Baltimore Sun’s BEST party in 2 weeks

Good 'Friends' fits snugly into NBC's lineup

Sun Television Critic

Ross just found out his wife of four years is a lesbian and is leavinghim for another woman. Rachel just left her fiance standing at the altar ofthe $40,000 wedding. Monica wonders why she's a "beacon for men with severeemotional problems." And Chandler feels compelled to share every detail of hisdreams, which are Freudian feasts of sexual insecurities and confusion.

Meet four of the friends in NBC's "Friends," the best new sitcom of thefall. It arrives at 8:30 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2), between "Mad About You"and "Seinfeld" -- which makes for a near perfect 90-minute programming flow ofsmart, sophisticated sitcoms about relationships set in New York.

"Friends" is a little younger than "Mad About You" or "Seinfeld." The sixleading characters appear to be in their 20s or early 30s -- NBC and theproducers are purposely vague on ages, trying not to get locked into aGeneration X box.

And it's a smart marketing move. While there are "twentysomething" momentsand concerns in the pilot, the overall sensibility is much the same as inNBC's two other Thursday night sitcoms.

If fans of "Mad About You" and "Seinfeld" can handle the age difference,they should feel right at home with the six as they sit around riffing onlife, love, relationships, jobs and each other.

Most of the action takes place in two sites -- a coffee bar and theapartment of Monica (Courteney Cox). Cox, perhaps best known for playing AlexP. Keaton's girlfriend in "Family Ties" before appearing in "Ace Ventura: PetDetective," is terrific in "Friends."

Tonight, she's at dinner with a dreamboat guy to whom she's veryattracted. Just as they appear to be starting to connect, he tells her he'simpotent, and the sip of tea she just took comes flying out of her mouth allover the guy.

"Sorry, I know being spit on is probably not what you need right now," shesays, trying to sound supportive.

Shades of "Seinfeld," the three male friends all refer to Monica's date as"Paul, the wine guy." We never do find out what his actual name is.

Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), a space-cadet female friend, asks: "Paul, the wineguy? Paul, the wine guy? What's that mean? Does he sell it, drink or justcomplain a lot?"

A few moments later, in connection with absolutely nothing else, Phoebesays, 'Oooh, I just pulled out four eyelashes, that can't be good."

There are lots of moments like that.

Everyone's having their breakfast coffee at Monica's when Chandler(Matthew Perry) jumps up and says, "All right, kids, I've got to get to workand input those numbers, because if I don't, well, it doesn't make that muchof a difference actually."

It's a very strong cast. Jennifer Anston ("The Edge") plays Rachel. Matt LeBlanc ("Vinnie & Bobby") plays a young actor who lives across the hall fromMonica. And David Schwimmer ("NYPD Blue") plays Ross, Monica's older brother.Schwimmer and Cox are the pick of the litter.

The pilot is a little frantic and stagey. Producers Marta Kauffman andDavid Crane are trying to give us enough information to make us care about allsix people, in 22 minutes. Next week, "Friends" calms down and it's funnier,as the parents of Monica and Ross come to visit. The conservative father isplayed by Elliot Gould; mom is Christina Pickles, of "St. Elsewhere" fame.

Tonight's pilot ends with Perry sharing the details of his latest dream.In this one, he's Liza Minnelli, he's playing Las Vegas, and . . .

Hey, do I look like the kind of critic who would give away the ending onhis new, best TV friends?

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad