Volume 3, Number 10
Ode to a Television Legend
Hey kids! Skippy is with you again. Friends, you and I live in an era of the most amazing renaissance of technological advancement in the history of mankind. Every day we wake up to find that science has conquered some other insurmountable problem. Every day we find that computers are more powerful and cheaper than ever before. Every day some new invention moves us closer to the realm of science fiction. We have had to pass a law banning the cloning of humans for God's sake. Think about that for moment kids, the ability to clone humans is so close that we have to legislate against it. These are indeed some historically stunning times. So can someone please explain to me why it is in these enlightened times my friend and I drove around for four hours last Saturday looking for a decent strip club? Life is odd kids and don't let anyone tell you any different.
But that is not the point of this month's column. It could be of course, I could easily spend the next 1000 words or so talking about what is wrong with a country with such screwed up priorities that it doesn't provide proper entertainment for its citizens. I won't though, because with the coming of the new TV season it is happy time in this great land. With that in mind I am going to devote this month's missive to one of the most beloved television actors of our era. I am going to pen an homage to a man that reminds us all of the beauty and joy one man can bring to the world. That's right kids, I am going to talk today about... about... just a minute I'm looking... oh hell, I don't remember his name, he's the guy that plays Gunther on "friends", that albino guy that is in love with Rachel. Anyway, his name is unimportant, what really matters is that he is without peer when it comes to creepy fringe characters on television today. Try and name another creepy fringe character that brings the depth and emotion that Gunther brings to his role.
Year in and year out, Gunther is the rock on which "friends" is built. From his very first line, in which he illuminated for Joey the fickle finger of fate, Gunther has brought a spark to the show that they couldn't get anywhere else. Even when they tried to replace him as the creepy fringe character with Eddie, Chandler's obviously psychotic roommate, Gunther rolled on. That's because Gunther understands the art of being subtly strange. He looks normal enough, often he acts normal enough, but you somehow sense that there is something definitely off kilter about this guy and what's more you find it funny. That's acting kids, unless of course he really is that strange and they just let him out of his closet once a week to say his lines, which is entirely possible, because the world is weird place in the best of times.
Gunther speaks to us because in a way he is us. Gunther is on the outside looking in, he is on the fringe. Sure he gets invited to the parties, but he never gets to hang out in the apartment. Much the same way that we the audience are invited over once a week for half an hour, Gunther is close enough to see that fun, but not really join in, save vicariously. Even his relationship with Rachel is a study in fandom gone amuck. During the second season when they had us listen in on the friends' thoughts while Ross was telling a boring story, Gunther was thinking, "What does she see in him, I love Rachel, I want to marry her." Which is exactly what several million men (and probably a few women) were thinking at that point. Through his unrequited Goddess worship and his reaction to it, Gunther gives a voice to all of those losers that pine away in "friends" chat rooms, certain that if given the chance, they could make Rachel or Ross or Monica love them. They couldn't of course, because you will notice that none of the friends spend their time in chat rooms pining after TV stars.
Gunther is a sort of safety valve, a way of letting fans know (if even subliminally) that they can look but they can't touch. That they are more than welcome to come and hang for half an hour every week, but that's all, and then they will be expected to leave quietly. Gunther voices what the more unbalanced fans are thinking and allows us to see just how ridiculous those thoughts are. Gunther is all of this and more... Or maybe he just has funny hair, tough to tell.