Have you ever had a friend announce that he or she was moving away to Seattle or someplace and find yourself blowing them off before they leave under some kind of misguided personal protection policy? Ah, she's a short-timer—I've got more important people to hang around with. If she's gonna run off and join all those flannel-wearing hipsters, why should I waste my time on her? Hey, I've got other pals—pals who are sticking around! Perhaps that's why I haven't paid very much attention to “Friends” for the last couple seasons. Perhaps I feel abandoned. Or perhaps the show just hasn't been all that funny for a couple seasons.
Either way, “Friends” will be gone as of this Thursday night. With the passing of “Friends,” NBC's once invincible “Must See TV Thursday” is now nothing but a memory. You can't feel too sorry for the network, however. NBC is raking in a record-breaking $70 million in ad revenue for the finale. The ad rate ($2 million for 30 seconds) is just a hair shy of the rate charged at last year's Super Bowl.
The stars of “Friends” will do OK too. They've got lucrative rerun checks coming in for the rest of their lives. Matt LeBlanc is busy shooting “Joey,” his Hollywood-set “Friends” spin-off with Drea de Matteo (“The Sopranos”) as his sister/roommate. Schwimmer, Perry, Kudrow and Cox all have feature films in the works. Jennifer Aniston is married to Brad Pitt. They're all fine.
And for all of us left without a Thursday night fix, NBC will send the show off in grand style. At 7 p.m., we've got a one-hour retrospective, highlighting the best moments of the past 10 years. At 8 p.m., it's one-hour final episode in which Joey will jet off to Los Angeles, Monica and Chandler will get their baby, Ross and Rachel will hook up again and ... I don't know, Phoebe will stay married to that boring guy.
Some networks are fighting against the show. FOX will give us two hours of “Cops: Crimes of Passion.” The WB will broadcast two-hours of “Steve Harvey's Big Time.” ABC will give us a live, two-hour “Extreme Makeover” special in which, apparently, people will paint a living room live on TV.
In a brilliant piece of non-counter-programming, TV Land will broadcast six classic (more or less) sitcoms featuring “Friends” cast members in some of their earliest roles. At 4 p.m., it's Jennifer Aniston in “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.” At 4:30 p.m., it's Matt LeBlanc in “Just the Ten of Us.” At 5 p.m., it's David Schwimmer in “The Wonder Years.” The night rounds out with Matthew Perry in “Who's the Boss” (5:30 p.m.), Courteney Cox on “Family Ties” (6 p.m.) and Lisa Kudrow showing up at “Cheers” (6:30 p.m.). At 7 p.m., just as the retrospective gets going on NBC, TV Land gives up entirely. The network will broadcast a feed of TV Land employees sitting around watching the “Friends” finale and occasionally harassing viewers to go turn on NBC.