Television: Reconsidering Friends

The kids-in-the-city sitcom just wanted to be liked, not admired. But in spite of itself, it helped redefine the idea of normal family life

In the Friends episode "The One Where No One Proposes"--in which Rachel Green has had Ross Geller's baby after a one-night stand--Ross's father gazes at the tiny girl in the hospital. "My first grandchild," he purrs. "What about Ben?" asks Ross, referring to his son by his lesbian ex-wife, born in the first season. "Well, of course Ben," Mr. Geller covers up. "I meant my first granddaughter."

Is it farfetched that a man would forget his own grandson? Sure. But the gag works, because many of us also forgot Ben existed, even though he figured heavily in the sitcom's first two...

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