ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY HOT TOPIC
Is 'Friends' overstaying its welcome?
By Liane Bonin
(Entertainment Weekly) -- Despite predictions that the damned would be toasting S'mores in hell before the cast of ''Friends'' signed on for a 10th season, the superrich sextet recently signed on the dotted line, sending couch potatoes and NBC executives alike into paroxysms of glee.
Sorry, but I'm leaving my Marcel the monkey party hat at home. It's not that I'm looking forward to the day when ''Friends'' rides off into the syndication sunset. With so few watchable sitcoms on the air, part of me thinks a geriatric Joey and Chandler bickering over who gets the motorized wheelchair in front of the TV wouldn't be such a bad thing.
But given the direction season 9 has taken, tacking on another 18 episodes (the cast demanded a short season to make time for outside projects) still sounds like a disappointing buzzkill. Lately the show has stumbled into ''jump the shark'' territory: there's a baby on board, Monica and Chandler seem to be channeling ''Mad About You,'' and the celebrity guest spots are non-stop (Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Dermot Mulroney).
Nowhere to turn
Luckily, the writing is still sharp. But with four of the characters coupled up (c'mon, everybody knows it's only a matter of time before Ross and Rachel settle down), there's nowhere new for the characters to turn.
Joey's lost the lovelorn romanticism that fueled his crush on Rachel and saved him from his tired dumb-but-cute shtick. And Ross and Rachel's stumbling attempts to find the love again can't help but feel familiar. So we're left with storylines that feel short on fun: Chandler can't quit smoking! Emma cries all night! Monica and Chandler want to get pregnant! What is this, ''thirtysomething'' with a laugh track?
Granted, no matter how tired ''Friends'' may be by the time season 10 rolls around, NBC undoubtedly sees it as a good investment, even with the loss-leader $10 million per episode price tag. But instead of blowing their wad on a scant 18 episodes of ''Friends'' to delay the inevitable, NBC should be putting all its resources towards developing something to take its place.
After years of wasting our time with drivel like ''The Single Guy'' and ''Suddenly Susan,'' the network is finally headed in the right direction with ''Scrubs,'' which is not only performing well in the ratings but, amazingly, doesn't suck. Still, as long as subpar crap like ''Good Morning Miami'' is still on the air, it's clear Must-See TV is soon to become a sad misnomer, with or without ''Friends.''