NEW YORK — So "Friends" is ending on Thursday, and I can't bring it in my heart to care.
Most people would simply leave it at that; but armed with a relentless and ruthless capacity for navel-gazing that most would dismiss simply as obsessive narcissism - were it not for the fact that I have my own column - I've decided to go further.
To really get to the roots of why this phenomenon (which has grabbed the front pages of magazines and the lead stories on entertainment websites as desperately as the protagonist of "Super Size Me" reaches for a nice green salad after a month at fast food joints) means less to me than missing the first several minutes of "Scrubs," I've decided to use one of the oldest tools of philosophy, the Socratic method, to help me come to the truth of the matter. To do so, I've enlisted my old friend, Sitcommodus, a student of Plato's from the old days.
JEREMY: Hail, Sitcommodus, master of the logic of the thirty-minute laugh track!
SITCOMMODUS: And right back at you. Plato sends his regrets: he's watching the marathon.
JEREMY: Truly? Has a daring runner come to Athens, to sing of the Greeks' glorious victory o'er the dreaded Persians?
SITCOMMODUS: No, no, they're showing all the episodes of "One Tree Hill" back to back on the WB. You know how Plato loves teen angst.
SITCOMMODUS: And don't talk like that. That pseudo-classic stuff went out with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
JEREMY: Sorry. So, are you going to help me out with this?
SITCOMMODUS: Sure. Ready?
JEREMY: As I'll ever be.
SITCOMMODUS: Can we say that the question concerning you and "Friends" is one of caring?
JEREMY: Yes, Sitcommodus. I just don't care that "Friends" is ending.
SITCOMMODUS: Can we say that there are different kinds of caring, or not caring? In other words, were I to say that, oh, "The Big House" or "The Stones" were going off the air, you would not care, either?
JEREMY: No, Sitcommodus, I wouldn't.
SITCOMMODUS: But your not caring about the end of "Friends" is different from your not caring about the end of "The Big House," is it not?
JEREMY: No, Sitcommodus - I mean, yes, Sitcommodus. It is different.
SITCOMMODUS: Then we must examine further. Is caring a state of permanence? That is, once you care about a thing, must you always care about it?
JEREMY: I'm not certain, Sitcommodus.
SITCOMMODUS: Take, for example, "Sex and the City." You once cared deeply about this show, did you not?
JEREMY: I mean, deeply, I don't know, deeply, what does that even mean, anyway?
SITCOMMODUS: Come on. We're on a search for the truth here.
JEREMY: ... yes.
SITCOMMODUS: And yet, if I recall correctly our conversation over last year, you remarked, after a few choice comments about the attributes of Helen of Troy, that "you didn't give two hoots who Carrie Bradshaw ended up with, or even if she died by accidentally impaling herself on the heels of one of her Mahnolo Blahniks."
JEREMY: Yes, I did say that. Well, maybe not "hoots."
SITCOMMODUS: I'm a family philosopher. So is it possible to say that you can care and then not care?
JEREMY: Yes, Sitcommodus.
SITCOMMODUS: Can we say, then, that your feelings about "Friends" are different from your feelings about "The Big House" because in the former you cared and then ceased to care, while in the latter you never cared at all?
JEREMY: Yes, Sitcommodus, I believe that has much to do with it.
SITCOMMODUS: I mean, how could you not care those first few seasons. With Ross and Rachel ... and the writing was so strong, and there weren't all those imitators, and it was boom times for New York, with the economy going so well, and a show about New York seemed so right, somehow, and there was that freshness, that energy.
JEREMY: These are hardly philosophical points, Sitcommodus.
SITCOMMODUS: And that theme song! "I'll be there for you-uuu ... ." It was so snappy! Remember, before you wanted to lose your lunch every time you heard it? And so you watched it on tape or TiVo just to avoid the song, meaning that by definition it was no longer appointment television?
JEREMY: Now I know why you're just a disciple and never went out on your own.
SITCOMMODUS: But then it got older, and more desperate, and sure, you wanted to see what happened to the characters, but sort of out of duty, like when you go to your third cousin's wedding ...
JEREMY: I like my third cousin -
SITCOMMODUS: And that's something else; all those marriages! I mean, yes, they were getting older, they had to change, but we don't want them to change, we do enough changing for them, that's why we like them in the first place, we want them to remain funny flies in amber ...
JEREMY: Have you been going to those wild symposiums again?
SITCOMMODUS: But if they don't change, they get stale, the writers get tired - how could they not? - and they rely on the same types of jokes, of situations, and by the time we get back to Ross and Rachel again - again - any kind of affection for the idea of Ross and Rachel has been replaced by some tired sense of necessity, which, I might add, is a very Greek concept ...
JEREMY: You know, all this may be true, but what about helping me to realize this on my own? What about helping me help myself to learn and become better?
SITCOMMODUS: Helping? Bettering? I'm the philosopher of the sitcom. You want bettering, get Historychannelopolis.
And with that, we ended our conversation and went to join Plato, who proved to me beyond any logical doubt that my attraction to Haley on "One Tree Hill" meant that she was also attracted to me. He may not be such a realist, but he's one remarkable man with a syllogism.