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Mishkin's Musings: At home with family and FRIENDS

Radio broadcaster Dave Mishkin on how he's been keeping busy with the season still on pause

by Dave Mishkin @DaveMishkin / TampaBayLightning.com

It's been three weeks exactly since the NHL paused its season. On that same Thursday, my eighth-grade son and seventh-grade daughter wrapped up their final day at school before Spring Break. My wife Dulcie, who works as an instructor and administrator for a company that teaches theater to children, likewise was going to be off during the county-wide break. In other words, the four of us have been home together for the past 21 days.

There has been cleaning. Lots of cleaning. Our bathroom floors possibly have never been cleaner. I learned that we own (and have owned for quite some time) an electric floor cleaner, which has a "wet" and "dry" switch. Our bathroom window blinds have horizontal slats. I discovered that a) dust really likes to accumulate on each slat and b) dusting each individual slat is rather time-consuming.

There has been purging. Lots of purging. Especially for the kids. Piles of toys, books, and clothing have been sorted and will be donated, at some future point. The bags and boxes went into our "second" car - the one that typically gets less regular use. It's packed to the gills. Also, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Last week, Dulcie tried to place another item in the trunk, but the remote key didn't unlock it. Dead battery. Of course, there's no imminent need to call for service.

There has been work. At Dulcie's job, the group worked to shift their curriculum to an on-line environment - not the easiest task for theater education. They ran several test classes, for which our children were two of the guinea pigs. This week, distance learning for school began. The kids have each claimed a spot in the house where they have set up their iPads. They're in class from 9 am - 2:30 pm. Personally, I've done a couple of interviews with Greg Linnelli and Erik Erlendsson, who are co-hosting Lightning Power Lunch daily from 12-1 pm on the Lightning Power Play App. I wrote a column last week detailing my picks for the Top Five Lightning Games this season. On Tuesday night, I took over the FOX Sports Bolts Twitter account during the FOX Sports Sun rebroadcast of the Lightning-Buffalo Sabres game from Stockholm on November 9. The Vinik Sports Group hosts an All-Staff Virtual Conference Call each week.

There has been exercise. Dulcie and I take the dog for a walk in our neighborhood first thing every morning. After breakfast, I head out on a 30-minute run.

There have been phone calls and FaceTime. Dulcie and I have urged the kids to connect with one friend via phone or video chat each day. We've done the same. I invariably feel good after getting off a call with a friend or family member.

There has been news consumption. This one has been tricky. On the one hand, I want to keep up with what's happening outside the walls of our house. Locally, nationally, and internationally. But it can be a slippery slope. Too much news consumption leaves me feeling anxious and irritable.

There has been family time. We've eaten every meal together. Completed a 1,000-piece puzzle. We have a ping-pong table on our lanai that's gotten more regular use than ever before. We've played pickle ball in front of the house. There's reading time, with all four of us involved in our own books while sharing space in the Great Room. We've watched a few movies. Three Men And A Baby was a hit with one of the kids, less so with the other. But if we're setting down to watch something on TV, it's usually FRIENDS.

It was sometime last year that I became aware of how the show FRIENDS was enjoying a renaissance. My daughter was at a sleepover and her friend, who already had been watching the show on Netflix, introduced her to the Pilot. Soon after, she was watching episodes at our house. At this point, my son wasn't interested, so she'd take her iPad in her room. It wasn't just her, though. I noticed FRIENDS merchandise in stores. I saw online stories about its resurging popularity. A new audience was loving it. Much of this audience included fans like my daughter, viewers who hadn't even been born when the show wrapped. Her friend from the sleepover got her a mug that stated, in the signature FRIENDS font: You're The Monica To My Rachel. When the Lightning visited New York City at the start of the season, I made my way to the corner of Bedford and Grove streets to take a picture for her of the FRIENDS apartment building.

She was progressing chronologically through the 10 seasons, but alas, she was working against a clock. On January 1, 2020, the show would no longer be available on Netflix. Her plan was, during her Christmas break, to watch as many episodes as we would allow. She needn't have worried. For Christmas, her brother got her the complete DVD set. She was thrilled. And he was too. Because by December, at her suggestion, he had started watching episodes as well. Also chronologically. So at this point, my children were operating on two separate timelines. My daughter would watch the later episodes herself, but also re-watch the earlier ones with her brother. This tap dance got more complicated once the Netflix option ended, though, because we only have one DVD player in the house.

Dulcie and I would join one (or both) of the kids for various episodes. My schedule, hectic during the hockey season, meant that I was popping in and out of the two timelines. But over the past three weeks, it's been a different story. My daughter completed the series sometime in February, so now we're all on my son's timeline. We've been watching together. And it's been a different experience for me than when I saw the show the first time, when it aired every Thursday night on NBC.

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FRIENDS made its debut in September of 1994. I was single, had just turned 25, and was beginning my first season as broadcaster for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. When the FRIENDS finale aired in May of 2004, I was married, living in Tampa, and calling playoff games during the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup.

I was a regular viewer during those 10 years. Dulcie was too. We met in 2001, so we watched the final few seasons together. By then, the show was also in syndication, so we fed on a regular diet of "re-run" episodes from past seasons. Yes, these were different days. Short of purchasing a DVD from a prior season, one had to wait for a show to air to view it. And you got what you got.

As I watch them now, I'm thinking about where I was and what was happening in my life during a particular season.

I notice how the scene setting shots of New York City feature the Twin Towers in Seasons 1-7. The Towers, as in real life, are gone in Seasons 8-10.

My general recollection was that the early years were the best: the show was fresh and exciting and that while it may not have fully "Jumped The Shark", the later seasons weren't as crisp. I've had to revise that opinion. The late season episodes are quite good. I notice how comfortable the actors look in their roles and with each other, perhaps a by-product of their years spent together as a group.

Speaking of the actors, I think about the six of them and how they are forever linked. So often, an iconic role defines an actor for the rest of his or her career. When the Lightning played Detroit in late December, Red Wings broadcaster Ken Daniels told me that "The Morning Show" was one of the best programs he's ever seen (but not suitable for middle-schoolers). On his recommendation, Dulcie and I watched the 10-episode series during the Lightning's bye week in January. In "The Morning Show", Jennifer Aniston displays her incredible range. Her character is nothing like Rachel from FRIENDS. Reese Witherspoon is Aniston's co-star on "The Morning Show". I had forgotten, until seeing her on an episode of FRIENDS, that Witherspoon plays one of Rachel's sisters.

A few months ago, I read a scathing review of FRIENDS, written in response to the show's resurgence. The author, who was a teenager through most of the original run, had enjoyed the show the first time around. Not so anymore. But given how the show has caught on with a new generation of viewers, her current opinion clearly is a minority one.

I also disagree with her critique. Granted, it's a different experience all these years later. There aren't any surprising plot twists and I know how each storyline will resolve. But at its core, the show is funny. And for me, that's enough. My personal favorite is The One With The Holiday Armadillo from Season 7.

I'm glad my kids are in middle school and old enough to handle some of the show's more mature themes and jokes. We're currently on the final disc and are down to the last few episodes from season 10. It's been a fun ride - again. FRIENDS has given my family plenty of laughs, especially during these last few, tough weeks. For that, I'm very thankful.

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