Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One of the Earliest TV Writer/Fan Interactions on the Internet

Earlier tonight, I hung up a framed quote on my wall, next to the door... Which reminded me of the peephole frame in Monica's apartment on Friends. Which then, in turn, reminded me of the magna doodle gag in Chandler & Joey's apartment, and how it was used by a writer on the show in an online debate that he was, indeed, a writer on the show.
The episode in question was season 5's, "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS." You can see a screencap of the magna doodle in the above picture. It aired on Oct. 15, 1998.

1998 was still relatively early in terms of the Internet where the general public was concerned. AOL was still big, people were still using dial-up, and online forums were mostly on Usenet. You could find a "newsgroup" for just about anything on Usenet. A popular sitcom was no exception.

In the newsgroup alt.tv.friends, a debate had begun between regular posters "EvilJo" and "MayNotLast" (MNL for short), which ended up with MayNotLast stating that he was one of the writers on the show, thus nullifying the argument from EvilJo regarding something related to Chandler (for the curious, you can find out what the debate was in a search).

Of course, EvilJo would not simply take MNL at his word, so he promised that he would prove it with the next episode that he was involved with, which turned out to be "TOW Phoebe Hates PBS." He had worked it into the plot of the episode, where Phoebe would call Joey an "evil genius" on the show, so that anyone watching who noticed the "Evil Joe" scribble on the magna doodle would not think the message was odd or out of place, but also prove to the regulars on alt.tv.friends and EvilJo, that he was indeed a writer on the show.

Since Michael Curtis is credited as the writer of this episode, it's pretty logical to infer that he was the one posting as MNL on the newsgroup. This, in addition to the fact that, after he left Friends to work on another sitcom, MNL stopped posting to alt.tv.friends, makes those who were regulars in the newsgroup pretty confident that he was MNL.

Why am I posting about this? Because I was one of the regulars in that newsgroup, and a quick Google search turned up nothing about this little piece of Friends trivia, so that I thought I would put it out there on the web (even though this blog sees almost no traffic).