updated 5/6/2004 11:56:52 AM ET 2004-05-06T15:56:52

Guests: Gary David Goldberg, Robert Thompson, Tim Brooks, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Morgan Fairchild, Jessica Hecht, Jane Sibbett

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  No one told you it was going to be this way.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Parting “Friends.”

Television prepares to Mark another milestone as one of the most successful sitcoms ever wraps up its decade long run. 

COURTNEY COX, ACTRESS:  My God, it hurts to even joke about it.

NORVILLE:  Tonight, the finale phenomenon, from TV‘s ultimate “M*A*S*H” smash to the passionate climax of “Sex and the City.”  A look back at how some of your favorite shows toasted their last call. 

Plus, the ties that bind.  What is it that makes these characters such an endearing part of our lives?  And are they losing their jobs to the reality craze? 

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL:  You‘re fired.

NORVILLE:  And a few familiar faces from “Friends.”

It‘s the show that took the term guest star to a whole new level. 

BRAD PITT, ACTOR:  Typical.

NORVILLE:  Tonight, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Morgan Fairchild join us to bid their old friends a fond farewell. 

MORGAN FAIRCHILD, ACTRESS:  Here‘s the kiss.  Here‘s the good-bye. 

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORVILLE:  And good evening.

All good things must come to an end, even in prime-time television.  After 10 years on the air and 236 episodes, it‘s time to say good-bye to the mega hit TV show “Friends.”

NBC began the countdown to the “Friends” finale two months ago when Lisa Kudrow‘s character Phoebe finally got married.  And tomorrow night, an estimated more than 50 million people are expected to tune in to what could be the biggest and most promoted must-see TV in a very long time. 

Tonight, a look at “Friends” from a rather unique vantage point. 

Plus, in this hour, we‘ll take a look back at television history and see what it‘s like to say good-bye.  Why finales are, in some cases, actually bigger than the run of the show. 

Everything from “Seinfeld” to “M*A*S*H” and then the exceptions, like “I Love Lucy.”

My first guest knows something about saying good-bye to a hit television show.  As the creator of “Family Ties,” his program ran for seven years and was at the top of its game in 1989 when the cast and producers decided it was time to move on. 

Now the creator of “Family Ties” joins me now, Gary David Goldberg. 

Good evening.  Nice to see you. 

GARY DAVID GOLDBERG, “FAMILY TIES” CREATOR:  Nice to have—Nice to be with you. 

NORVILLE:  “Friends” has been No. 1, in the top 10 anyway, for the last 10 years.  Your show was No. 1 when it was on the air. 

How do you know when it‘s time to pull the plug and say let‘s move on?

GOLDBERG:  Well, that‘s a difficult decision, and an emotional decision.  You know, over the years you develop such respect for the actors, for the characters you‘ve created, and for the audience and your relationship with that audience.

And on our show, we were kind of really determined not to overstay our welcome. 

In the year before, you know, we had the natural progression of families growing, and we were doing a scene in the kitchen, and Alex was, you know, still in a fight with Mallory about use of the telephone.  And Michael Fox turned to me and he said, “Gary, haven‘t I worked this out by now?”

And I thought, “OK, we may be getting close to having to go off.” 

NORVILLE:  Was that actually a moment when you started reeling as a producer that maybe he can‘t be the kid any more, and that this show might have run its course?

GOLDBERG:  And there was also the external fact, you know, that Mike had become, you know, a major movie star.  And you know, given his integrity, his decency, his thoughtfulness, he had never made that an issue on our show. 

You know, we had seven years with him, and Mike never asked to have his billing changed, his dressing room moved, his parking spot moved.  And he had always been there.

And I felt my commitment to him was the day that he shouldn‘t be there, you know, was the day the show would be over.  And it seemed like it was time to kind of turn him loose and turn us all loose to whatever else we were going to be doing in our lives. 

NORVILLE:  But before you do that, you‘ve got to come up with a way to say good-bye.  You and the writers have to get together and come up with some sort of a plausible way of pulling the plug on this program. 

How big of a challenge was that for you all on “Family Ties”?

GOLDBERG:  Well, it was big, you know, but we had the natural progression of the family.  So we had Alex, you know, moving to New York, to Wall Street.  We wanted to give him, you know, a good ending, so he could go off victorious.

And then everyone else kind of in the family, you know, related to his departure and, you know, and dealt with that.  That show was written primarily by Marc Lawrence and Alan Uger, and I think it was a really strong episode.  And NBC gave us an hour. 

It was very emotional.  What was going on within the story line, also was going on in our own lives. 

You know, the night that we filmed that, I think we had to start over about five times because the actors came out, did a few lines, started crying, and then everyone else started crying.  Then we‘d get everybody back in makeup, bring them back out, someone else would break down, you know.

And finally we ran out of tears and we were almost running out of makeup, and we were able to get it done. 

NORVILLE:  How much meddling did the suits at NBC do with the final episode?  I mean, clearly you guys had some objectives of business that you wanted to get finished, but they‘ve got a network to run and they want to make the most money possible on that episode. 

GOLDBERG:  Right.  None because Grant Tinker was there, Brandon Tartikoff, Jeff Zeganski (ph), Warren Littlefield.  You know, these were all people that we had grown the show with them and they were always terrific.

“Family Ties” would never have succeeded without Brandon Tartikoff. 

He had an insight into the strengths of that show might be way ahead of me. 

So I always say that we‘d be nowhere without Brandon.

And we had talked to him at the end, and everyone was pretty much excited about what it was we were trying to accomplish there in that last show.  They couldn‘t have been—they couldn‘t have been better. 

NORVILLE:  “Friends,” of course, isn‘t the only show that‘s going to be saying good-bye this coming month. 

The Kelsey Grammer show “Frasier” is also going to be doing its farewell episode coming up.  And a couple months ago, Kelsey Grammar was on the program.  

I just want to play the excerpt of what he said, looking ahead to that final episode. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELSEY GRAMMER, “FRASIER”:  Certainly something that I thought about, but creatively, everybody on the creative side in terms of writing, everyone was geared towards an 11th season and ending it there, knowing that we could finish well and that you could ostensibly leave the audience wanting more. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Kelsey also said once that every exit is also the beginning of something else.  With “Friends,” there will be the spin-off with the Joey character. 

What else should be being completed in that final episode, from your perspective as a producer?

GOLDBERG:  Well, I think we want to leave everyone—you know, they really have a difficult task here. 

Of course you want to leave everyone getting what it is you wanted them to get.  And you can‘t pander to that idea, but you want to supply some emotional closure that—you know, that makes them happy, as well. 

So it‘s really a very difficult task. 

NORVILLE:  When you talk about “Family Ties,” when you were producing the show, there was a kind of interesting family tie that‘s come full circle almost with the ending of the “Friends” program coming up. 

One of the executive producers is a young lady who gave notes to you. 

Do you want to clue the audience in on who that executive producer is?

GOLDBERG:  Well, I‘m thrilled to say that the executive producer of “Friends” the past few years is my daughter, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, who with her partner Scott Silveri has been executive producing it and has now created—they have created the “Joey” spin-off.

But Shana was 10 when “Family Ties” started, and she would read every script and give me notes.  And believe me, she was the only one that I listen to, and I would never go against her.  And...

NORVILLE:  Why, because she was your kid or because she was on the money?

GOLDBERG:  No, she was on the money.  And she was pure, and emotional and she would fight for her point of view. 

And it was really interesting because, as we would go through whatever was going on in our own life, and then she would see it reflected in the script, it was very funny. 

Because there was one episode where the father and the daughter weren‘t getting along, called “My Buddy, written by Alan Uger, but the story idea was mine.  And it was the only script where Shana came to me, and she was not happy and she said, “This script is told entirely from the father‘s point of view.”

And I said, “Well, you get your own show and you can tell it from your point of view.”  And she did. 

So I see myself mocked occasionally on the “Friends” episodes, so she‘s getting even. 

NORVILLE:  Has she told you anything about how the show might be coming to a conclusion?

GOLDBERG:  No.  Nothing.  I don‘t know if she doesn‘t trust me or what that means, but I know nothing. 

NORVILLE:  Maybe it‘s get even for that script way back when. 

GOLDBERG:  Perhaps. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a break.  We‘re going to come back. 

More with Gary David Goldberg in just a moment.

And we‘re also going to kind of expand the conversation, take a look at the sitcom genre.  No more “Friends,” no more “Frasier,” what is going on? 

And why do some shows become mega hits and others total bombs?  We‘ll be joined by two more guests who know something about the art of television.

And then later on, we‘re calling on the friends of “Friends,” some of the famous faces who have come on that show who took the idea of guest star to a whole new dimension. 

Back in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SCHWIMMER, ACTOR:  I, Ross. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Take thee, Emily. 

SCHWIMMER:  Take thee, Rachel.  Emily.  Emily. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA KUDROW, ACTRESS:  Hey you guys.  Hey!

Oh!  Chandler and Monica!  Chandler and Monica!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  We‘re continuing our hour-long look at the end of the road for the hit television show “Friends.”

Blockbuster finales have been around for decades.  Sometimes they work; sometimes they don‘t. 

For a look at that, I‘m joined once again by television producer Gary David Goldberg, who created the NBC hit “Family Ties.” 

Also joining our discussion now is Professor Robert Thompson.  He‘s the director for the Center of the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

And with me here in the studio is Tim Brooks who spent two decades as a research analyst at NBC.  He‘s also the author of “The Complete Directory to Primetime, Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946 to Present.”  He‘s also the executive vice president of research at Lifetime Television. 

Thanks all of you for being with us.

Professor Thompson, I‘m going to start with you.  I gather this whole finale thing began with the one-armed man back in the late ‘60s. 

PROF. ROBERT THOMPSON, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF POPULAR

TELEVISION, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY:  Well, it did.  But the surprise was nobody picked up on that.

That was the show “The Fugitive” that kind of had to end because he had to find out who really killed his wife.  And they had to wrap it up.  And that show broke all kinds of ratings records, but then nobody really followed it. 

It wasn‘t until 1977, when “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended and everybody loved that episode, they loved the idea of finally giving some closure to a television series. 

And then, of course, “M*A*S*H” came along in 1983, and that‘s what really got this whole thing going. 

NORVILLE:  Tim, you were at NBC at the time when the “Mary Tyler Moore” finale hit.  What were you all thinking over on this side of the television street when you saw the enormous audience response to a popular show coming to an end?

TIM BROOKS, AUTHOR, “COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIMETIME, NETWORK AND

CABLE TV SHOWS”:  Ratings. 

NORVILLE:  Money. 

BROOKS:  The opportunity to take something that you‘d invested a lot of money and time in over the years, in which the audience had become very invested in, and make something very special about the ending of that show. 

We found from some of these earlier shows that, in fact, you could bring all the viewers together who had been watching it over the years at one time. 

NORVILLE:  And what makes good closure?  Gary, you certainly had to worry about that when you all were bringing “Family Ties” to an end.  And you talked about the relationships coming to an end. 

In a larger sense, what should a network be looking at when they‘re trying to close out a show?

GOLDBERG:  Should be looking at who they might spin off, I guess, you know, from their point of view. 

What we were trying to do on our show was provide the proper exit for that family, for Alex.  And you know, Alex‘s whole life had been really about trying to get to New York and trying to get to where the money was.  And so there he was getting his dream come true. 

And it‘s funny because Mike and I, Michael Fox and I have such different ideas about what happened to Alex in the years that followed.  I feel that Alex is doing, you know, pro bono legal work for the Women‘s Defense Fund, and Mike feels he‘s just now getting out of jail. 

NORVILLE:  Why didn‘t any spin offs come from “Family Ties”?  We know that Michael Fox had his movie career, which was truly in high gear at that point.  But why not any of the other characters?

GOLDBERG:  We just really didn‘t want to do it.  We felt that they had lived in that house.  That‘s where they belonged. 

And that was such a full and complete experience for us, there just wasn‘t the creative, you know, impulse to try to move it in any other direction. 

NORVILLE:  Professor, I gather there‘s closure for different people.  The audience may expect one thing.  The writers and the producers may be looking for something else when they finish out a show. 

How does that play out?

THOMPSON:  Well, they‘re beginning to figure out what they can and can‘t do.  There‘s been all kinds of kind of crafty ways in which they‘ve ended these things. 

Sometimes they work, like the end of “Newhart” all turned out to be, the entire series, just a dream of the character in “The Bob Newhart Show” from a previous decade. 

NORVILLE:  Because what happened, Bob Newhart woke up and instead of having Mary Frann in the bed next to him, there you saw Suzanne Plechette, which was from the earlier show that he had had a hit with. 

THOMPSON:  Right.  Still the best—I think the best final episode ever. 

However, you can‘t sort of betray what the show is all about. 

“St. Elsewhere,” for example, ended where the entire 137 episodes, six-year run was the figment of the imagination of an autistic kid.  Audiences hated that, as interesting and as artistic as it was. 

The producers said they wanted to do this, because they had to kind of prove that this was not real to exorcise it from their own heads.  The audiences hated it. 

They didn‘t like “Seinfeld” much either, which of course, ends with these narcissistic people given the punishment that Dante would have given them, which is staring at each other for however long they‘re put in jail. 

NORVILLE:  I think the “Seinfeld” ending may go down as one of the more recent busts in terms of show finales. 

Tim, was that how it was generally regarded in the industry, as just a huge disappointment?

BROOKS:  Yes.  And one of the things that happened is these finales became more narcissistic and more “how clever can I be” and “how cute can I be” kind of thing.  And it‘s really not about closure.  It‘s about transitions, as in real life. 

NORVILLE:  Let‘s give a listen to the finale of “Seinfeld” and see how there really wasn‘t that much of a transition to anywhere from the show about nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN:  To me, that button is in the worst possible spot. 

JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR:  Really?

SEINFELD:  Oh, yes.  The second button is the key button.  It literally makes or breaks the shirt.  Look at it.  It‘s too high.  It‘s in no man‘s land. 

ALEXANDER:  Haven‘t we had this conversation before?

SEINFELD:  Do you think?

ALEXANDER:  I think we have. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And you had.  If you watched the very first episode of “Seinfeld” you saw that same discussion about that same oddly placed button. 

That may have been one of the lousy finales, but certainly one of the most successful was the “M*A*S*H” finale, which had more than 100 million viewers. 

Let‘s listen to that clip and then talk about why that was such a groundbreaking episode. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(“M*A*S*H” THEME MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Korean War was over, Alan Alda gets in the helicopter and the show says good-bye.  And more than 100 million viewers tuned in to watch. 

Professor, why was that show so big then, and can history ever repeat itself?

THOMPSON:  Well, I don‘t think we‘ll ever get an audience that size.  Let‘s remember that not many people back then, when that ended, I believe it was 1983.  A lot of people didn‘t have cable yet, much less 500 channels of satellite.  I don‘t think a TV series will ever get those numbers. 

I was of two minds about that episode.  It went two hours and 20 minutes long, if I‘m not mistaken, and it was very different from the rest of the show. 

Most of “M*A*S*H” was about kind of this sort of very satiric look at war, not a lot of crocodile tears shed.  This was a very schmaltzy, drawn-out, almost saccharine kind of performance, but I think it‘s what people demanded.

Just like “Sex and the City,” which was not about Hollywood endings, was forced to give a Hollywood ending in the end. 

“M*A*S*H” in the end, while it wasn‘t like its final episode was, I think people want these things.  You know, to some extent, the final episode serves the purpose that a funeral does.  And you don‘t say bad things about people at a funeral. 

NORVILLE:  Well, let‘s look at the final episode of “Sex and the City” and see how not a bad thing was said and Carrie lives happily ever after. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, ACTRESS (voice-over):  The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. 

And if you find someone to love the you, you love...

(on camera) Hi!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s shaking, baby?

The house is on the market.  Look out New York.  I‘m coming. 

PARKER (voice-over): Well, that‘s just fabulous. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Carrie got her man, Mr. Big had a name and the audience went home happy, Tim Brooks. 

BROOKS:  That‘s right.  And there was a transition in the show and their lives, are real lives.  It grew right out of what had been happening in the show for the past few years. 

NORVILLE:  Gary David Goldberg, a lot of producers in the business say that they have look to “The Mary Tyler Moore” finale as one that was particularly satisfying. 

What was it about that episode that resonated with people on your side of the business?

GOLDBERG:  Well, it was like every “Mary Tyler Moore” episode, in that it was brilliantly written, acted, and directed, and had a heartbeat of real people.  And these are people that we had come to know and love. 

And of course, then this irony of Ted Baxter being the only one kept, you know, and everyone else having to move on, was extraordinary, and brilliant, and then that hug at the end. 

NORVILLE:  Let‘s give a look. 

GOLDBERG: I think was what everybody...

NORVILLE:  What everybody loved.  Yes.  Let‘s give a look and then we‘ll talk about the hug, because it really was special. 

Final episode, Mary Tyler Moore. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED ASNER, ACTOR:  I think we all need some Kleenex. 

CLORIS LEACHMAN, ACTRESS:  There‘s some on Mary‘s desk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And it doesn‘t matter how many times you‘ve seen it, you still laugh, Gary, don‘t you?

GOLDBERG:  Oh, yes.  And of course, I was fortunate to work with some of those men and you know, Jim Brooks, you know, these are geniuses, Jay Sandrich. 

And what you see there is that culmination of that, so it was—it was everything you wanted. 

NORVILLE:  While they‘re predicting that as many as 50 million people may be watching the “Friends” episode, that‘s half the audience that watched the last episode of “M*A*S*H.”

Tim Brooks, why do you think it is that the viewers are just never going to compare with what they were back in the old days?

BROOKS:  There‘s such a different TV environment.  There‘s 100 channels in the average television home now, and people are wedded to their particular channels they like, like their Sci-Fi‘s and their Lifetimes and so forth.  And... 

NORVILLE:  And MSNBC. 

BROOKS:  And your MSNBC‘s, absolutely.  And you‘ll never get everybody together in one place the way you could back then. 

NORVILLE:  Do producers worry about that, Gary, that you just can‘t get the critical mass?

GOLDBERG:  And the other thing—Yes, and the other thing that‘s really changed is, you know, in the era of “Family Ties” in ‘82, there weren‘t multiple sets even within a home.  So we had multigenerational viewing. 

Now you have three, four television sets.  Everyone is split off with their own individual taste, you know, being served. 

NORVILLE:  And what about the impact of reality shows?  Professor, they‘re everywhere on every channel almost every hour of the day. 

THOMPSON:  Well, one of the things that‘s happened is they‘ve taken up a lot of time slots, so it used to be the networks could throw a lot of sitcoms up there and a few of them would become hits.  It‘s going to take longer now to generate more hits, because reality TV is taking up a lot of time. 

However, for everyone who‘s saying the sitcom is dead, I think they‘re dead wrong.  I think the sitcom will be back.  It‘s in an arid period, but there‘s something that a really good situation comedy does that feeds an appetite that no other programming forum can do. 

One of the reasons we‘re bemoaning the end of “Friends” and “Frasier” is there that much else out there that‘s giving us that.  The sitcom will be back.  I think sitcoms and cockroaches will never perish from this earth. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, but cockroaches don‘t cost a lot of money.  And Tim Brooks, it costs an arm and a leg and you know, of your first-born child to produce a good sitcom.  Those “Friends” people were raking it in. 

BROOKS:  They certainly were, but the people who produce the show were raking it in, too.  And because you can repeat these shows over and over again and nowadays, sell them on DVD‘s and have all these other places, you can make a lot of money over the long term, especially from sitcoms. 

NORVILLE:  So for the person who is sad to see “Friends” going away but hoping another sitcom will come, the word is keep the faith.  It may yet happen.

Tim Brooks, thanks for being with me here in the studio. 

Gary David Goldberg, thank you so much for your time tonight.

And Robert Thompson, thanks to you, as well. 

THOMPSON:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  And for those of you watching, what is your favorite finale of all time?  We‘d love to hear from you.  So just log on to Norville.MSNBC.com.  You can put your vote in for the best show finale ever. 

And coming up next, what would “Friends” be without all those guest stars and those super cameos, everybody from Jennifer Aniston‘s real life husband, Brad Pitt, to superstars like Julia Roberts and even one time must-see TV star George Clooney. 

When we come back, a couple of the famous friends of “Friends,” Jean-Claude Van Damme and Morgan Fairchild. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAIRCHILD:  It‘s the Italian hand licker, isn‘t it?

SCHWIMMER:  No, it‘s the one he‘s licking. 

FAIRCHILD:  She‘s supposed to be with you. 

SCHWIMMER:  You‘re good. 

FAIRCHILD:  Oh, Ross, listen to me, I have sold 100 million copies of my books and you know why?

SCHWIMMER:  The girl on the cover with her nipples showing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):   It‘s like you‘re always stuck in second gear, when it hasn‘t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.  But I‘ll be there for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  We‘ve heard that song a few times over the last decade.  “I‘ll Be There For You” has more meaning beyond just the six main characters.  Over the years, there have been plenty of famous faces who have been there for Monica, Joey, Rachel, Ross, Chandler and Phoebe, everybody from Julia Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS:  So, listen, how many times am I going to have to touch you on the arm before you ask me on a date?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  To George Clooney and Noah Wyle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

NOAH WYLE, ACTOR:  And I‘m his friend, Dr. Rosen.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR:  I‘m OK here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And Morgan Fairchild. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

FAIRCHILD:  I promise it will never happen again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And Jean-Claude Van Damme, who joins me tonight from Puerto Rico. 

Jean-Claude Van Damme, it‘s nice to see you.  How you doing? 

JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME, ACTOR:  Wonderful.  It is Jean-Claude Van Damme. 

NORVILLE:  Van Damme.

VAN DAMME:  With a French accent.

NORVILLE:  Well, I‘m from Georgia.  I do the best I can with names like yours. 

But I‘m thrilled you‘re with us.  I want to show the clip from when your on “Friends” and then we‘re going to talk about it a little bit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

JENNIFER ANISTON, ACTRESS:  This is going to sound kind of goofy, but my friend over there, who cooks, by the way, she thinks you‘re cute. 

VAN DAMME:  You don‘t think I‘m cute? 

(LAUGHTER)

ANISTON:  I don‘t know.  Do you think you‘re cute?  OK, we‘re kind of getting off the track here.  I was supposed to come here and tell you my friend thinks you‘re cute.  So what should I tell her? 

VAN DAMME:  You can tell her I think her friend is cute. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  What kind of reaction did you get from fans and friends after you appeared on the show? 

VAN DAMME:  It was great because I was with one of the two sexiest ladies on TV.  So I was a lucky man that evening—I mean that day. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  And you say that people responded differently to you after you were on the show? 

VAN DAMME:  Yes, because that TV show brought me all over the world from Asia all the way to Europe and, of course, your country, your continent. 

NORVILLE:  And how was it working with the cast there?  I mean, they were big stars in television, but here you were someone that came from the movie world, and they had done a lot of that.  Was there a rhythm that was easy to fall into? 

VAN DAMME:  Yes.  But, you know, TV, it‘s like a huge family.  I mean,

people, they‘re working all the time together every day on the same, same,

same show, so it‘s like it‘s more of an effect of a family than just a

movie for two months or three months and then you go to another show.  With

TV, it‘s like a constant family being together for many, many years, so it‘s very different, yes. 

NORVILLE:  And how was it for you having been a part of television history on that show? 

VAN DAMME:  It was completely an honor. 

NORVILLE:  Well, it‘s very nice. 

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DAMME:  And I mean it.  No, no, I mean it.  It‘s like it was because it‘s one of the biggest TV shows in the world and I was very happy to be in it. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I know they‘re happy that you were among the many famous faces that came through on “Friends” and we‘re happy that you were with us tonight.  Jean-Claude Van Damme...

VAN DAMME:  But it was many years ago. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, it was, but we‘re still talking about it today.  It‘s nice to have you on the program.  I wish you well. 

VAN DAMME:  Thank you, madam. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, it wasn‘t just a cameo role for Morgan Fairchild.  She played Chandler Bing‘s mom.  And she‘ll be with us next to talk all about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

LISA KUDROW, ACTRESS:  Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?

Everybody. 

KUDROW AND ACTORS (singing):  Smelly cat, smelly cat, it‘s not your fault. 

Monica.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  “Friends” may be funny, but did you know it was also a ground-breaking comedy?  The first season was truly a culture shock.  We‘ll tell you why in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

COURTENEY COX, ACTRESS:  Oh, dad, turn it off. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It is off. 

COX:  It is not off.  What‘s with the red light? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s the off light, right, Ross?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  A flashback to prom night, a poignant moment for the folks on “Friends” and certainly for a lot of us in our own lives, which is one of the things that fans of “Friends” say the show did best, tapping into our feelings about key moments in our lives. 

My next guest knows all about tapping into the audience.  She has appeared on a number of television shows over the years, from “Falcon Crest” to “Friends,” where she played Chandler Bing‘s mother, Nora Tyler Bing. 

Morgan Fairchild joins me now from California. 

Hi.  Nice to see you. 

FAIRCHILD:  Hi.  Nice to see you. 

NORVILLE:  What was it like...

FAIRCHILD:  You got the middle name.  I didn‘t—I‘m sorry.  Go ahead

NORVILLE:  Go ahead.  What did I do? 

FAIRCHILD:  Nora Tyler Bing.  No one ever says Nora Tyler Bing.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Well, we have to give you your full credit.  You are important. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  You were a very imperious woman, too, when you came in as Chandler‘s mother on “Friends.” 

How did you get the call to be a recurring guest role on the program? 

FAIRCHILD:  I have no idea what made them decide to call, but they called my agent and offered it to me.  And, of course, when they first called, I thought, oh my goodness, I‘m too young to be this fellow‘s mother.

But I liked the show.  It hadn‘t been on that long at that point, but I liked the writing and I liked the show.  So I said yes.  And then when I got to the set, Matthew Perry came up to me and said, oh, I used to come visit you on the set of “Flamingo Road.”  And I was thinking, who‘s your father?  So, his father John Bennett Perry, who had a recurring part on “Flamingo Road.”  So then I had to face the fact, if he had been a kid and visited me on the set when I was a working adult, I guess I could have been his mother. 

NORVILLE:  You had to be his mother.

We are going to roll a clip and see you as Chandler‘s mother in a very memorable episode.  It has to do all with Thanksgiving. 

FAIRCHILD:  Oh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAIRCHILD:  Chandler, dear, just because your father and I are getting a divorce doesn‘t mean we don‘t love you.  It just means he would rather sleep with the house boy than with me. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  More turkey, Mr. Chandler? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was a flashback, as I recall in the show.  Everyone was talking about their worst holiday ever.  And for Chandler, it was the time he realized dad had a different objective romantically than maybe he and mom first thought. 

FAIRCHILD:  Well, you have to give it to Nora.  She knows how to warp a kid for life. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  How weird was that back then.  That was, I think, 1998.  that was kind of pushing the envelope, was it not, in terms of storylines? 

FAIRCHILD:  Well, it was a bit, but that‘s what was always fun about doing the show.  They‘ve always pushed the envelope.  The scene from the wedding, they gave me a couple of lines I didn‘t know the censors would let us get on the air.  But, hey, they did, so...

NORVILLE:  And you oftentimes would just kind of go through and do show and then it would get presented to the suits that have to check these things out before they let it go on the air? 

FAIRCHILD:  I think they came down and sort of watched rehearsals and sort of vetted things.  They used to do that to us on “Mork & Mindy” a lot, too, check to make sure you‘re not going too far over the top.

NORVILLE:  You‘ve been on so many shows over the years.  You‘ve had experience when a successful show has reached the end of the line and it‘s going off.  And, certainly, when you were on “Falcon Crest” and played Jordan Roberts , that was something that was very critical at that point in time.  What did you experience that the cast of “Friends” are probably beginning to experience right now? 

FAIRCHILD:  Well, when you‘ve had a show that‘s been on that long, first of all, you spend more time with all those people than you do your own family.  And so, in a way, it‘s sort of like—it‘s kind of traumatic.  On those top 10 stress factors that you can have, it‘s sort of akin to getting a divorce or moving to a new city and leaving all your friends and family behind and starting all over.

You hit the real world and it‘s kind of a splash of cold water in the face.  But they‘ve had such a good long run, I think they‘re all ready to move on.  They all have got movie careers.  So...

NORVILLE:  And I‘m curious about where you think “Friends” fits into the whole lineup of television programs.  “Falcon Crest” was one of the great prime-time soap operas that was great dishy relationships everybody could get into.  “Friends” seemed to be something different.  It was more just about people and their everyday lives and the tiny moments of meaning.  Where do you think it fits into the landscape of television? 

FAIRCHILD:  Well, I think sort of each generation and each decade has had those iconic shows that stamp that time period for the people who grow up with them, whether it‘s “Father Knows Best” or “Leave It To Beaver” or “The Brady Bunch” or whatever—or “Seinfeld.”

They‘re usually the sitcoms, not the hour shows, which sometimes have a little more issue-oriented themes.  It‘s usually the ones that sort of remind you of your family, your friends, the little things that go wrong that you identify with.  And then they do become like family.  And I think this certainly is going to be that for this generation. 

NORVILLE:  Do you see anything out there to take its place, a show that can pick up where “Friends” has left off and be that kind of television family that the characters on this program has been for viewers? 

FAIRCHILD:  Well, I thought they should have Joey move to Beverly Hills and move into Nora Bing‘s guest house and just keep it going that way, but they didn‘t listen to me. 

No, I don‘t really see anything right now on the horizon.  Obviously, you know, people are certainly hoping that that spinoff will continue everything.  But it is harder to develop sitcoms right now. 

NORVILLE:  And what about the whole reality...

FAIRCHILD:  Everything is cyclical. 

NORVILLE:  Everything is cyclical.  And right now, the cycle seems to be, there has got to be a contest.  If there‘s not a winner, if there‘s not a loser, there‘s not somebody who is shattered because they didn‘t get it and someone who is ecstatic because they did, somehow, it‘s not great television.  Do you think that that is a short-lived trend or is that is going to be populating the airwaves for a while? 

FAIRCHILD:  I hope it‘s short-lived. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  For personal reasons.

FAIRCHILD:  First of all, it doesn‘t employ actors. 

(LAUGHTER)

FAIRCHILD:  So I‘m very selfish there.  But also, in a funny way, I

guess sometimes some of the shows seem to play on or emphasize the negative

values, what my mother would have called negative values, you know, that

you scheme and you betray and you‘re dishonorable and you‘re not loyal and

that‘s how you get ahead.  And that‘s not the way I was raised, so I guess

·         sometimes, it‘s just not my cup of tea, what can I say.

NORVILLE:  Well, I know you‘re working really hard to have Chandler‘s mom have a recurring role with Joey in Beverly Hills. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  But until that happens, what other projects are you working on? 

FAIRCHILD:  I‘ve got “That ‘70s Show” coming up this month.  I have an appearance on that, playing a mom again.  But I have lots of scenes with Ashton Kutcher.  So at least I always get the hot young guys. 

And then I have a skin care line that we‘re just launching that, if people are interested—we‘ve been working on it for four years.  And it‘s really great.  So, if people are interested, they can log on to MorganFairchild.com and take a look at it.  We hope that they‘ll like it.  Everybody who‘s tried seems to likes it, so I‘m hopeful.  I should send you some.

NORVILLE:  You should.  You‘re a great advertisement for your own product, what can I say.  It‘s great to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

FAIRCHILD:  Oh, thank you.  And I‘m old. 

NORVILLE:  Oh, yes, right. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  How many people would like to have a mother like Morgan Fairchild. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Listen, it‘s been great to have you on the program.  Thanks so much and good luck to you. 

FAIRCHILD:  Thank you.  Thanks.

NORVILLE:  Well, Chandler Bing‘s parents may have been a little out of the ordinary, but it wasn‘t the first time a controversial subject appeared on the sitcom. 

When we come back, we‘re going to talk with the character who played Ross‘ first wife and the woman who played her girlfriend next. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

DAVID SCHWIMMER, ACTOR:  I‘m getting married today.  Whoo!

MATTHEW PERRY, ACTOR:  Morning, Ross.

SCHWIMMER:  I‘m getting married today. 

PERRY:  Yes, you are. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Do you think he knew I was here?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

KUDROW:  Little high five.  

(LAUGHTER)

(BABY CRYING)

KUDROW:  Well, if you‘re going to cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

NORVILLE:  That was Phoebe after giving birth to triplets on “Friends.”  If you‘ve been following the story, you know that she was a surrogate mother for her brother‘s wife, who couldn‘t conceive. 

There were lots of unconventional births on “Friends.”  For one, Rachel gave birth to Emma Green out of wedlock.  And then there was the birth of Ross‘ son, Ben.  But by the time that baby came, his wife had already left him for another woman and their lesbian relationship on the television program broke new ground on television. 

Joining me tonight are Jessica Hecht, who played Susan, and Jane Sibbett, who played Ross ex-wife Carol. 

Nice to see you both. 

JANE SIBBETT, ACTRESS:  Hello. 

JESSICA HECHT, ACTRESS:  Hi.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  I‘ll start with you, Jessica.  How is it having had a fairly significant role in a show that‘s now going in to the history books for television? 

HECHT:  It just puts your life into perspective.  You sort of can‘t believe that, A, that you‘re that old, that you‘ve lived that—that you‘ve been on something that was on air for 10 years.  And also it really makes you appreciate how lucky you are to have been part of something that successful, because it‘s so rare.  It‘s so rare that so many people are affected by that. 

NORVILLE:  Jane, you actually were going to be a part of “Friends” or tried out for a role, not the role that you ended up in.  You were meant to be one of the original six? 

SIBBETT:  Oh, I would like to say that.  I was actually testing or wanted to be testing for one of the original six.  And when it came time to do my deal, I asked my agent if they had told them I was pregnant.  And they said uh, no, we thought we would tell them after.  And I said, oh, that would not be honorable.

So I said, well, then would they let me play the part of the pregnant lesbian, because I had seen that in the script.  And they said that wouldn‘t work out timing-wise.  So when my son was two days old, they called me up and said the original woman that they had cast wasn‘t going to work out.  Could I come to work the next day?

NORVILLE:  Oh, my goodness. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Talk about the juggling act and the mommy act at the same time. 

SIBBETT:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I want to roll a clip of the film that was shot just a knew days then after you gave birth, because this was when the Lamaze class was going on and you all are expecting Ross baby.  Let‘s give a look.

SIBBETT:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

SCHWIMMER:  I‘m Ross Geller.  And that‘s my boy in there.  And this is Carol.  And this is Susan Bunch.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHWIMMER:  Susan is Carol‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

SCHWIMMER:  Who‘s next? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I‘m sorry, I didn‘t get.  Susan is?

SCHWIMMER:  Susan is Carol‘s friend.

SIBBETT:  Life partner. 

SCHWIMMER:  Like buddies. 

HECHT:  Like lovers. 

SCHWIMMER:  You know how close women can get. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  That was really ground-breaking stuff.  You didn‘t see lesbian relationships in prime-time television.  Was that something that you all, Jessica, were cognizant of as you were filming this, that this was something that was going to get note just because of that? 

HECHT:  Yes.  Yes. 

There was a lot of publicity going on about it as we did it.  And it was kind of surprising because, obviously, in your own life, you don‘t feel that there is anything sort of unusual about that.  That‘s just someone‘s choice.  But it was a period when there was a lot going on with same-sex couples having babies.  It was just sort of the start of what is now commonplace. 

So it was, yes—we were made well aware of it, yes. 

NORVILLE:  And then I‘m going to roll another clip, Jane.  Then I want to come back to you—with a clip where finally the baby gets born and there‘s jubilation all around.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

SCHWIMMER:  Everybody, there‘s someone I would like you to meet.  Yes. 

This is Ben. 

ANISTON:  Hi, Ben. 

PERRY:  Hi, Ben.  

SCHWIMMER:  Ben, this is everybody. 

MATT LEBLANC, ACTOR:  Hey, Ben.

KUDROW:  Susan, he looks just like you. 

(LAUGHTER)

HECHT:  Thanks. 

KUDROW:  Oh, God, I can‘t believe one of us actually has one of these. 

PERRY:  I know.  I still am one of these. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Ross, can I? 

SCHWIMMER:  Yes.  The head, the head.  You‘ve got to...

COX:  Hi, Ben.  Hi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  They didn‘t show you in the clip very much, Jane, but talk to me about how a sitcom can change attitudes and make people more accepting of situations?  Did you feel that was the case?

(CROSSTALK)

SIBBETT:  Yes, absolutely.  I‘m sorry.  I‘m a little weepy over the birthing episode.  It was a very real episode for me. 

You know, in terms of perceptions, I know that people are much more open to the same-sex couples.  And in my own life, I know that it was really difficult for some of my members of my family to embrace lesbian relationships.  And so I‘m grateful nor that.  I know that I had spoken to a crowd who was presenting “Friends” with an award for what they had done for the community, the gay community, and how this one man had said we wouldn‘t have had so many suicide attempts unless—with role models like you two when I was growing up.

And he was so grateful that finally for a new generation that you would see very normal couples that just happen to love one another from the same sex.  So we‘re grateful for being part of that. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  The serious side to situation comedy. 

Jessica Hecht, so good to see you.  Jane Sibbett, congratulations on being part of a bit of television history. 

SIBBETT:  Thank you.  Thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Of course, after 10 years, it‘s kind of hard to keep track of everything that‘s happened on the show.  You‘ve probably seen some that you didn‘t remember.  But you can test your friends‘ knowledge and relive some of your favorite episodes on our Web page.  It‘s NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FRIENDS”) 

ANISTON:  Joey.  Oh, my God.

OK. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Coming up tomorrow night, how the famous get famous.  These days, it seems just about anybody can be somebody, from William Hung‘s so-called singing—oh, boy, that‘s nice—to the Hilton sisters, to all those people whose names appear in the news perhaps more often than they‘d like, people like Scott Peterson. 

Why the obsession in our culture these day with famous people?  Contributing editor to “Vanity Fair” and author Maureen Orth will be with me tomorrow night to talk about that. 

And then, on Friday night, a man whose celebrity is not in question, Lionel Richie, joins me for the hour to talk about his life and his music. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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