'Friends' have overstayed their welcome

Does anyone care about "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC) anymore? Tonight, a shocking secret about Chandler inspires the gang to reminisce. Gee, I guess it's already time for this season's "clip show." This comedy, which just won the People's Choice Award, has been anything but choice this season. Not to quibble, but nothing has happened. Not that there's anything wrong with a show about nothing. But this year's "Friends" has been pretty laugh-free as well.

So far this season, Joey and Rachel went out and nothing happened. Ross got drunk and got dumped by his brainy girlfriend (Aisha Tyler). Chandler and Monica can't conceive. Even Phoebe's engagement seems like an afterthought. One week it's the center of attention, and then it goes unmentioned for weeks on end. At least it's not as forgotten as her triplets, who've been ignored for years at a time. And who is taking care of Ross and Rachel's baby while they yuck it up at Central Perk?

All shows have their natural life spans, and "Friends" has been stumbling around like a zombie for two years. NBC honcho (and "Coupling" champion) Jeff Zucker made a big deal out of the fact that he convinced the "Friends" gang to stay on the air for another season. Actually, the deal consisted of paying them a king's ransom for an abbreviated season, which includes tonight's clip show.

Some five years back Jerry Seinfeld was offered a significant fraction of a billion dollars to keep his show on the air. But he knew, and most viewers agreed, that "Seinfeld" had run its course. It's too bad the "Friends" crew didn't show the same discretion.

  • Directed by Martin Scorsese, the documentary "Lady by the Sea: The Statue of Liberty" (7 p.m., History) offers an hourlong meditation on the notion of liberty and the statue itself. The film will reflect recent efforts to reopen the landmark to the public. It has been closed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Tonight's other highlights

  • A 14-year-old murder case appears to have been staged on "Cold Case" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • A grieving husband goes on a shooting rampage in the morgue on "Tru Calling" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • A team member dies during a violent kidnapping attempt on "Threat Matrix" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • A contestant falls asleep on the job on "The Apprentice" (7:32 p.m., NBC).
  • Grace's sister (Geena Davis) visits on "Will & Grace" (8:32 p.m., NBC). Minnie Driver and John Cleese also guest star.
  • Malone fears that a missing lawyer may suffer from mental illness on "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • Caring for struggling newborns puts Neela and Abby through the emotional wringer on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Scheduled on "PrimeTime" (9 p.m., ABC): an interview with Jennifer Aniston; a disabled man's unusual friendship with an NHL veteran.

Late night

Dave Chappelle, Carmen Electra and The Shins appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets JC on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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