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In the pilot episode of Friends, there is a scene in Ross's apartment where he is talking to Joey and Chandler about his failed marriage with his ex-wife Carol.

Ross says that he is worried that there is only 'one woman' for each person and Joey encourages him to 'grab a spoon' - to which Ross replies: 'Do you know how long it's been since I grabbed a spoon? Do the words 'Billy don't be a hero' mean anything to you?

I have to say that the words 'Billy don't be hero' mean nothing at all to me, what is this a reference to?

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In that scene Joey says, you got married when you were like what 8. When the song came out in 1974 David Schwimmer was 8. Maybe his character Ross was too. Explaining the relevance of the comment. – user11557 Jul 8 '14 at 3:25
up vote 24 down vote accepted

They are the lyrics to a song - a woman is pleading with her fiance as he leaves for war not to be a hero, but to come back and marry her. He does something heroic, and he is killed. Apparently Ross thought that "grabbing the spoon" (getting out and trying with another woman) was risking his life, and that such a heroic gesture would mean his demise. Perhaps also, he is comparing the dating world to war.

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I always thought that Ross was trying to tell the guys it has been a very long time since he last asked a woman out, so he mentions the song, Billy Don't Be a Hero, which came out in 1974, 20 years before this episode takes place.

Notice how he phrases his reply: " Do you know how long it's been since I grabbed a spoon? Do the words 'Billy don't be a hero' mean anything to you?"

Obviously, he was exaggerating, since he had presumably asked Carol out a few years earlier.

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I just saw this episode again, and I think you are right! – MJ6 Jun 16 '13 at 23:59

So, I know this is question was asked some time ago, but, I have another theory all together, and kinda goes along with user17976's answer. If, let's say, Ross first asked Carol out around 1984-85, he's saying it's been a while. So, this may be a little far fetched, but I think it may be a reference to an old TV show around this time frame, called "Misfits of Science". In the second episode "Your place or Mayan", toward the end, one of characters on the show is trying to save one of the others. The one who is being saved yells out "Billy, don't be a hero", as he swings on a rope trying to save her.

Why, you ask, do I believe this may be what Ross is referring to? For one, Ross is considered a science geek, so it's possible he would have been interested in that particular show. And second, that show, "Misfits of Science", starred an up and coming actress by the name of -- Countney Cox. Perhaps the line was thrown in as a nod to how she got her start on a cheesy (and it was very cheesy) Sci-Fi show.

As a said, a little far fetched, but it's entirely plausible. You can check the episode out on YouTube.

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Interesting theory, although you can't really have a TV show be relevant if the references are so obscure that no one gets them. I'd say this is an interesting coincidence and possibly a nod if the writers were really that on the ball, but most likely PaulStock's answer is the correct one. – Johnny Bones Feb 22 at 20:33

Omg does nobody get it?? Footloose! 1984 ish. When he asked out carol.

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Can you provide some details? – James McLeod Jan 8 '15 at 4:58

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