What we have here is a 47 page Shooting script (download here) dated September 26, 1996, written by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. This script contains a Teaser, two Acts and a Tag (2/21/17/2).
Yes, that only adds up to 42 pages. I know.
You see, one of the interesting things about this script is that the first five pages contain some interesting tidbits, most notably, a short rundown for the episode (3 pages long). It's not a whole lot to look at but it is an interesting little bit of insight into the show and kind of cool to see an episode of this series broken down in that way.
That said, having now read the episode, I think this is the first time where I really felt like I took a wrong turn in my choices. This is one solid example where I probably should've grabbed the Pilot or something, instead of an episode from Season 3.
Not that I have anything against Friends, I just... wasn't really a fan of the show. I do remember the characters (with a zeitgeist show like that, I'm sure Ross, Rachel, Chandler and the bunch are still somewhat present in most people's memory) but for the life of me, I couldn't tell you if I ever had a favourite episode or quotable quote.
Long story short, The One With The Flashback was probably a fantastic treat for the fans of the show (showing viewers, I believe, what the characters were up to before we got to know them) but for someone like myself, the whole thing just seemed utterly disjointed and all over the map. (Was that one of the 'things' about Friends? I don't know).
Either way, it felt like a mess of a read to me -- I read through it but, honestly, not much stuck to my ribs. There was one pretty funny physical gag (page 25), where Joey -- meeting Monica for the first time -- is invited to her apartment for some lemonade and he strips down to the buff, because he thinks 'Lemonade' = Sex, but is shocked to learn that it is actually just lemonade.
But other than that, I read through this script and very much got the impression that this was not written for me (the non-regular viewer). I blame myself here, really -- if I had been a regular viewer with a vested interest in the characters on this show, I'm sure it would've been a hum-dinger of an episode... but as someone on the outside looking in, I found that I really didn't care (or laugh) all that much.
On a technical level, I did notice that there were a lot of parentheticals that gave the actors specific directions on how to read their lines -- aka, (Weepy) or (Wincing) or (Interest Increasing) or (Smug). Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here, this being another one of those things I've been explicitly told over the years that 'thou shalt not do', and say that this is probably okay after you've had your show running for a while and the actors and writers have formed a decent bond of trust.
'Cause I know that, for myself -- granted, effectively a nobody writer at this point -- I was explicitly told "if you tell them how to act, actors are likely to do the exact opposite, just to fuck with you."
Anyways, I think one of the consistent, eye-opening things I've experienced already -- yes, only 5 scripts into the haul -- is just how much there are no 'rules'. Are there things that piss people off? Hell yes -- I'm sure directors don't love getting camera angles dictated to them or actors don't much care for being told how to act -- but, so far, I've seen no "this is why you're not working here anymore" rules other than the classic "get your shit in on time and please have it not suck".
It really seems to me that if it's a good script, it's a good script. Period. If it tells the story in the most effective and compelling way and allows for everyone to do their jobs as quickly and easily as possible, then do what you've gotta do to make that happen.
And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that just yet (throwing the 'rulebook' out the window).
Then again, the next batch of scripts may just flip that whole concept on its head.
Next up, for tomorrow, is Deadwood 1x01.
Hrmmm... this could be interesting.