FRIENDS WITHOUT BENEFITS: The kids of the mid-’90s have almost grown up with the popular sitcom ‘Friends’. This popular TV show managed to hit the chord with the audience of all the age-groups and is still holds a popular place in the TV listings. You can never get enough of Friends and it has grown to represent a culture of sorts.
Marta Kauffman, the creator of the popular sitcom herself confesses to state that the character of Ross Gellar on the show was developed keeping David Schwimmer in mind. Also, she says that he was one of the very first of the main leads to be finalised. However, not all believe that David Schwimmer got the popularity he deserved.
According to Dr Simone Knox, who works as an Associate Professor in Film & Television at the University of Reading, David Schwimmer’s performance was never valued as the rest of the characters on the show. In her book titled ‘Friends: A Reading of the Sitcom’, she goes on to explain that while Schwimmer’s performance is based on slapstick, which is regarded as the most basic form of humour, however, does not explain the worldwide appeal.
She quotes that ‘This dismissal, by audiences, critics or scholars, neglects to explore and assess the challenges and intricacies of a successful physical comedic performance, and the particular skills and craft involved, which are prevalent in a number of scenes in Friends, especially those involving Schwimmer.’
According to Dr. Knox, Schwimmer is a trained actor with a fine history of experience in the Chicago Theatre scene, had the right kind of knowledge about performance opportunities and challenges that are regular of the multi-camera filming that occurs prior to production. He was also well aware of how to give a stellar performance in front of a live audience. A regular viewer of the popular sitcom can easily observe David Schwimmer’s strength of physicality, immaculate comic timings and vocal delivery. Some of the most memorable scenes of ‘Friends’ are the ones that involve the super-goofy yet super cool acts by David Schwimmer.
Remember the scene in the ‘Tanning booth’? This was perhaps one of the most hilarious scenes, where Ross visits the Tanning booth to get himself a nice artificial tan. The scene proceeds with the attendee explaining to him that he needs to countdown to a certain number before he flips again for the even tan tone. However, in a typical Ross-fashion, he counts ‘Mississipily’ and ends up quite a few shades darker than required.
Also, one other episode which stays back in the memories of the fans is the one where Ross was stuck in Leather pants with a hot date. While the pants get too hot and itchy to handle, he rushes to the bathroom to try and remove it, only to get is all the more complicated in the process.
These scenes along with quite a few more clearly show-case Schwimmer’s command over his craft. His signature goofiness and a certain ‘tone’ to his voice have all made the character of Ross Geller much loved, yet unappreciated. Experts argue that perhaps, it was Ross’s portrayal of the comparatively ‘normal’ character as compared to the other main leads had actually contributed to his being overshadowed.
He was a Paleontologist, with a regular job, an ex-wife and a kid. He had the knowledge and was well educated. He was not ‘quirky’ like Phoebe, or extra sarcastic like Chandler, or too selfish like Rachel, or suffered from OCD like Monica or had a tough time keeping his pants-on like Joey.
His performance on the show has been underrated and it is quite evident on the fact that he has not managed to win as many awards as the other actors on the show.