I never really cared much for Friends. Sure, I harbored a quasi-psychotic obsession with Jennifer Aniston in the early days of the program, but so did every other adolescent male in America. I vividly recall the day that Rolling Stone came out with her on the cover all kinds of naked; in my high school, that mag was a hotter commodity than the key to the Physics 2X midterm. But as I grew older and wiser (read: my aggressive letter-writing campaign to Aniston was going nowhere; her publicist said she was dating some douche named Brad), my viewing of the show decreased dramatically. After that, pretty much the only reason I tuned in was to see where Matthew Perry was in his vicious circle of coke addiction.
You could tell just by his weight! Was he skinny, on-point, snappy Chandler? Then he was on the yay. Was he bloated, frustrated, lumbering Chandler? Looks like someone's been shacking up at Betty Ford's house! This remains the show's only appeal for me, and any conversations with friends about Friends now go like this:
"Hey, Adam, Friends is on. Do you want to watch it?"
Mile High Life
"Well, that depends," I'll say. "Is it Fat Chandler or Skinny Chandler?"
"Chandler. Is he fat or skinny?"
"Oh, he's fat."
"Okay, I want to watch."
Then I will laugh my ass off watching Fat Chandler meander angrily around the set in whatever weight-masking sweater they've stuffed him in, absently tossing off his lines, and I will picture the blow-ups between scenes that only the live studio audience got to see and then had to sign waivers promising not to discuss.
Goddamnit, Schwimmer, will you just hit your fucking line already so we can get the fuck out of here? I mean, Jesus Christ, man, I'm Matthew Fucking Perry! I don't have time for this amateur horseshit! I was on The West Wing!
Safe to say, any enjoyment I got from Friends was for all the wrong reasons. So imagine what my response would be if someone were to come up and say, "Hey, Adam, would you like to watch a shitty knockoff of Friends, a show that you already find to be shitty, and also this new show doesn't have anyone remotely as hot as Jennifer Aniston or the riotous, albeit unintentional, comic relief of Fat Chandler?"
Allow me to introduce you to a little program called Mile High Life. On YouTube, you'll find a promo and four seven- to eight-minute episodes of a sitcom "about Colorado natives whose lives are intertwined through family and friendship. The show is designed to help promote Colorado commerce and tourism through comedic entertainment." Now, go ahead and watch a few episodes. Afterward, you'll wonder if YouTube has virtual barf bags. Because if it did, you would right-click, download one of those fuckers to your desktop and then puke all over your screen.
By the opening credits, I knew I was in for a shitstorm when various face bubbles popped up on a static shot of the Denver skyline and a perky narrator quickly explained all the characters, described their wacky relationships and ended with this: "People ask me, 'Amber, doesn't it make you crazy?' I say no, that's just my Mile High Life."
Suddenly I felt bad for talking so much shit about Empty Nest.
Then the opening shot of the very first episode panned in on what we are to assume is your typical Denver household, and it's a fucking suburban McMansion!
"That was Greenwood Village — the Preserves, actually," explains Wendy Duncan, creator and driving force behind Mile High Life. "We just filmed there for the pilot. I guess it's kind of a suburban Mile High Life."
Duncan, who funded this pilot herself, had been creating dance, musical and social productions around town for nine years when she got tired of seeing talent move away to New York or L.A. So she decided to make a sitcom of her own — by Denver people, starring Denver people, about Denver people — so that there would be a viable national TV show right here in the Mile High City. Or at least the Suburban Mile High City.
And while that is indeed a fine and noble idea, a hit show is going to need more than incorrigible, snoopy neighbors named Bernie who come over to visit the kids carrying baskets of "special prize-winning muffins." No, I am not making that up. Nor am I making up the cliche gay friend, Nestor — described in the opening credits as "and Nestor? Well, Nestor's just Nestor" — or the following snippet of conversation, which takes place in a salon between one of the main characters and her hairdresser, as they watch their friend Donovan exit after a waxing.
GIRL IN CHAIR: You know, Donovan has almost no body hair. So what was he having waxed?
HAIRDRESSER: Let's just say he won't be riding his bike home.
Cue laughter from the laugh track. Yes, there is a laugh track. Christ almighty, I half-expected to hear zany BOING-ing sounds, see some guy pop out from the shadows and blast everyone with a seltzer bottle, maybe a clown honking an oversized horn! But instead, what I saw was more of this inane, trite crap as the characters moved to such featured locations as the Cork House and the plot sluggishly limped along without even the hint of a mercy kill.
After twenty minutes or so of Mile High Life, I stepped away from the computer and started banging my head against the wall. But apparently not all viewers have reacted as harshly. There are several complimentary comments posted beneath the YouTube clips, and Duncan reports that she is in talks with Comcast right now to air the episodes locally. She's also putting together a grant proposal to snag a $50,000 tourism stipend from the state. And who knows? She'll probably get that grant and the show will become a huge hit, because America loves mediocrity, and we need all the mindless drivel we can get to keep our minds off the fact that pretty much every country in the world wants to kill us.
And when they try, I'll be sitting in my sweaty underground bunker, patiently awaiting the nuclear holocaust, eating cans of pinto beans and probably watching episode after fucking episode of Mile High Life. But hopefully by then, one of the characters will have developed an off-screen coke problem.
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