Saying goodbye to onscreen friends

parks leavingThis week marked the 10 year anniversary of the finale of Friends – arguably still the most popular and famous sitcom on the planet. I can’t remember exactly where I was when I watched it, but I do remember shedding a tear or two. There is something about watching characters – and actors – you have grown to know and in some ways sort of become friends with yourself, saying goodbye – both to you – their audience – but also to each other. Inevitably final episodes of long running shows are tear-jerkers, even when it is finale of a comedy series. Because, when you think about it – this is the last day at work for the actors and the crew – so saying goodbye on screen is very much like saying goodbye to each other. Sure, they might be friends after the show – and sure, we the audience can watch re-runs whenever we damn well please – but it just won’t be the same.

For me, shows with characters that you really want to hang out with on a regular basis are the keepers. They are the ones I buy on DVD and watch time and time again. This is no flash in the pan short lived relationship – this is the real deal. Friends definitely falls into that bucket – though I never felt the need to invest in the DVDs since repeats are so common on TV. Also heading up my ‘TV characters who are also kind of my friends’ list – the entire cast of The West Wing and most of the cast of Gilmore Girls. Both of these had memorable finales – though apparently Gilmores didn’t end the way its creator intended it to, as she wasn’t involved by that point. I for one would love to see what her finale would have looked like. But, the finale that happened brought more than one tear to my eye – as we said farewell to Rory, Lorelei and their colourful friends for the last time. Sure, Gilmores is still my go to for comfort TV (I am a believer that there is such a thing as comfort TV – as there is comfort food – it is the TV show that is the equivalent of being wrapped in a warm blanket and sung lullabies) but there will never be another new Rory and Lorelei escapade – their stories are done.

The same goes for the West Wing. Without fail I would say that if I had the chance to hang out with any imaginary group of characters it would be Jed Bartlet and his senior staff. Although they prepared us for the end well in advance – we knew there could only be two terms for President Bartlet after all – it was still a painful goodbye. Props though to the writers for doing what many fail to do – giving us a little bit of closure by jumping ahead a year or so, thereby telling us what these characters went on to do when their time in the West Wing was over. That is one of my pet peeves with movies & TV shows,  especially rom coms – of the movie or book variety, generally it gets to the big finale when the guy and the girl get together and then its over. You never get to find out what happens next. Sure, the getting together part is pretty important – but an amazing fire works exploding and musical chorus swelling kiss does not a relationship make. Do they get married? Do they have kids? Do they realise their dreams to climb Mt Everest and become a dolphin trainer (respectively – and yes, this is a weird imaginary rom com I grant you)? We hardly ever get to find out. So thanks to the West Wing writers for giving me that closure.

I have had to say goodbye to a few favourite characters – on TV and on paper – in recent weeks. First there was the fantastic conclusion to Laini Taylor’s ‘so good I am recommending it to everyone’ Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. As with all good books, as I was approaching the end I slowed my pace, savouring each paragraph and putting off the inevitable goodbye to her fantastically well drawn protagonists – Karou and Akiva. But say goodbye I did – and Taylor made it easy for me, creating an ending that was equal parts pragmatic, open ended but also certain. Ending anything is never an easy thing, so big ups to her for achieving a good one. The other two characters I bid farewell to just this week were Ann and Chris on Parks and Recreation. Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe left in the middle of season six to pursue new things, hence had to say goodbye to the rest of the cast who are carrying on without them. The real emotion was evident in the final scenes – with Amy Poehler in particular demonstrating impressive racoon face (definition: result of full on crying with mascara on). Sure, the show will, I am sure, still be awesome without them – but the friendships between those two characters and the other main cast provided much of the show’s real heart. However, given I cried real tears when these two left, I might have to buy shares in Kleenex for when the entire show wraps up. Too many feels 😉



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