"How ya doin'?" Meta-pragmatic awareness in TV-serials: Friends (a case study).
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That TV serials by nature consist of conversation is stating the obvious. Whether the serials are soapies (Dynasty, The Bold and the Beautiful, Dallas) or detective (CSI, Miami), drama in the courtroom (Boston Legal, The Practice), adventure (Lost) or plain and simple “slice of life" (Sex in the city, Desperate Housewives, Friends), all of them depend on two vital ingredients for their success. These two ingredients are the elements of suspense and conversational exchange. It is the plot with the element of suspense that moves the story forward, quite like the Victorian three decker novel which was serialized in magazines in the 19th century and disseminated amongst an agog, eager, hungry-for-information public. In the 21st century plot ensures that the TV audience returns week after week, episode after episode. The other element, conversation, keeps them glued to the TV set and the interplay of words amongst the characters not only furthers the action but also provides for various factors like humor, profound insight into human nature and a vicarious experience of the unknown. Any TV show's success is reflected by the number of seasons that it has run. “Friends”, a popular TV serial of the 90s ran for 10 seasons before it finally wrapped up after ten years. Part of the show’s success was because of the situational comedy in which the characters are trapped. But most of it was because of the lively verbal interaction amongst them. This paper examines the cultural assumptions that are inherent in and integral to an understanding of social behavior using “Friends” as a case study with a view to explicating that although the pragmatic conditions of communicative tasks are theoretically taken to be universal, the realization of these tasks as social practice is variable.