Saturday, August 6, 2011

In Which 'Friends With Benefits' Complicates Things...

Last year during pilot season Made Possible by Pop Culture had the pleasure of reading Friends with Benefits, a script that seemed most suitable for a one-hour dramedy but ended up getting picked up by NBC as a half-hour comedy. I was intrigued to say the least. I was intrigued to learn how it would be adapted and how the multiple ages of the characters would be dealt with. In the script draft I read, the characters were friends for years, and we got to meet them at various stages in that relationship to learn how they became more than friends and how those "extras" (or benefits, if you will) were affecting them today. I was intrigued to see how, if at all, the characters would evolve with actors in the roles. I was intrigued because there were literally half a dozen new romantic comedies being pushed to series, but this one seemed the most unique. And then it all went away.

NBC didn't put Friends with Benefits on the fall schedule. Or even the mid-season. Though I never forgot about the show, I couldn't muster up much hope for it, either. I began to think of it as "the little show that could," a term of endearment most often used to describe series star Danneel Ackles' husband's own network drama, Supernatural. NBC announced they would air the episodes sometime in the summer, but the date kept being moved around, either due to programming or media mis-information. I was never quite sure on the reasons, and honestly they didn't much matter. At that point the writing was on the wall: episodes that were shot would air so NBC could try to earn some of their money back through ad revenue, but they were pretty much just burning them off.

But this is not about the business of the show. This is really about the fact that my instincts were right. From reading the earliest script, I had a feeling this one would hit me on a personal level, and the pilot which finally aired last night proved myself correct. In the episode, Ben (Ryan Hansen) invites his once-platonic but now friend-with-benefits Sara (Ackles) to go to a wedding with him. Of course, that's not until after he tries to find another option and comes to the conclusion that only your closest friends are there for you when you really need them. But still, it was a big deal. At least to me. After all, they thought they were being so casual and flippant and mature about the nature of their modern relationship. They weren't getting serious; they weren't even getting attached. But the minute the invitation came up, I assumed there would be a question of what exactly their relationship was and where they were going. I assumed because that's what would (and has) happened to me. But this show isn't as cliche as that.

It's something I've been thinking about for a little while now. Over the next year I have six weddings to attend, one of which I am in the bridal party for. While I don't expect to receive plus ones to all of them, I know I am getting them for at least two, including the one that is coming up first.

I don't pretend to know what will happen in a year, but in a month? I know where I'll be, and it won't be far away from where I currently am. And where that is is casually dating a guy. Friends have told me I should go ahead and ask him to be my plus one, and I want to believe that I could do that without changing things, but I have no confidence in that, despite what I witnessed in Friends with Benefits. It's one time when I almost wish I wouldn't say 'I know it's just a television show' but go back in time to when I could use things I saw on TV as models on how to base my future behavior.

It always seemed a cliche to think that inviting someone to attend a wedding with you would mean you were getting serious. I never subscribed to the superstition that even if I did catch the bouquet it would mean anything. After all,
I didn't have any reason to believe he actually would think anything of it other than a chance to eat a free dinner, listen to some (hopefully good) music, and hang out with some new people for an evening. Maybe some people really can ask someone who is just a friend without it getting weird or without setting certain expectations. Maybe it was all in my head; maybe it was just freaking me out.

Ben and Sara went to the wedding together and presumably nothing changed. The second episode aired back-to-back with the premiere, and they weren't acting weirdly around each other at all-- well, maybe just for a moment when she showed up at his apartment and he was holding vegetables over his bathing suit area. But anyway, instead of looking at the show and saying: 'See? It can work', I just focused further on potential complications. And what I found was the true complication was the fact that I was so freaked out by the fact that I thought it would bring up the inevitable "how serious is this relationship" question. The characters are so much better adjusted than I am. This is my issue; it's my complacency, if not trepidation to change things. And isn't that a whole other issue? If I so fear getting serious-- with this guy or with anybody, really-- don't I have much more work to do?

Okay, so clearly it was freaking me out!

And in case you're wondering, I still haven't worked through all of this yet. The wedding I have at the end of August will be taking place when the guy I'm seeing is out of town, so I have bought myself a little extra time. But I won't be able to drag my heels forever; I'll have to make a decision about a lot of things...

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