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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 12:41 GMT
Contemplating life after Friends

By Michael Osborn
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Friends
Friends' last hurrah: what can replace the seasoned favourite?
The cosy world of the American sitcom seems to be coming to an abrupt end.

An uncanny twist of fate means that Friends, Frasier and Sex and The City are kicking off their final series on British television within days of each other.

These programmes have not only bagged countless awards and ruled the ratings roost, but have become so dependable that it is hard to imagine a Friday night without them.

Seeing them all slide beneath the horizon together will prove a sad passing.

The burning question is what could possibly replace them?

Spin-off

The antics of our six Friends have become a lynchpin of Channel 4's Friday night schedules, and proved a perennial favourite with US viewers.

Early evening re-runs and DVD box sets will fuel our nostalgia, but from the ashes of the show could come future salvation.

Joey (Matt LeBlanc) has emerged as the Friends character to land a spin-off comedy based around his quest to become a successful actor.

Steve Carell
Steve Carell is to play the US version of David Brent

US network NBC is hoping to emulate the success of Frasier, who swapped Boston bar Cheers for a radio show in coffee-guzzling Seattle - which has stretched to 11 series.

But without the essential chemistry of his Friends cohorts and the familiar backdrop of Central Perk's comfy sofas, it remains to be seen whether Joey will succeed.

Meanwhile, Ross (David Schwimmer) is swapping soft furnishings and cappuccino for the director's chair and a possible sitcom in the pipeline.

Buffy co-star Alyson Hannigan is starring in the pilot of Home and Hardware, which is about that comedy stalwart - the dysfunctional family.

American Office

Another slice of real life with firmly British roots has already proved a cult hit in the US and became the toast of the Golden Globes.

The Office is being remoulded for the mainstream American palate, and NBC must be hoping that some Ricky Gervais magic will bring them a fresh ratings puller.

Frasier
Seattle series Frasier is drawing to a close after 11 series
But that's of little comfort to British comedy viewers, who might find it a struggle taking to a sitcom with loose connections to the much-enjoyed original.

While the formula for the next big thing is still being worked on, there are sitcoms already out there which may have the power to fill the gap and soak up many bereft viewers.

From smaller network Fox, home of reality giants American Idol and Joe Millionaire, comes Arrested Development, dubbed a comedy about "a wealthy family who lost everything".

It's been feted by the critics, but the all-important ratings have yet to match the acclaim.

CBS has Everybody Loves Raymond in its armoury, but the show has been going since 1996, so its fanbase is unlikely to suddenly mushroom with the loss of Friends and others.

Yet comedy lovers on both sides of the Atlantic will still have an established show to keep the fires burning in the evening schedules - Will and Grace.

Yawning gap

But the sitcom which prides itself on its gay credentials and sharp lines of dialogue has never quite reached the heights of adoration achieved by fellow New Yorkers, Friends.

So there may still be a yawning gap in the schedules when those final episodes have been aired and tears shed.

Britain rarely creates a comedy show which is so well loved and plods on for years, while few US comedies in recent years have become stalwarts like Friends and Frasier, or talking points like Sex and the City.

While we reel from the loss of those familiar, lighthearted characters and wait for their successors, it may be necessary to absorb ourselves in the darker worlds of Nip/Tuck and Six Feet Under.


SEE ALSO:
Actor Carell set for US Office
30 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
NBC tones down praise of Friends
23 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
LeBlanc signs for Friends spin-off
25 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
How The Office invaded Hollywood
26 Jan 04  |  Entertainment


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