Were you a “Friends” or a “Seinfeld?” Just as you can’t be a White Sox AND a Cubs fan, a Mets AND and Yankee fan, or support both the Lakers AND Clippers, I don’t see how it would have been possible to watch both programs with equal fervor. But I broach this sensitive subject as a means of long overdue admission.
First, a very mild disclaimer. Jerry Seinfeld and I grew up within a few miles of each other in Queens. For several years he dated the daughter of childhood friends of my parents. Seinfeld, the girlfriend and I all attended Oswego State University, although Jerry ditched out after a year or two and transferred to Queens College back in NYC. I never met him but saw him around campus. Of course he wasn’t famous yet but I remember him because he was kinda goofy looking with wire rimmed glasses and big cuffs on his jeans. At least that’s how I remember him. My parents met him when he was my friend’s date at weddings or Bar Mitzvahs and he always had to leave early to do his set at some comedy club to hone his craft. So, in short, I have no connection with him at all, I just wanted to tell you that story as the basis for why I watched his show. I couldn’t believe that goofy looking guy who dated my friend was now a star. Incidentally, he and my friend stopped dating before he became a big magillah.
I watched “Seinfeld” from the beginning. I related to all the characters and they just sounded like the authentic New Yawkers I grew up with. They were neurotic, selfish, loud, idiotic, and hilarious. The show wasn’t really that great at first but I never gave up on it.
Then this other show hits the airwaves with a bunch of shiksas who were beautiful and they were impossibly good looking guys and they, too, lived in New York. I resented them immediately as Seinfeld copycats and for being so damned good looking. I refused to watch “Friends.” I also thought the title was generic and derivative. But mostly it seemed like “Seinfeld for Goyim” aimed at the vast population of the country with no interest in watch a sort-of Jewish show, even though Jerry and his parents and Uncle Leo were the only Jews.
So you can imagine my horror when “Friends” turned out to be a perfectly hilarious show with a very talented cast. I immediately resented this because my decision to ignore the show was proven to be idiotic but I wouldn’t relent due to both pride and devotion to my lifelong hobby–sulking.
The tide turned a little when I discovered Jennifer Aniston. I’d always had a crush on Courtney Cox since her “Family Ties” days, but Jennifer was a new revelation. So beautiful, so sexy, so talented, so unattainable. I became a closet “Friends” watcher when reruns played. I wasn’t proud. I felt like I was cheating on Jerry and Elaine et. al. But why should I feel guilty.?You know the characters in Seinfeld never felt guilty…ever…no matter their transgressions against humanity…or cereal.
But it was too much for me. The inner conflict, the mixed loyalties, the realization that not even the glorious Jennifer Aniston could make me support a show that contained a java joint with the too-cute name “Central Perk.”
I’ll admit it. If I see a “Friends” rerun as I’m grazing the channels, I may stop for a minute or two, but I can say I have never watched a complete episode of that show. I do own every episode of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the vessel of inappropriateness created and starring “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David.
I’m sure, however, if I ran into Jerry Seinfeld and came clean about dipping into “Friends,” thereby admitting to channel-cheating, he’d shrug with a “who cares?” air as he walked away deadpanning, “not that there’s anything wrong with it.”