Flashback twenty years. Friends has just begun on US television and it is an immediate hit. Now, it would progress from hit to smash to phenomenon (there are very specific rules about which is which) but right then, it was merely a hit. Do you know what else was coming around twenty years ago? Windows 95.
Now, I am a little confused here. Twenty years ago is 1994. Not 95. And I think Windows 95 did just squeak in before the end of 1995 but if so, it really was a squeak. I was the UK launch and I remember it being hosted by Jonathan Ross who made jokes about how the hall had been booked for this event months before.
I also remember being on the press conference call when the name Windows 95 was announced. Up to then, the operating system had been known as Chicago. (I think. Is that tight? Suddenly blank on that bit.) I can remember thinking oh, is that it? That’s rubbish. And then later on getting to use Windows 95 and thinking oh, is that it? That’s rubbish.
Windows 95 had one killer feature and I won’t even pretend to deny that it didn’t. I may dislike Windows 95 but it was better than Windows 3.1. But if you’re going to rip off the Mac’s easy-to-use system, I think it says a gigantic amount about how badly you did it that you need to make instructional videos on how to use your copy. That’s what this becomes, it becomes a guide to what in the hell have you just bought. But the first twenty minutes or so are different.
The first twenty minutes or so are actors Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston being required to not-really play their Friends characters – they very pointedly refer to each by their real names so don’t you go suing Microsoft, whoever owns Friends – and to make some pretty wretched dialogue sound audible. These are two talented people but they’re doing this for money and while you can’t fault struggling actors for that – Friends lasted years but you don’t know that at the beginning – it’d be nice not to see it so plainly.
Mind you, if they had hidden it better, if the script had been better, if this ‘cyber-sitcom’ were funny, maybe we wouldn’t have quite so much fun watching it now.
You won’t make it all the way through. But grab some tea, plonk yourself down and be agog at the Windows 95 Cyber Sitcom starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry. “Look, Matty, I’m computing!”