This has been a year of TV reboots and reunions; the revival of The X Files, Full House and Gilmore Girls were met with mostly positive reviews by the returning viewers. The cast and crew of Will and Grace also decided to join the reunion bandwagon with a mini episode (released on YouTube) during the run-up to the US election. The tabloids were in a state of frenzy as 5 of the 6 cast members from FRIENDS came together at a celebratory event for a TV producer. Thus, TV shows, like people or objects, hold a doorway for our past and, it is the past that makes us nostalgic. I always thought nostalgia (in its right doses) was harmless but it used to be misdiagnosed as a mental disorder and was even labelled as “immigrant psychosis” in the earlier half of the century. However, nostalgia is a beautiful way for us to relive the moments of our yesteryears and move forward in our lives with a more positive attitude. [Read the The New York Times report on nostalgia here: http://nyti.ms/1yd8uWD]
I grew up in front of the television and was a proud couch potato for much of my first decade on earth. I immersed myself in American pop-culture through TV shows, movies, news, music – whatever I could get a hold of on TV. One of my favourite things to look forward to everyday was watching the primetime telecast of a popular sitcom of the time. Below I reminisce about some of my favourite sitcoms.
Frasier was one of my favorite shows on TV and it is a show that I watch even today. Niles Crane has to be one of the most quirky characters ever portrayed on the small screen. Frasier and Niles were perpetually unlucky in love and their lofty standards for women and opera certainly didn’t help either. They kept persevering and trying their utmost to find a bit of romance in their lives. Martin Crane – their war veteran father – was, at the start of the series, embittered by his sons’ gregarious attitudes. The brothers continued to shun their father’s humble tastes but eventually, all three of them find ways to bond and mend their relationship.
Niles’ love life provided some interesting story arcs to the series and his marriage to Marice – the frail, wealthy heiress with an infinite amount of eccentricities was never shown on the show but remained an integral part of the storytelling. Later on, Niles’ life post-Marice took center stage; Daphne was the object of affection of Niles but was oblivious to his many candid advances for many years but eventually falls for him and they start a family.
Finishing off the cast was Ros, Frasier’s radio producer and one of Seattle’s most active bachelorettes. Her transition into doting mother and responsible adult were a good follow-through with her character. Also, to note Eddy the dog’s staring contests with Frasier!
Grounded for Life
This show may not have been a cult classic but it managed to teach me what life outside the glamor of Manhattan was like: namely Staten Island. Grounded for Life was based entirely on the ‘Island and I came to understand that the residents of the far-away borough of New York and its working class population were seemingly shunned by the rest of the city. They had the dump as the barrier between them and they immersed themselves into each other. Mixed in with some Irish and Italian descendants’ stereotypes, the show was a rare gem for the first two seasons and the unique storytelling method of the show was interesting.
Everybody Loves Raymond
Ray Romano, an affable son, father and husband, was not as innocent as it seemed. His life troubles stemmed from living next door to his parents and brother. Each of the characters in this comedy was given very nuanced roles and it was interesting to see their travails interacting with Ray. In the midst of the intrusive and somewhat crazy Romano family was poor and normal Debra. Debra and her mother-in-law were always at loggerheads while Ray played the role of the pacifier to both but he was just playing coy to both of them to earn both their affection. His brother would call out his inner ulterior motive seeking behavior and he fought valiantly in the background to shine a light on Ray’s selfishness. He would succeed sometimes and therein Ray would find himself being confronted by both his mother and wife at the same time.
Lastly, the patriarch of the family, Frank, a fiery man with obscure mannerisms rounds off the cast. His arguments with Marie were epic and had some of the best BURNS you would be able to think of.
What can I say about FRIENDS that hasn’t already been said? Only that not only was it a show about 6 friends hanging out and solving each other’s problems – but it was also an epoch on how to evolve in life with age, circumstance, etc.
Rachel enters the series as a brash, spoilt brat from Long Island but she was the first friend to become a parent and a doting one at that. Phoebe seemed to have commitment issues with no serious boyfriends throughout the show but when she meets Mike, she finds a man who understands her and loves her. Her wedding was a beautiful mess but she managed to convey the true longing for and love of Mike. Monica was always the uptight and OCD neat-freak, looking for the perfect guy (somewhat) but she falls hard for two seemingly imperfect guys – Richard and then, of course, Chandler.
Now, Chandler’s transition was the greatest: from the cynical, satirical group comic with MAJOR commitment phobia into a lovable and caring boyfriend then husband to Monica and eventual understanding parent to their adopted kids. Chandler’s was a beautiful coming-of-age story being told in the background.
Joey and Ross seemingly don’t change much throughout the show – at least not as much as the other 4 do but it is notable that Ross, the one-woman guy in college finally dates more women and becomes a more relaxed guy to Rachel when they eventually end up together (one of the problems with Ross and Rachel’s initial relationship problems was Ross’s incessant clinginess to Rachel’s daily life). Joey comes into the show as an amorous bachelor and exits the show as one too but what changes are that at the end, he is an accomplished actor with some success to his name.
Ahh, the dose of nostalgia did actually make me feel good.
Sadia Sarwar is an upcoming author with plenty of opinions and rarefied tastes. Follow her on @sadiamhsarwar.