, and her handing them out to Joey/Chandler, Carol and Paulo through the episode. I suppose there is some importance to the lasagnas – without Carol calling Monica to thank her, Ross wouldn’t have found out what the sex of his baby was – but mostly, the lasagnas are a joke without a punchline – or in terms of storytelling, without much of a point.
What strikes me most about the episode is how disingenuous Ross and Phoebe feel in the episode – particularly Ross, who doesn’t want to know the sex of his kid, even when everyone else does. I just can’t buy it – Ross is known to be a character who is in control of his environment, and only is into surprises for the sake of holding out the moment where he finds out until the end of the episode. The delayed reveal does provide a nice, sobering moment for Ross at the episode’s close, but there isn’t much of a reason given why he wants to be left out of the loop (a feeling I don’t believe Ross would ever have… that is, if Friends wrote consistent characters for 10 seasons).
The same goes for Phoebe – her relationship with Rachel is new, and her conversation about that with her involving the cookies is probably the only real honest moment of ‘Dozen Lasagnas’. Why wouldn’t Phoebe want to tell Rachel that Paulo tried to have sex with her? Unlike Ross, I don’t see it as a ‘feminist issue’, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to hold back that kind of information, especially after hearing Rachel’s unexpected emotional investment in their relationship, which is described with a sickening line about feeling like the girls in Danielle Steele books (it fits her character yes, but what does that say about Rachel?). Their scene together is both the highlight and the low light of the episode: its a conversation founded on unbelievable character traits, but one that shows the vulnerability of Phoebe, and how important it is for her to not be abandoned (her first two rules are “my friends are the most important thing to me in the world” and “I don’t lie”).
I suppose Phoebe’s character isn’t written in a dishonest fashion – its just very, very inconsistent throughout. And with that being the only real plot of the episode (Joey and Chandler fighting over a table is just a load of cheap gay jokes) ‘Dozen Lasagnas’ is an unfunny pile of scenes, barely connected by the presence of some meaty lasagnas.
- Ross kissing Carol and then punching Susan on the arm is probably the funniest moment of the episode. A rare example of Schwimmer physical humor gone right (see his many, many, MANY hand motions in the episode for the flip side of that coin).
- “In some cultures, mothers eat the placenta.” Chandler: “… and we’re done with the yogurt.”
- the foosball table is introduced, and Monica kicks everyone’s ass.
- what the fuck was Chandler wearing in this episode? Neon flannel short-sleeve button-down, tucked into blue jeans with a brown woven belt. It was like the early 90s threw up on his skin.
- the opening scene where they hum the theme to The Odd Couple is one of the series’ best.
‘The One with the Boobies’ (originally aired 1/19/95)
There’s a certain uncomfortable nature to ‘Boobies’ I still find quite enjoyable – and not just because its an episode that has heaps of references to Jennifer Aniston’s chest. No, it’s the character of Roger that makes ‘Boobies’ so fun to watch – that is, until the end reveals him to be a complete asshole, which undermines the entire episode. But I’ll get to that later; what really makes ‘Boobies’ fun is how it challenges each of the six friends to step back and examine their own lives and personalities, be it Ross marrying a lesbian or Chandler’s intimacy issues. Yes, these are all quite obvious Freudian traits that aren’t really explored, but it is a rare example of Friends challenging the status quo of its characters in a meaningful way – especially for Joey, the one character who is separated from Roger’s analysis.
At some point in every comedy, the male womanizing character has to come to terms with the behavior he exhibits, and how it reflects on himself/other people (a great example is Barney on How I Met Your Mother, who has been going through this over and over and over again with the on-Robin, off-Robin crap for six seasons). More importantly, the show doesn’t try to have him rationalize his behavior or explain the reasons why he does what he does. Instead, ‘Boobies’ smartly pits Joey in the mirror against himself, wondering if he’ll ever be able to become his father, the guy he thought he wanted to be. While talking to Chandler, he says something along the lines of “when the right time comes, I always assumed I’d be able to be a stand-up guy,” revealing a layer of character we don’t get to see very often with Joey.
Too often on Friends is Joey the butt of bad actor/dumb guy jokes, and the only episode that prominently features his parents (in fact, his huge family only play into two other episodes of the show, both revolving around his many sisters) is predictably one that finds more meaning to his character. For once, Joey is challenged by his own beliefs and views of the world, which leads to a great scene between him and his mother about marriage, love, and how much of a gray area “doing the right thing” can be, especially when it involves your parents (Freaks and Geeks did a similar story line with Neal and his philandering father a few years later on NBC). Most importantly, the scene where him and Chandler share a bed isn’t used as a cheap gay joke (re: last episode), but as a way for them to share an important emotional conversation about Joey and his life style.
The rest of ‘Boobies’ treads lightly, with the ‘sneaking a peek in the shower’ recurring jokes and Joey playing father to his dad and Ronnie. Unfortunately, the show goes too far in its jokes when it paints Roger as a cartoonish asshole, simply to give Phoebe a reason to break up with him (that, and nobody in the group liked him). He makes a great point when he says their friendships are a little weird – considering how much they will coddle each other’s life fantasies over the years, Roger’s point about them being dysfunctional is really interesting. It would be an easy problem to solve: instead of making Roger a dick, allow him to share that thought in front of the entire group, and then everybody (including Phoebe) could tell him off without having to characterize him as a completely irrational, over emotional dick. Because he isn’t, and a lot of what he says to Monica & Phoebe ring much truer than their many self-exploration plot lines over the next ten years would.
- Chandler: “That’s a relatively open weave, and I can still see your … nipular area.”
- along with the line above, the King of Bing also nails some physical humor with his demonstration of being between a rock and a hard place.
- watching them eat a huge pizza makes me miss NY pizza so much.