The Caricature Curse

I made a pretty bold claim on my podcast the other day. As I am on my third rewatch of New Girl, I stated that I thought the kooky sitcom in the same vein as How I Met Your Mother and Friends, was the best show out of the trio. Better than Friends, arguably the best sitcom of all time that ran for ten seasons? Better than HIMYM, the next New York based sitcom centered on Ted and his search for love? You may think I’m mad, but New Girl steers away from the curse that befalls plenty of sitcoms to cancel them before their time. I am of course talking about the curse of the caricature.

It may be redundant to say that either Friends or HIMYM suffered any curse. Both had long lifespans and garnered fans all over the world. The cast of Friends reportedly make around $20 million every year on residuals from repeats alone. The actors from HIMYM are all worth tnes of millions and are all instantly recognisable from their roles. So too are the lead actors from New Girl. Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield and Lamorne Morris will forever be known as Nick, Schmidt and Winston. Zooey Deschanel enjoyed some notoriety before this, starring opposite Will Ferrell in Elf (2003) and opposite Jim Carrey in Yes, Man (2008). However, she will now always be Jessica Day. While New Girl is not as widely popular as the other two shows I’ve mentioned and did not make near as much money as them either, the actors have enjoyed wild success from the show that has allowed them to pursue indie projects and more personal roles.
However, the characters from Friends and HIMYM suffer heavily from the curse of caricature.

Friends' Cast to Reunite in HBO Max Special - The New York Times
The cast of Friends in all their 90s glory

Nobody can deny the downward trajectory of Joey’s intelligence. Matt LeBlanc played the dimwitted lothario to perfection, but this was not always the character’s case. In the first few seasons Joey may have been down the pecking order when it came to booksmarts, but he could make clever jokes and join in the general banter. Cut to the latter end of the series and he can’t even repeat three French words together after hearing and seeing Phoebe saying them. Somewhere after Monica and Chandler’s wedding Joey got a crayon lodged in his brain, á la Homer Simpson.
Monica Bing née Geller suffered the same fate. A talented chef with a liking for clean surfaces was transformed into the nagging wife intent on killing germs and fun in the impossibly nice Manhattan apartment. Yes, Monica may have always wanted marriage and kids. She famously broke up with Richard because of his resistance to this milestone in their relationship but those things consumed her character until she was an annoyance more than a funny member of the cast.
Friends has come under criticism for things such as the character of Ross and his creepy tendencies and the slightly homophobic nature of some of the jokes. I think if you study any piece of television or film from the late nineties and early noughties then you will find some hint of intolerance. I think the worst thing the show did was devolve two of the main cast into shadowy caricatures of themselves.

Surprising things you didn't know about 'How I Met Your Mother' - Insider

The same can be seen in HIMYM, especially in Lily’s character. While Barney and Ted go through some sort of caricature process, they eventually grow and develop. Marshall, too, goes through a long process of learning about himself and his job. Robin and Lily, however, are left to the side, becoming one dimensional. Lily especially becomes devoted to meddling in her friends’ love lives and lives in general. While at the beginning of the show’s run the five friends were all life like, at the end Lily is just an annoying wife of a friend who can see no wrong in her invasive ways. I may be taking her trajectory a bit seriously, but several Reddit threads on HIMYM devolve into comments on how Lily went from a beloved member of the group to a hated character that nobody really liked.

FOX Orders a Shortened New Girl Final Season

Are Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece odd and quirky? Yes. Do they become weirder as the show goes on? Yes. Does this lower their quality as characters? No. Do they still get laughs? Yes.
While I may not be the biggest fan of the final season of New Girl, the evolution of the characters and the direction the show took as the gang got older and more mature puts it above the other two for me. Maybe I finally took off my rose-tinted glasses and looked back on the shows that I loved during my formative years with a more critical eye. I still love all three shows, but if I belly-laugh all the way through seven seasons of one show and barely smirk at the other two anymore then I think I’ve found my new favourite.

What do you think? Am I gone mad? Let me know 😀

Check out my latest podcast if you want to hear more of my bold claims and nonsensical rambles!

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