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Narrative Structure in "Friends": Exposition

by Jeremy Butler

Series characters have a personal history of which we are usually conscious and to which references are occasionally made. On most series programs, however, these personal histories are rather vague and ill defined. The past is a murky region in series television. The present tense of a specific episode is usually all that matters.


If we examine a specific episode of Friends, we can see how series narrative is structured and how it is being blended with the serial structure. In “The One With Chandler’s Work Laugh” (January 21, 1999), the exposition begins before the credits. In a short scene, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) pumps Joey for more information about Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) getting together. As she quizzes him, the viewer is provided with background information and one story arc for this episode is established. After the general program credits end, and while the credits for this specific episode are superimposed over the image, two more story arcs are begun: Ross announces that an ex-wife of his is getting married and expresses his frustration at being alone, and Monica and Chandler attend an office party at which he kowtows to his boss and is heard doing his fake “work laugh”. 

Narrative Structure in "Friends": Part 1

TV narrative structure -- the series.

from Friends (1999)
Creator: NBC
Distributor: NBC
Posted by Jeremy Butler