Ross and Rachel kissed and more last night, pledging their hearts to each other for eternity. Then everyone went to get coffee. That was the end, so insignificant compared to the more than two hundred episodes that came before that one.

How did TV critics handle the ending?

Every clever TV reviewer in the nation tried to make a pun only they understood. The episodes, labeled on the advance copies that TV reviewers get Fedexed to them, have the name of the episode on them. Since the beginning, those episodes have begun with “the one with…”

Examples have been, at the beginning, “The One Where Monica Gets A Roommate (a.k.a. The One Where It All Began)” to “The One With The Princess Leia Fantasy” to “The One With the Prom Video,” or “The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break” and then this season, The One Where The Stripper Cries” and finally, “The Last One.”

Every TV production person in Hollywood was in on the joke. Every TV reviewer knew it too. So every uncreative article in every newspaper in the country began with “The One With…” Only all these Hollywood connected folks forgot one thing—the audience wasn’t in on the joke and had no clue why everything began with “the one with.” Even after understanding the “joke,” most readers probably didn’t think the punny headings and story leads were funny.

Here are some examples of this:

    [•] MSN called it, “The one with the tears, the hugs and few surprises.”
    [•] The Kansas City Star called it “The one with the big goodbye.”
    [•] The Charleston Daily Mail headlined “The One with the Goodbyes.”
    [•] The Salem Oregon Statessman Journal headlined it “The One with the Last Laugh.”

Frazier Moore of the Associated Press just couldn’t stop himself from using and reusing the cliché. After the show, he called one article “The One with The Goodbye” and even worse, began the article with “Among all the coverage of the "Friends" finale, call this article The One That Explains What Makes "Friends" Unique.“ His advance article earlier in the week was called “'Friends,' Counting Down to Its Last One.”

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The Audience
For people who own televisions, half of everybody watched the show. 43 percent of homes in Los Angeles were tuned to the finale; overall, the numbers are predicted to be just short of the Seinfeld finale. The preliminary national numbers, according to David Bauder of the Associated Press, “An estimated 51.1 million people tuned in to watch Ross and Rachel get together on the final episode of "Friends" Thursday night, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings. That was roughly two-thirds of the audience gathered by the "Cheers" and "Seinfeld" finales, but along the lines of what NBC had been predicting.”

But not the people in Jackson Mississippi. Station WLBT had a power failure, leaving residents without closure. “WLBT lost power about 5:15 Thursday afternoon when an automobile accident in front of the station took out a utility pole and a transformer. We were off the air for approximately three hours, leaving many viewers searching for "Friends." There are several opportunities for you to see both shows:

    [•] Sunday, May 9: The hour-long retrospective will air in its entirety on WLBT, followed by the first 15 minutes of the series finale. (NBC restricts WLBT from re-broadcasting parts of the program that have already aired.)
    [•] Thursday, May 20: NBC (and WLBT) will air the last three episodes of "Friends," including the finale
    [•] Next Week: A DVD of the finale will be available for purchase.”

The Cast

The morning after the finale, Sam Rubin interviewed interviewed David Arquette, Courtney Cox’s husband. David disclosed the cast taped the Tonight Show just before the finale aired, and then went to watch the show together in a room at the Warner Bros. studio, just blocks away from NBC. There were a lot of tears. Then Sam changed the subject changed to the Arquette’s impending need for a Diaper Genie.

The Reviewers

Reviewers were harsher than fans and looked toward Warner Bros. profitability. Sam Rubin on the KTLA Morning News jumped into bed with the Hollywood Reporter’s Brian Lowry, agreeing with Lowry’s comment that “Friends was never really that good,” as Rubin reported it.

Rick Munnariz of The Motley Fool wrote, “It's over. Ross and Rachel are back together. Everybody is happy and after a successful 10-year run the hit NBC series Friends is done. Naturally, like a good friendship, the relationship doesn't end there. You have syndication to see you through. If the stars -- and sponsors -- align just right you can always expect a reunion show down the line.”

LA’s Daily News focused their story on the cast. David Kronke and Ryan Oliver wrote, “Near the end of "Friends"' final episode, as they were preparing to bid one another farewell, Chandler (Matthew Perry) asked Joey (Matt LeBlanc) how he wanted to say goodbye: Awkward hug or lame, cool-guy handshake? They did both, of course, which is how the episode itself bade fans adieu: With soppy sentimentality and goofy humor. And, just like that, they were gone.”,1413,211%257E23544%257E,00.html

The Associated Press wrote, “Ross and Rachel, together again as "Friends" fades into history. Were you expecting anything different? Television's most popular comedy went for the crowd-pleasing finale Thursday, with Rachel getting off a plane to stay with Ross just as she was about to leave for a new job in Paris. The hourlong episode marked the end of 10 years for the sitcom, which followed six New York coffeehouse regulars as they moved from post-adolescence to something approaching adulthood. NBC privately predicted some 45 million viewers.”

The AP’s Frazier Moore wrote, “NBC took a break from promoting the "Friends" finale to air it Thursday night. "Friends" tributes and rehashes will continue in the days ahead, of course. But during a one-hour void between buildup and post-mortems, there was, simply, the last episode. It couldn't possibly have lived up to expectations - and didn't, by a long shot. It fulfilled its frantic mission to tie up the major loose ends, but did so grudgingly, with no surprises. And destiny-wise, it left Phoebe and Joey to fend for themselves.”

The Fans

Bob Curtright at the Kansas City Star said, “Pat Sharpsteen tried to muffle his emotions under a macho facade as "Friends" ended its 10-year run Thursday night, claiming the sniffle he had was a cold. But Sharpsteen, who insisted that his favorite show was "Fear Factor," finally had to admit that he and his wife, Teresa, could identify completely as Monica, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey and Chandler said their final farewells to America. "We've moved around quite a bit," he said of moves from Wellington to Oklahoma City and back to Wichita. "We know how hard it is to leave good friends."”

The Omaha World Herald supplemented the AP story with quotes from local viewers who said the ending was perfect.

But Kristin Lopez of Akron, Ohio best put it into perspective, according to Denise Grollmus of the Beacon Journal. “Many feel they shared life-changing events with show's characters.” As 10-year-old inside jokes sparked collective laughter over half-empty bottles of beer at a downtown Akron bar, this farewell party seemed like any other emotional goodbye. The fact that the cozy crowd was waving goodbye to fictional friends from a TV show by the same name was of no real importance.

`I can't believe it's been 10 years,' said Kristin Lopez, 29, one of the many Friends fans who gathered at Thursday night's `Farewell to Friends,' held by WKDD (98.1-FM) at Jillian's. "You just start thinking of all the things you've gone through while watching the show, and it's incredible.”

Nathaniel Hoffman of the Contra Costa Times summed it up similarly. “Teenage girls have planned the next decade of their lives by it and the popular sitcom brought back memories of being young and single in the big city for grownups. Several hundred fans gathered in downtown Livermore, at the Sunvalley Mall in Concord and in living rooms across America on Thursday night to bid farewell to NBC's hit TV show "Friends."

"I could see a bit of myself in every one of those characters," said Mike Auble, who manages nuclear cleanup projects by day and watches "Friends" reruns by night.”

The Song

For those of us who loved the show, our lives will be empty at 8 pm on Thursday all summer. We won’t be able to get up and dance to the Rembrandt’s one hit wonder, “I’ll Be There For You.” At the time the show went big, the Rembrandt’s Phil Solem praired his song’s inclusion in the show as a rare opportunity. For a theme song for a TV show, the writers get paid each time the show is aired over broadcast, cable or syndication. That’s an income stream for life. But as Friends goes off the air, Solem seems to accuse his money-maker of being his creative downfall, saying it made his fans think he sold out and blames the show for ruining his musical career.

The Future
And we won’t be able to laugh at the cast, that is until the first reunion show, or even earlier, till “Joey” airs on NBC in the fall in the exact same time slot. Or even earlier, with all the reruns every day in syndication. Or on DVD. Let’s face it. Friends probably will never go away.

According to CNN, here’s the plot, “The spinoff features LeBlanc's character, Joey Tribbiani, moving to Hollywood to further his acting career. He moves in with a brainy 20-year-old nephew who's a rocket scientist.” It stars Matt LeBlanc as Joey and Drea de Matteo from the Sopranos as his high-strung sister Gina.

Hopefully, the Friends cast will drop by. Frequently. And no one will ever again utter the phrase “The One With.”