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‘Friends’ were there for us

Of course we knew that Ross and Rachel would end up together. It was fate. It was kismet. It was network television, the home of happily-ever-after endings.
/ Source: msnbc.com

OK, who are we kidding — of course we knew that Ross and Rachel would end up together. It was fate. It was kismet. It was network television, the home of happily-ever-after endings.

After 10 seasons of longing from afar, getting together, being “on a break", having a drunken wedding in Las Vegas, getting divorced and becoming parents after “backpacking across Western Europe,” it turns out Ross really was Rachel’s lobster.

“We’re done being stupid, unless we’re on a break,” Ross says to Rachel, still breathless from her dash from the airport. A fitting finish indeed.

Clichéd? Yes, but who cares? It’s a TV show, and one that was built around characters who were a little bit too good to be true. They were thin, handsome, lived in great apartments, worked at great jobs, always had time to hang out at the coffee shop — exactly the kind of lives we would like to have.

And each character fit into “Breakfast Club”-esque stereotypes, ultimately rising above their limitations to realize their dreams.

So Ross shakes off his nerdy wimp veneer and gets the out-of-his-league girl of his dreams.

Superficial Rachel trades in her frivolity for real love.

Monica gives up the order and control that has dominated her life for the utter chaos of motherhood.

Commitment-phobe Chandler settles down as husband, father, homeowner.

Non-conformist Phoebe gets the old-fashioned wedding she’s always wanted.

And hard-struggling (and mediocre) actor Joey heads off to Hollywood for his big break. Well, maybe.

Reality checkSuspension of reality has always been a prerequisite for enjoying “Friends.” Children that never seem to interfere with afternoons at Central Perk. Huge, cheap apartments in Manhattan (rent-controlled or not). So why should the finale be any different?

Surprise! Monica and Chandler don’t get just one baby from surrogate mom Erica but twins. A boy and a girl — whom they take home from the hospital mere minutes after birth. Yeah, that happens every day. But it still brought a smile to my face.

Ross and Phoebe magically dash from Kennedy Airport in Queens to Newark Airport in New Jersey in a flash. Ask any New Yorker — impossible. But who cares about accuracy? If it weren’t for that Einsteinian leap, Ross would not have been able to confess his love to Rachel before she got on her plane.

Reality wasn't the key to “Friends” success. If you want reality, watch "Survivor." Oh, well, on second thought ...

No, "Friends" has always been about the characters, and the real affection they had for each other. That's what has drawn millions of viewers to the NBC show week after week for 10 years (MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft).

The initial concept of the show was to chronicle how friends become like family to twentysomethings out on their own in the real world. The producers held true to that vision, even when the characters reached their 30s and began to pair off. They were always there for each other.

From the first episode, when Rachel, in her best Long Island wedding-meringue finery bolted through the door of Central Perk, Monica was there to take her in. When Joey didn’t seem to have money for publicity stills or rent or sandwiches, Chandler was there to float him a loan (okay, so he entirely supported him).

They helped each other through breakups, a multiplicity of disappointment as well as weddings and births. Just like our real friends would.

Almost everybody knows a Chandler, who is quick with a joke, or a Monica who is always ready to mother us. We all have a friend we just don’t get, but still just love, like Phoebe. Many of us are Rosses, and Rachels, and believe me, I’ve met plenty of Joeys, not exactly the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree but complete teddy bears. The kind of friends that never let you down.

As with all friends, we occasionally have to say goodbye. But friends like that are never forgotten, and stay with you always.

Thanks to the miracle of syndication, and DVD, these “Friends” will always be with us too. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Denise Hazlick is the entertainment editor at MSNBC.com and misses her good friends Jen and Aliya.