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Friends – Free Porn

FrFor those who found this on a Google search for “free porn“, sorry. This post is actually about a fourth season episode of Friends, entitled The One with Free Porn — story by Mark J Kunerth, teleplay by Richard Goodman. And if you are looking for porn, I know you’ll be disappointed to know that the episode has three storylines running through it and absolutely no sex.

The episode starts with a short teaser, followed by two acts and a short tag.

In the tease, the porn storyline is introduced when Joey and Chandler discover that they have porn on their tv and fear that if they turn it off, they won’t have free porn any more. (A)

After titles, back in Joey and Chandler’s apartment Rachel and Monica learn about the porn, then Phoebe comes in and gets her story line started: she’s pregnant and needs a career that doesn’t involve carrying around a big table (A/B).

In Monica and Rachel’s apartment, Ross’s story gets started as he tells Monica that Emily is on her way to the airport and their two week fling is over. Monica pushes him to go to the airport and tell her he loves her. ( C )

At Phoebe’s OB-GYN appointment, she and Rachel discover that she is having triplets. (B)

Phoebe tells Frank and Alice about the three babies and they freak about how they will support them. Frank decides to quit refrigerator school. Phoebe wants to prevent that which keeps her on the new career track. (B)

At the airport, before she gets on the plane, Ross tells Emily that he loves her. She says thfriendsank you. (C )

(I’m going to guess this is where the act break falls. I forgot to write it down when I was watching.)

In the boys apartment, all stories are recapped. (A/B/C)

In the girls’ apartment, the guys take a break from porn and Pheobe plans a new career . (A/B)

Ross and Emily talk on the phone and she tells him there’s someone else. (C )

In the guy’s apartment, Monica encourages Ross to fight for Emily. (C )

Ross calls from England – Emily isn’t there (C )

Emily shows up at the guy’s apartment looking for Ross. (C )

Emily and Ross talk on the phone long distance. She broke up with the other guy. She loves Ross. (C )

Joey and Chandler finally turn off the porn. But then they turn back on the tv and it’s still there. (A)

In the tag: Phoebe shows the babies on the ultrasound to Frank and Alice. (B)

The stories are fairly balanced in the number of scenes/beats devoted to them. The tv porn story involves 5 beats, Phoebe and her babies take up 7 beats and Ross and Emily’s story goes for 8 beats.

Despite the episode being named for the porn, it is really Ross’s show. A big section of the episode is devoted to it — six second act beats in a row in fact.

It’s not a complicated, twisty-turny tale. Instead it’s a simple straight line played for comedy and a little warmth of heart. Ross declares his love and in so doing, makes a fool of himself — twice. The first time by saying he loves her at the airport. The second time by going to England. Monica spurs him into action twice as well – sending him to the airport in the first place and then encouraging him to go to England. Emily place-holds her feelings twice as well: on the phone saying there’s someone else and then again when she turns up at the guys’ apartment and says she wants to talk to Ross. It isn’t necessary to move the story forward as long as there is still comedy to be wrung from the beat.

In the next episode of the fourth season, The One with Rachel’s New Dressfriends, story by Ted Cohen & Andrew Reich, teleplay by Jill Condon & Amy Toomin, we see another example of minimalist plotting.

Again there are three storylines. Pheobe seeking a baby name takes 6 beats. Ross agonizing over Emily and Susan together in England takes 5 beats and Rachel’s adventures trying to get new beau Josh into the sack takes 4 beats, some of which are quite long.

Phoebe’s baby naming plot goes like this: Alice asks her to name one of the babies. Chandler and Joey each want her to name the baby after then and point out all the good things about their names. Chandler and Joey slag each others’ names and Chandler realizes that his name is really dumb. Chandler decides he needs a new name. Phoebe tries to prove to Chandler that his name is good, finally announcing that she’ll name the baby after him and Chandler is triumphant.

In the Ross storyline, Ross’s ex-wife’s wife, Susan, goes off to England with Ross’s new girlfriend, Emily. He worries that Susan will turn Emily gay through three scenes. There’s very little story movement, but plenty of comedy.

As with Seinfeld, the simple story rules. And repeated beats work so long as there is still fresh comedy to be wrung from the moment.

2 Comments

  1. Claude wrote:

    Great analysis, Jill. Question: what exactly do you mean by beats? Do you mean scenes, or parts of scenes, as in “beats” from an actor’s perspective?

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    A writing beat is a unit of story. When you’re breaking the story, you come up with a sequence of moments that tell the story. Then you build scenes that play out the beats. Many scenes are single beat scenes: “Ross tells Emily he loves her.” Other scenes can carry multiple beats. Friends has a lot of multi-beat scenes. You’ll see scenes set in Central Perk for example, in which the characters from different sub-plots tell each other what’s going on in their storyline. Of course in scene form it just seems like friends telling each other what’s going on in their lives over coffee.

    There is another screenwriting beat: when you want to indicate that an actor should take a moment in dialogue, you add (beat) or for a longer pause (a few beats).

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink