Last weekend was the 14th anniversary of the “Friends” series finale. And while that’s not a very big anniversary, you might be celebrating with a Netflix binge if you’re a fan of the show. Or maybe you could care less. In Sitka and Portland, two friends who both feel strongly about “Friends” have made a bet. That bet has spawned 54 podcast episodes with no end in sight. KCAW’s Katherine Rose reports.
The laugh track, the upbeat theme song, the fictional coffee shop. Even if you’ve never seen the show, when you hear their names — Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, and Monica — you probably know exactly where to place them in television history. “Friends.” Maybe you loved show about NYC twenty-somethings, with its cast stacked full of 90’s icons like Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox. But, then again, maybe you hated it.
So how do you cope if your friends have differing opinions about “Friends?” If you’re Jozi Bently and Brandon Saiz, you make a bet and then a podcast about it.
“He started out with 236 points,” Jozi says about Brandon. “There are 236 episodes of Friends. He was sure he was going to hate every single one of them. He just gave himself 236 points. And every time he sort of enjoys it a little bit he’s gotta concede and give me a point.”
Jozi and Brandon’s friendship spans the past 20 years and thousands of miles. She’s near Portland, he’s in Sitka. They met at college in the 90s. (If you want to do the math, Friends was in its second season). Jozi was a big fan.
“I’d watch it every Thursday night with this random group of people in my dorm room,” says Jozi. “And Brandon was never there because he played hockey. So he never told us how much he hated it. We didn’t know that.”
The revelation about Brandon’s distaste for Friends came just a few years ago. And, with it, an idea. What if Jozi, who loves the show, and Brandon, who hates it, rewatch the entire series. They’ll recap and discuss each episode weekly.
Then, Jozi says, comes the scoring.”Based on whether or not Brandon liked, whether or not he could tolerate what he saw.”
Called ‘Moo Point,’ their show gets its namesake from a famous Friends scene. Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, is asking for dating advice. Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc, responds.
“Rachel, the big question is ‘Does he like you?’ Because if he doesn’t like you, this is all a moo point.”
“A moo point?” Rachel asks.
“Yeah, it’s like a cow’s opinion,” Joey says. “It doesn’t matter. It’s moo.”
The term “moo point” was a natural fit for their series.
“It was pretty indicative of our podcast, because whether or not Brandon likes the show, it’s a Moo Point,” Jozi says. “We’re podcasting, we’re having fun, we’re all friends.”
Through Skype, Jozi and Brandon have recorded 53 episodes. They just finished watching season 4. So far, Brandon has conceded on 60 episodes. He’s found things about the show he can appreciate.
“The key for my enjoyment is when Jennifer Aniston gets on her great actor train and rides that to victory,” Brandon says. “She has the ability to carry an episode better than anyone in that show.”
But one character really grates Brandon the wrong way. Ross.
“I was in the Coast Guard for 20 years. In food service, and I was on vessels,” Brandon says. “A lot of my time was spent making sure people were happy. And when I wasn’t doing that I was trying to make sure I wasn’t waking them up. I think it turned me into an overly empathetic person. Ross is the opposite of that. If he’s trying to make someone feel better, it’s for his own good. It just agitates my soul.”
Jozi says she doesn’t have a desperate need for Brandon to love the show, but she hopes he can connect with some aspects of it. It’s helped her through big life transitions.
“The nostalgia that that show invokes is all-encompassing for me,” Jozi says. “It takes me from high school, through college, through a failed marriage, through a divorce, to my new husband. All of these things happened and bonded over friends.”
More than anything, the podcast has opened doors for them to reflect on their own lives and find common ground with their listeners beyond television.
“Jozi and I get this thing where we’re back in the 90’s again talking on phones,” Brandon says. “Everyone else gets a peek at who we are as people.”
“People are listening to us every week, hearing tidbits about our lives,” says Jozi. “Then they get excited and talk to us about those things that may have been a one-off comment for us, but, Oh yeah! That is really intimate and interesting and now we’re bonding with a whole new community of people.”
A community of people who might, “Be there for you,” even if your job’s a joke, you’re broke, or your love life’s DOA.