The Effect of “Friends”

friends

It would be easy to assume that in the fast-paced, social media laden world we live in today a sitcom from 1994 would hardly still be considered a well-known and currently beloved show that appeals to younger generations as if it were made for them. It’s hard to believe, but Friends has proven to be timeless.

The show, helmed by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, aired from 1994-2004 on NBC. Friends follows a group of six people in their late twenties living in New York City working, dating and growing up. It was one of the highest rated shows, and is typically the standard to which other sitcoms, such as The Big Bang Theory, are held. The show itself is definitely dated; from the outfits to the storylines involving pagers, landlines and breaking up with people face-to-face. Many jokes would most likely fly over the heads of young people watching today. The words “text message” or “tweet” are not once mentioned in the span of a decade. No iPhones were shown, and “Google it” was not a response to any question. For some reason, younger generations around the world still respond strongly to this show.

Friends plays multiple times a day on numerous television stations but the main reason for its most recent surge of popularity is due to Netflix. As of January 2015, all ten seasons (236 episodes to be exact) were made available on the popular streaming network. People went crazy. The original Friends viewing generation was ecstatic to have their favourite show so easily accessible, but what was surprised many was the reaction from younger generations for the show. Matt LeBlanc (who portrayed Joey Tribbiani on the show) spoke on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015 about the renewed energy towards the show, crediting Netflix as the reason.

The Appeal

All of this begs the question, ‘Why is Friends so timeless?’ How, after all of these years, does it still effect people so strongly despite it’s strong 90’s/ early 00’s vibes?

The answer seems to lie in the fact that twenty-somethings today are known as the ‘nostalgia generation’. This is due to the fact that these were the kids who grew up during the technological revolution. They first-handedly witnessed the rejection of VHS in favour of DVD players, before moving to blu ray. They spent their younger years playing tag outside while their late teens were spent on MSN, then Facebook, then Twitter and so on. To look at it one way, they had the best of both worlds. Their lives have not been fully dominated by advanced technology but they are lucky to have information easily and quickly accessible almost anywhere they go.

Friends offers the appeal of simplicity, the simplicity they remember from childhood. Friends was easy. It was funny and silly and hardly ever so serious that it required much thought (barring “The One the Morning After” which continuously breaks the hearts of Ross and Rachel fans no matter how many times they’ve seen it, as well as a few other storylines).

In a world that many call cynical and harsh and insensitive, Friends is a perfect depiction of the dream: living in New York City (in a spacious, rent-controlled apartment), surrounded by your friends and loved ones, and seeming to hardly ever have to work in order to get by. They lived a fabulous life that the newer generations are told is next to impossible nowadays.

Ross and Rachel on Friends is one of the most well-know TV sitcom relationships.

The People

“I’m a Monica, You’re a Rachel.” Not only did the show depict the ideal living situation but it also had the opportunity to give the audience a little something for everyone. The six main characters were incredibly different people. There was the princess, the cool guy, the adorable geek, the hippy, the control freak and the socially awkward but lovable jokester. Viewers could easily see themselves, or at least bits of themselves, in each of these characters. And more than that, they saw that although these friends were so different from one another, it worked. The friendships were strong, endearing, and admirable to watch.

As beloved as Friends is, there is still recognition of its imperfections, especially from its more recent audience. The majority of criticism comes from the lack of diversity in the cast. Not only were all six main cast-members white, but people of colour were few and far between in supporting roles as well. The lack of representation for people of colour has been a long held issue in many genres of television and sadly, Friends was no exception.

How I Met Your Mother cast enjoying a drink

The Comparisons

How I Met Your Mother, created by Carters Bays and Craig Thomas in 2005, is one show that has been compared to Friends numerous times since its debut. This is mainly due to the fact that the premise and set-up is fairly similar. It follows five friends living in the city dealing with dating, careers and growing up. HIMYM always seemed to be a little more ‘fantastical’ than Friends. The series frequently used flashbacks to explain important backstories, set up plot lines, and created numerous whimsical social theories, terms and ideas (a few of the most popular being ‘The Bro Code’, ‘The Hot/Crazy Scale’ and ‘The Three Day Rule’). Both shows could be considered unrealistic; however, Friends was less so.

Another component that every new show seems to have these days is the overall major storyline. Take for example HIMYM where it says it’s objective right in the title. The show details Ted’s quest to find his wife. In The Big Bang Theory, the storyline is how a group of science-loving, quirky characters interact with the world around them and contrasts with their ‘normal’ neighbour Penny. In Friends, there was no end goal to reach from the very beginning. It is arguable for some that the series is founded on the love story between Ross and Rachel, but that could hardly be considered anything more than an afterthought if only evaluated from the pilot. Friends only cared about showing the connection between a group of people who have seen one another at their best and their worst. It was centred on the idea that the people you surround yourself with become your family. It seems all new shows now need an ‘end-goal’ or surround one central plot line that is expanded and stretched over a few years by other, smaller storylines.

Did we all just become best friends?

The Point

Six main characters, six vastly different personalities that seem to work so effortlessly together. This show was about love. Love in romantic relationships but mostly about platonic love; the kind found in friendships. This simple concept that had an enormous impact on the entertainment culture. Friends not only helped to revive the sitcom genre, it raised the bar.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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82 Comments

  1. Toney Ho
    1

    Love friends! still makes me cry with laughter no matter how many times i watch them….

  2. Gurl
    0

    The weird thing about Friends is that it seems oddly contemporary. Very little dates it to the mid-90’s EXCEPT the overly stagey, cliche ridden plotting.

    • Stine
      0

      Yeah especially beginning from the middle-later seasons even the fashions are pretty unspecific so as to not come off as laughably 90s.

  3. Thames
    0

    Friends is a show that I was kinda surprised became so huge,the actors weren’t the best at comedy,(except for Kudrow) but the characters seemed familiar. I felt in that sense, it was a little realistic.

    Now a gargantuan amount of shows try to emulate the “several close friends living together, trying to get through life” thing was been played out so many times. So thanks to Friends for ruining ideas for television.

    • Juliape
      0

      And the moral of the story is never try to do anything in case several people come along and copy you in a mediocre way.

  4. Wilks
    0

    I kind of like Friends, but I always had trouble getting past their portrayal of NYC as 99% Caucasian.

  5. Hairston
    0

    They absolutely love this show here in China. It’s exactly the sort of inoffensive pablum that they aspire to, but lack the bare-bones resources to produce.

  6. Spear
    0

    Basically, this show was just “Saved by the Bell” for adults, wasn’t it?

  7. Terra Elder
    0

    It pushed the envelope on what you could talk about sex-wise on tv and be successful. I mean, sure, Seinfeld had talked its way around a lot of stuff, but Friends was a lot more explicit about sexy things than people were used to. The “edgy 20-somethings talking dirty” model of sitcom writing quickly fell apart, but Friends was something of a new frontier for what people could casually discuss at 8 PM on NBC.

    • Koenig
      0

      Monica’s female erogenous zones speech to Chandler is a great example of this, particularly in the uncut DVDs which extends it so as soon as she has finished her…demonstration (7!) the three of them immediately get up and go into their own bedrooms (Chandler goes to the bathroom) and slam the doors, clearly implying they all went to masturbate.

  8. Janella
    0

    It’s one of my favorite shows to watch if I’ve got a really bad cold.

  9. Les
    1

    This was the sitcom that got me through high school and my lowest years, so I’ll always love it for that. I’m sort of, but not really ashamed to admit I’ve seen every episode at least twice, actually I’d probably say it’d be closer to three.

  10. Emily Deibler

    Great work explaining why this show is timeless! It’s always good to see a narrative that focuses on the power of positive platonic bonds.

  11. Munjeera

    Friends back in the 90s was trendsetting in the roles for women. One example is when the pilot was filmed, the producers were giving out surveys to the live audience to see if they would think less of Monica because she slept with a guy on the first date. Friends was really one of the first shows where the women were as sexually active as the guys.

    Friends was also one of the first ensemble casts where comedic lines were equally shared between the cast regardless of gender.

    Friends also depicted the importance of honesty in all relationships and took out a lot of the fake gender role playing of the past.

    And it accomplished all this in a hilarious way. A great article about a great topic. Friends set the bar high and I think later sitcoms have had success but not like Friends because the cast seems to genuinely like each other. Thanks for an interesting read.

  12. Kevin Mohammed

    I watched Friends even when I was a kid and they were airing new episodes week to week. One thing that always got to me was how very real the situations always seemed to be and the relationships the characters had with one another made it feel even more real. I feel as though one reason why the show is such a success is that it doesn’t play off of messages, tweets, and social media. Everything is very face-to-face which might show why even in society social media can’t replace face-to-face interactions.

    Also when I was a kid, a lot of the joke that they would say went over my head, watching it years laters gives me even more entertainment from understanding the humor that I never could comprehend before.

  13. Bree
    0

    It is strange how the friends on “Friends” only really interacted with each other.

    • Leopoldo
      0

      Except that’s not true, there’s a bunch of episodes where they had a party with a lot of different people, talked about their friends outside of the group quite often(never showed them tho) and work-relater storylines were a big part of the show. They were actually much better at it than shows like New Girl or Happy Endings, where their “outside of the group” lives are not even mentioned.

  14. Nannie
    0

    I’m one of those rare people who never liked this show. I’m very rare.

  15. west
    0

    It’s easily one of the best “hangout” shows of all time, the show is endlessly rewatchable and I still catch jokes I missed on previous viewings or that I didn’t understand when I was younger.

  16. The fact that it being a decade since the last episode of Friends was aired and it still being greatly popular just exemplifies how fantastic the show is.

  17. Tatum
    0

    There are a fair few references that have always gone over my head, just due to the fact that I didn’t grow up in the US in the early 90s, but apart from these the show could be broadcast today and still be relevant.

  18. EBERT
    0

    The show was never particularly good, but watching the early seasons is painful now. Everyone is hitting the punchlines with just…SO much emphasis and with such an old-timey sitcom delivery style it’s cringeworthy. They seemed to work past that pretty quickly, though.

    That said, Chandler is still the absolute worst. In what fantasy world would that guy have any friends, let alone five of them?

    • arlie
      0

      Yeah I’d say they took around 1-1.5 seasons to get out of the cringeworthy punchlines and tacky coffee shop conversations built around one line. I do like the more grungy atmosphere of the earlier seasons though, as once the show became big they all started dressing better and the show became a lot cleaner and brighter.

  19. I loved the show Friends, in my country it was replayed every year. Think I have watched it three times by now.. 🙂

  20. The thing about Friends is that it set the stage for so many of these modern sitcoms that are popular now. You mentioned Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, which seems to pay an homage to this style of comedy, but Friends still remains more down to earth and just, real. It is almost Seinfeldian in the way it captured the sitcom plot, but I think it did so much more than that. Of course, Friends fell victim to the comedic tropes that still plague sitcoms today that can make them almost cringe-worthy at times, but as someone who comes from the “nostalgia generation” I’ll never be able to move a couch without hearing Ross’ voice yelling, “PIVOT,” in my head. Could this show BE any more timeless?

  21. Lexzie

    I have to admit, I really don’t understand the appeal of “Friends.”
    This article did a nice job highlighting why people are still drawn to the show, but for me, personally, I just can’t get into it.

    • Luke Stephenson

      Me neither! And there’s me thinking I was the only one…

      • Lexzie

        Everyone I know loves it. My good friend tried to sit me down and have a marathon with her and I just couldn’t. I can’t pinpoint the reason either.

        I also can’t get in the “Big Bang Theory”, so maybe my comedy tastes are lacking..

  22. I think ‘Friends’ will always be one of the best TV shows of all time. I agree that it appeals to people who are in their mid 20’s, those who, as a kid watch VHS tapes, yet now as an adult have iPhones. We, as a generation, seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s funny, none of us could live without our phones, yet we long for a time when having everything in the palm of your hand wasn’t necessary. I love ‘Friends,’ as it’s basically about life, and enjoying life for what it is, something that many of us seem to forget about in the age of technology.

  23. Since I never watched HIMYM, I often find myself comparing ‘Friends’ with ‘New Girl.’ Both shows begin with a move and focus largely on the platonic relationship between friends. Yet, there is something unbelievable about the cast of ‘New Girl’ lounging around their California apartment at all hours of the day. That disbelief just isn’t there when watching ‘Friends.’ The difference two decades make.

  24. Despite the fact that this show was seriously lacking in racial diversity (or any kind of diversity, really), it did showcase true kindness and empathy. These loving relationships really are missing from sitcoms of the 2010s, however hilariously; see It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

  25. I loved this article! I completely agree with your ending statement and have to add that today’s sitcoms just don’t compare. I have watched all the shows reviewed in this article and others and each show has its own pros and cons from writing to casting and storylines but ‘Friends’ was definitely the trendsetter.

    This was a delightful read!

  26. interesting prescriptive and i totally agree with you about every character being different which aided in making the show more realistic and appealing to an assortment of generational viewers.

  27. Even though I grew up just shy of watching Friends on live TV, it is one of my go-to feel-good shows when I’m looking for something to binge watch on Netflix and forget the rest of the world. Friends is timeless and raised the bar extremely high for sitcoms.

  28. ajgreen94

    I just love FRIENDS because no matter what age I’ve watched it at, it has always been relatable. Though things move a little faster now than they did in the 90s, you can still feel heartbreak, love, and the angst of growing up and becoming an adult.

    I think it got a bit more unrealistic towards the end but the basic premise still stood, in that if you have your friends, you can do all of this together and eventually everything will be OK.

  29. Every time I hear the opening theme song, I just sing and clap along ;D

    “So no one told you that life was gonna be this way~” *clap clap clap clap

  30. Very refreshing!! A very cozy read!! I think that I like “How I met your mother” because I watched “Friends” for so long. Hehe!

  31. I always gravitated towards Seinfeld because it was so much funnier, but I understand why people like Friends so much. As a matter of fact, people idolize the Friends characters nowadays lmao

  32. This is SUCH a great and accurate article. I grew up on Friends. I began watching it as a kid (maybe about 7 or 8 years old) with my mum and younger brother. It was always on around dinner time so we’d either eat dinner watching it or it would be on after. Granted, 90% of the jokes I couldn’t appreciate at the time – but there are certain moments everyone, young or old or in-between, could laugh at and appreciate (Unagi! When Chandler holds the flapping duck in front of Joey’s face…or Joey gets his head stuck in a turkey…Pivot! – I could go on forever!) It was the show that when I was home from school for a day, or an entire week, I would put the DVD’s on for hours, and it is the show that I put on today anytime I want a good something to unwind or cheer me up.

    As I’ve grown older (I’m now almost 23…) this show has always remained my absolute #1 by a milestone. I’ve never truly stopped to think so hard, “Why this show? What about it was so amazing? Why have I not stopped loving it?” I fit right in to the specific generation described, growing up with the shift in technology (and thank heavens, I wasn’t born a year later!).

    Through my teen years, it was the basis for thousands of reference jokes with other (albeit few..!!) high school friends who were as fanatic about the show as I was. And two years ago when I met my now (sure to be life-long) best friend, it was one of our immediate bonding grounds. We throw Friends references out to the point where nobody has a clue what we’re talking about, but we just burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

    And now that I’m in my 20’s, more than just being hilarious and a significant part of my childhood and reminding me of people I love, it is directly relatable which only continues to strengthen my love and appreciation for the show. Relatable because it makes me realise how hard it is to find friends that stick by you through it all; relatable because I’m now a 20-something year old trying to make a good life for myself in a densely urban city; relatable because I’m realising that things – jobs, friendships, dating, finances, desire, goals – aren’t as glamorous or easy as they are made out to be when you’re a kid, and that you have to experience storms to appreciate the rainbows….having those close friends there just makes the storms more bearable because you aren’t alone and everyone goes through hard times.

    I’ve been a lover of HIMYM and The Big Bang Theory from the get-go, but nothing will every touch the level that Friends holds. It was the first of it’s kind and has far too special a place in far too many people’s hearts to ever be replaced.

    So, to all involved in putting this article together and for anyone who actually read my entire and overly personal/nostalgic response, please consider this exceedingly lengthy comment more as a direct response and THANK YOU for this article. You’ve helped me answer a question I should’ve asked myself years ago, but that never even crossed my mind – simply because Friends is too darn great for me to ever even question my loving it.

  33. What I love about Friends is that we can all relate one of the characters or characteristics of a character to either ourselves or someone we know. In our own group of friends there is always that one guy like Joey or the neat freak like Monica. Our friends define us and Friends celebrates that role of friendship.

  34. Friends is a fantastic show and this article depicts it every well. I love the contrast with How I Met Your Mother and the Big Bang theory because both those shows have a similar basis but are actually quite different once you look into it. Both of them have more of a structured goal. Another great point in this article, is the generation of nostalgia. Other shows like Gilmore Girls are popular amongst the millennial as they show a simpler time that can be remembered from childhood. It would be interesting to see an article that includes all of the simplistic shows we have come to treasure and wish for our lives.

  35. The part that resonated with me the most in this article is the whole idea of “Friends” not having an end-goal and that the idea of keeping it simple by just telling the story of six friends trying to navigate through life together was enough to make the show so time-less. The overall simplicity of the show is, at least in my opinion, what makes the show so nostalgic and loveable.

    Though it is true that the show, among many other past and present, does not have a diverse cast or supporting actors, I would argue that for a show coming from the 90s, it was way ahead of its time in certain aspects. For one, it did not shy away from certain ‘sensitive’ topics such as same-sex marriage, pregnancy or sex before marriage, and interracial dating. Another thing is that it also did not shy away from current issues and topics throughout its decade of airing. The first few seasons we see Chandler gleefully showing off his first laptop, which by today’s standards seems prehistoric but as the seasons progress and the decade unfurls, the show’s content and ideas progress with the decade in order to not only keep up but to stay up-to-date.

    All this together, along with the brilliant writing and effortless relationship between the cast and consequently the characters is what makes the show so timeless.

  36. FRIENDS did what so many other tv shows couldn’t, in my view atleast – Make each season as fun as the previous ones and finish perfectly. Yes, I’m thinking of How I Met Your Mother as the one that couldn’t do these things. No, I don’t hate the latter.

  37. Very interesting read

  38. What an interesting thing you pointed out about the “nostalgia generation”. I was born the year this aired and, speaking from this particular demographic group, it has given me an insight as to why this show holds a place in my heart. Currently, I am entering a chapter in my life that allows me to experience things similar to ones that have been mentioned in the first season, and it is true; I find myself reflecting on a “simpler time”. Often, I look over to my younger cousins and see how growing up with technology has affected them while the balance of two different worlds have shaped mine.

  39. I enjoyed reading your article! I loved Friends and recently watched How I Met Your Mother so I liked how you compared the two.

  40. ismael676

    I agree with your first point about nostalgia. As a 90’s kids, I recently watched the SpongeBob movie, and boy did it bring some nostalgia. It was just great. It put me back in the big old TV in my grandma’s house where you had to hit it from time to time in order to watch it. I am currently writing something about SpongeBob, and I think nostalgia for the 90’s kids might help the appeal to what I am writing. We’ll see. Nevertheless, great post.

  41. As a black youth (ish), I never quite connected with Friends. While the plot was witty, enjoyable, and comical, I often found myself confused as to how my white friends would spend hours on end consuming this show. I connected with shows premised on a similar link, but featuring more black folks (my personal favourite was “Girlfriends” on BET).

    Nonetheless, Friends is a great show! I guess I am just commenting on the importance of representation. Not necessarily that every show MUST have a diverse cast, but it is important for folks to be able to see themselves (or representations that are like) on TV.

  42. rowenachandler

    I grew up with this show, I’ve re-watched the entire series I don’t know how many times, and I have to admit the nostalgia is definitely what keeps me returning to that show. I watched other sitcoms growing up that represented colour a lot better than Friends did like My Wife and Kids and Girlfriends, however I don’t think Friends did a complete injustice. They were diverse in supporting roles, the first two seasons and major supporting roles consisted of a Latino man and an Asian woman, Paulo and Julie. Although it’s certainly not the best, I would argue it’s not the worst either. Great article though!

  43. Nilab Ferozan
    ferozan
    0

    As probably so many other fans, I grew up with this show. No matter how many times I watch it, I love and cry as hard as the first times, or maybe more so. Although it was not a diverse show in its main characters, there were a little bit of representation of other ethnicities in other roles but let us face it, not many 90s shows were concerned about multiculturalism/ multi ethnicity. To me 90s seemed more segregated, at least in TV shows than it is now and Friends was a product of its time.

  44. epindera

    Friends is an incredibly enjoyable show, and hilarious to watch. In recent years I have often watched with a critical eye and noticed controversial things we often see when we re-watch shows from the 90s. Body shaming, homophobia, transphobia, lack of racial diversity etc. But regardless of some of these issues it continues to be a show I laugh at, and quote often.

  45. Great show. Would be curious to see what it would be like if they tried something similar today.

  46. Naomi

    I enjoy how friends had no end goal. Western culture, particularly North American culture has a stress-ridden society always focused on obtaining some sort of “end goal.” If we reach a goal, there’s always another goal we “should” be working toward. Friends was so relaxed and go with the flow because of the fact that the audience wasn’t really expecting anything to happen. I found that it made it more exciting too when watching the seasons, because you didn’t know what was in store for the episode besides the hint from the title.

  47. Friends was (is) a great series. Preceding Friends was Three’s Company that starred John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt as roommates. What made this show even more interesting than Friends was the premise that the male living with the two females pretended to be gay so that the landlord would allow him to live there. It was a big no-no back in the late 1970s that unmarried men and women live together. Anyway, the cast was hilarious and the comedy of errors that ensued in each episode really made the show a hit! The reason I bring up Three’s Company is that I see it as Friends’ predecessor. Both shows rock, in my humble opinion.

  48. Karyn Little

    Friends is one of those shows that everyone needs to watch at least once all the way through. Think what you want about the show’s quality, but there are so many life lessons, combined with tears and laughs, to be found in this show. I’ll always love Friends.

  49. This may be tangential, but the cultural obsession (especially amongst the generation of nostalgia) with this ideal, diverse yet not actually diverse group of friends at the heart of Friends and their lives is something which I have seen have some scary and unpredictable consequences. I have met and been friends with multiple people who idealize the show, the time and the relationships within it so much that they are disenchanted–at least to a certain extent–with the present moment and their own personal relationships. I realize this seems to be the recounting of an extreme case, but it is one I have encountered on multiple occasions and one that manifests it self through other television shows as well. I think a lot of the merits of Friends discussed in this article are reasons which contribute to this appeal and pull, but of which we must be hyper-aware as not to become too absorbed in this far too ideal depiction of young adulthood.

  50. I never really watched “Friends” but reading this article is making me consider it.

  51. This article perfectly outlines the reason as to why Friends is a timeless show. Friends is a wonderful show as it is filled with many life lessons and characters that were easy to relate to. It is basically a show that never gets old.

  52. I agree with the fact that young generations still adore “Friends” because there is the “nostalgia generation”. I was born in 1996 and I started watching the show when I was 7 years old, I think. Loved it. And still do. There’s no technology like in the Big Bang Theory and there’s no central plot line which I adore the most because the worst feeling about watching a show (for example Grey’s anatomy) is the waiting and thinking about what will happened. With Friends, you never knew. I think that’s also one of the reasons people still love this show.

  53. Aside from the show’s humour and relatable characters, I believe it has had such a huge impact on viewers because of the idealistic world it portrayed.
    Since one’s twenties are often the most explorative stage in life; by following the young group’s adventures through New York City as they navigated the trials and tribulations of their daily lives provided older generations with a sense of nostalgia and younger viewers with inspiration for their own futures.

  54. I just started rewatching a couple of episodes and i’m hooked again. It’s definitely a timeless classic!

  55. I never liked Friends as a kid. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-20s and was living with a number of friends and had the freedom to do what I wanted with no real end-goal that I started to appreciate the brilliance of what seemed like a dumb comedy to me as a child.

    I mean, it is a dumb comedy, but it’s a dumb comedy with heart and conviction to making their connections seem real.

    Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the words “Ross and Rachel fans” in a row before without being preceded by “There are no.”

  56. tracyrwdeboer

    I always loved Friends growing up, and so much of it has permeated my own growing up, and even my current mid-late twenties. What I find the most strange is going back to watch the episodes now, realizing that there are so many jokes and bits I would have never understood as a kid that now ring true for me as an adult. It makes me wonder what I liked so much when I was a kid… it’s the show that rewards multiple watches…it’s a comfort.

  57. As a professor, I see how my 20-year-old students love Friends – even more so it seems than those in my generation who were closer in age to the characters at the time. You’ve written a very interesting analysis as to why this could be the case. Great job.

  58. Wow, amazing article! My favorite sitcom has always been Friends, but this article has given me a different perspective and insight into the generational changes within the sitcom. I also appreciated the parallels that we drawn between Friends and a more recent sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.

  59. As someone who literally pounced on Friends when it came on Netflix, I can relate only too well to this nostalgia element. But the subtle racism that undercurrents this otherwise lovable show bothers me more and more…

  60. I have always considered the lack of a story line in Friends, and why it didn’t affect the entertainment value. As you mentioned, the simplicity of it is truly where the value lies. The show is genuinely enjoying through its humor and heartbreak, and sometimes this is all we need. Don’t we all need a little more simplicity in our lives? And Chandler… we all need Chandler.

  61. Great article!

    Not only do I agree that Friends raised the bar for the sitcom genre, but I think it did so in a way that creatively put together a group of people which, ultimately (while they all had the humour aspect) each had one strong personality trait creating an overall “whole” person: i.e. Chandler: wit; Monica: organization/OCD; Ross: intelligence; Rachel: fashionista; Joey: suave/ladies man, Phoebe: weird/eccentric.

    While I can’t say with any certainty that Friends necessarily created this archetype, I feel that it’s been used in numerous other casts made up of several people (i.e. Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, etc).

  62. Friends is definitely the type of comedy that transcends generations. Even with a lack of “google” references, the comedy still stands up against anything currently on television. I would definitely say you are correct in identifying the unifying and simple theme of the show as one of the reasons for its lasting success!

  63. JMIWrites

    Speaking as an older brother and as an educator of colour, I think part of the appeal of Friends lies in its lack of political connection in addition to its status as a piece of a nostalgic past. My reasoning is two-fold:

    1) You make the great distinction that this show, though aired on Netflix as a means of easy access, ended up in the hands of a younger generation of viewers. Likely, this demographic witnessed, in some form, semblances of “the 90s” (as I’ve arbitrarily designated for this comment) which contemporary popular culture talks about. Here I look towards alternatives to TV such as YouTube, Instagram, and Vine: each of these mediums’ mot popular users are, arguably, in their late teens, twenties, or early thirties. Through these figures, a younger demographic has access to forms of entertainment from decades earlier suffused through the “internet stars” whom they watch.

    2) You point how, albeit briefly, how the romanticism that is Friends appeals to a generation of viewers inundated by programs of diversity and tolerance. Friends, in all its simplicity, is conflated with an “essence of humanity” which had predominantly been the focus of many approaches of multiculturalism (this is more of a Canadian perspective, however) acknowledging difference BECAUSE we are all the same. Whiteness is conflated with this essence because popular culture is embedded with an acceptance of racism’s history. But there is an even stronger desire for the ability to express individuality influenced but not indebted to constructions of race or cultural ethnicity. Friends, though it can be critiqued as “White people complaining” offers viewers an unadulterated form of entertainment aligned with, as I mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal of multiculturalism: we’re all different but that shouldn’t stop us from coming together. This understanding, of course, not attending to the diverse ambiguity of Friends’ characters or the lack of attention paid to realities such as class, gender, etc. in one of the largest metropolitan spaces in the world.

  64. What also makes it timeless is the age of the viewers. We (those in the 30 year old group now) were at the time when we wanted to be those cool 20-30somethings in a wicked apartment in New York with a close group of friends. And now that we are around this age (and find out life isn’t as easy as the show described) we long for that simplicity. We are nostalgic to a time when we could dream about being them. Now we get to adult. And adulting sucks.

  65. Lauren Mead

    Great article! It’s true that “Friends” is all about the nostalgia factor now. I’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of shows from the 90’s making some sort of comeback.

  66. I actually remember watching ‘Friends’ on my old television which was about an eighth of what a ‘normal’ tv would be today. The nostalgia factor is mostly the reason why I re-watched all ten seasons of the show, but it is without a doubt a classic.

  67. I have always watched friends, I watched it all through my pregnancy when all I could do was eat and rest. I see the similarities in How I met your mother, just never was able to get into it as much as Friends. And I am
    Not quite sure why? I have watched all seasons of Friends and only a handful of episodes of How I met your Mother. Great read, thanks for sharing!

  68. ‘Friends’ is one of those shows that you watch and everything feels great again. Whenever i watch it, I feel the need to be more social.

  69. BigPenguin

    The first 4-5 seasons were amazing and then it really started to deteriorate.

    Still a classic though, one of those comedies where you truly care about the characters.

  70. This is a show that do not personally have a connection with, but none the less the article was something spectacular for fans that have been watching the show or are just new to the show. I think it shows that sense of “American values” that drives our society every day and what makes us different from other counties. The characters in the show also show that people come from all different backgrounds of life.

  71. Friends is hands down the best sitcom ever. I am a part of the nostalgia generation and I could not agree with this article more if I wrote it myself. Friends is simple and it puts people’s fast paced minds at ease when watching. I think everyone has imagined themselves as one of the main six characters or has claimed to be “Rachel” or “Ross”. And I think people do this because the show was full of laughter and love. Today’s sitcoms are full of drama and all have too much going on with the story lines. Friends kept it simple and I think that is the main reason why so many people feel a connection with the sitcom. I know I do.

  72. I love this show, and it never fails to make me laugh. I agree, the lack of consecutive plot actually adds to rather than decreases the show’s appeal. Friendship transcends time periods, which is why it will always be such a classic.

  73. I absolutely LOVE this show!! I have always been able to identify a little bit with each character, and am so thankful that it’s been on Netflix!!

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