Let's get my dirty secret out in the open. I have been a long time fan of the show. My affection has waxed and waned over the years as the plotlines and writing went through periods of greatness and trashiness but over all, I'm a fan. But this season was one too many. Almost from the start of the season, my gag reflex moved to over sensitive. An evening of watching Joey and Rachel paw at each other had me tuned out for several weeks. I was relieved to discover that had come to an end during my hiatus but that was short lived as the machinations of moving the group towards an ending became painfully obvious. Then NBC kicked in with the ads. Those shamelessly over important ads were enough to have me tuned out again for several more weeks. I eventually dipped a toe back in to find they were now counting down the most popular episodes from the series. With considerable relief I tuned in again, even though I had seen these countless times. At least they were highlighting what made the show enjoyable and not going for over the top emotional ads.
When new episodes resumed, I grudgingly watched. The episodes weren't awful but neither were they good. The drive to the finish was all too evident in the writing. Still, I wasn't feeling the urge to vomit so things were looking up. This week I lost it. Every newspaper, magazine and cable channel seemed to have some massive tribute to Friends lined up. After about two days of this I was thoroughly disgusted. I like the show but it's not as if some painful hole will exist in my life after it goes off the air. Like any other sitcom I enjoy I just move on to watching repeats. So let's just get over the pomposity of this build up shall we? Why isn't NBC pulling out all the stops for Frasier, which is also going off the air this year? It's been around even longer than Friends. From a TV history standpoint, it's a big step. Kelsey Grammar set a record for years consecutively spent playing a fictional character on TV. Sure, Frasier jumped the shark a few season ago but where are the fireworks for its passing?
It's all about the money. Friends is the cornerstone of NBC's advertising scheme. It attracts a steady and sizeable audience smack dab in the center of the most coveted demographic for advertisers. The network will be charging ad rates for the finale that approach Super Bowl levels. Advertisers are reacting accordingly, planning to roll out brand new ads for the hour-long finale, much like they would for the advertising Mecca, the Super Bowl.
So when you see the next ad that seems to be saying that the ending of Friends is akin to having someone kill your puppy in terms of sadness, try to remember that what they mean to say is the bean counters at NBC are openly sobbing at the loss of income from the show.
Disney is refusing to allow subsidiary Miramax to distribute Michael Moore's next film, Fahrenheit 911. The movie is a harsh rebuke of President Bush; linking him with families of prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden. Moore said on Tuesday, "At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?' "
Disney won't come right out and say exactly why they won't release the film but it seems clear they are concerned about a backlash from conservatives and the Bush administration. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, indicated that Disney CEO Michael Eisner asked him not to sell the film to Miramax. Eisner's reasoning was that Disney received a number of tax breaks from Florida where President Bush's brother Jeb is governor. Disney denies that but did say it wasn't in the corporations best interests to get dragged into a highly charged political debate.
Moore was originally going to make the film with Mel Gibson's Icon Pictures but they eventually opted to pass on it.
This is a fairly worrisome development. Free speech is coming under attack in this country and it needs to stop. The FCC has declared open war with its erratic and overblown fining of radio and TV stations of late. Now a company like Disney leans on a small film for having the nerve to openly talk about sensitive issues. Michael Moore is definitely a provacateur of the highest caliber, but that doesn't mean he's always wrong. I loved his last film, Bowling for Columbine, not because I believed everything in it but for the way he masterfully toyed with the topic of gun control in such a manner as to practically demand that people talk about it seriously. The point wasn't to slam one side or the other but to stir up a serious debate that might produce ideas that lead to solutions. That kind of open provocation is more than a little disturbing to many people. Obviously the suits at Disney are those sorts of people. I suggest that if you believe strongly in free speech you let Disney know what you think of their decision to hide Moore's film. I certainly will be.