Lrrr, an enormous and dangerous alien from the distant planet Omnicron Persei 8, is confused. He is watching the classic 90s and 00s sitcom Friends and, like many a viewer, has found a nit to pick. “Why does Ross, the largest Friend, not simply eat the other five?” he asks his wife Ndnd. “Perhaps they are saving that for sweeps,” she replies.
This is an inconsequential Futurama gag that has very little to do with the rest of the episode and even less to do with Friends, but it’s become one of the show’s more enduring lines. And it has permanently lodged in my brain as not just a gag but a way of understanding — or more accurately, failing to understand — the world.
Because Lrrr is not wrong! Well, he’s wrong for what Friends is, an Earth sitcom about generally well-off people living together and having various sexual permutations in a fantasy version of New York City. But he’s right from his own perspective. Clearly any group of six Omnicronians will be reduced gastrointestinally if a larger, more powerful member exists within that group. Lrrr is just mapping his values onto art that was not created with those values in mind.
Differences of culture and value often lead to anger. One of the things I like about this brief moment is how Lrrr is mostly confused, he’s not judging anyone here but can’t understand why this situation is playing out. Confusion is OK, and acceptance of that confusion is more than OK, it’s how you decide to walk away.
A while back I watched a few episodes of Great News, a sitcom that had an excellent pedigree (producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock), a solid setting (local TV news show),and a great cast (Briga Heelan as the lead, a young woman trying to break into the biz, along with John Michael Higgins and a surprisingly good Nicole Ritchie as the anchors). It also had SCTV vet Andrea Martin as Heelan’s mother, who is overprotective to the point where she joins the local TV news show to help/keep an eye on her daughter and causes shenanigans that gave me far worse cringe attacks than The Office ever did. She is never stopped, only indulged despite all the awkwardness. “Why does Heelan, a capable and productive young woman, not simply put her terrible mother in a crooked nursing home or failing that murder her?” I thought after watching a few episodes.
The obvious answer to my question and to Lrrr’s is that then there wouldn’t be a show. That doesn’t necessarily mean our issues are “wrong,” just irrelevant to the art in question. Fair enough! There’s a difference between bad execution and execution that I don’t like or understand. Discerning that and coming to terms with it is hopefully what separates me from the cranky and befuddled aliens.
Do you have any Largest Friends? Have you ever changed your mind about them?