The day Friends came onto Netflix was one of the best days of my life. I loved Friends when I was a kid; I used to watch it everyday after school on E4 at 5pm and then, at 6pm, I would rewatch the same episodes again on E4+1. Why? Because it was great, that’s why. As you can imagine, I was gutted when it was taken off TV, so it’s been a huge pleasure to rewatch it again for what must be closing in on the billionth time.
What’s crazy is how Friends has became a universal language for a generation, with almost everyone I know of my age being able to quote whole episodes on demand. The reason for that is very simple; it’s the best show, ever, and I can prove it.
Remember that South Park episode called ‘The Simpsons already did it’ where Butters can’t think of a plot not already covered by The Simpsons? I reckon that’s how most sitcom writers feel these days when they think of a plot, only to discover that Friends got there first. How I Met Your Mother left Ted at the altar? Done. Leonard and Penny’s on-off relationship? Don’t insult me. The plots in Friends are the OG on so many fronts and, no matter how surreal they got, they still seemed to fit with the tone of the show. For example…
A strange point perhaps, but the role of Marcel in many ways typifies exactly what it is that the Friends writers got right. Thrown in at the deep end in season 1, introducing Marcel as a key part of the plot showed how daring the show was, and I’m going to go on record here and say that I don’t know of any other show that uses a tropical primate at all. Great writing.
Aside from Marcel and the plot content, Friends hit upon another important element of writing a show in that it actually makes some fairly good progressions in its social views. Having a homosexual couple in the forefront of the show (Carol and Susan) or Phoebe’s birth-mother having been part of a throuple, or even Chandler’s transsexual father gave voices to groups that were under-represented, particularly in the early 90s. Nowadays, the show tends to get a lot of flak for its homophobic tokenism and transphobic presentation in the case of Mr Bing but, especially as its a product of its time, I think Friends laid down the groundwork for more progressive TV.
4) Guest stars
Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt, Paul Rudd, Hank Azaria, Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon, Ralph Lauren, Richard Branson, Hugh Laurie, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jay Leno, Dick Clark, Jill Goodacre, Freddie Prinze Jr, Jeff Goldblum, Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Gary Oldman, Susan Sarandon, Kristin Davis, Bruce Willis, Elle MacPherson, Charlton Heston, Isabella Rossellini, Charlie Sheen, Julia Roberts, Chris Isaak, George Clooney.
Need I say more?
5) Theme song
Surely The Rembrandts iconic theme song has to go down as one of the most recognisable sitcom themes of all time? The classic track has become permanently entwined with the show and, let’s be honest, is an absolute banger.
6) The characters
It seems strange to have waited this long to mention the characters, but realistically this is what makes the show. Each character is interesting in their own way and represents a different walk of life, from Ross and Monica’s middle-class college education, through to Joey’s working-class acting ambitions all the way to Phoebe’s despairingly sad life on the streets. The lack of real diversity in the cast is another point of contention in how people view Friends on the whole, but it’s a product of its time and it laid down the foundations for other shows for definite. What’s also great about the characters in Friends is the specific dynamics between them, particularly…
7) Ross and Rachel
Name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait.
I jest of course, but the Ross and Rachel relationship is just fantastic. Even to this day, I watch the episode when Ross sleeps with the copygirl and pray that this time he won’t do it (he always does anyway.) The to-ing and fro-ing between these two is genuinely interesting, and the ending was so in tone with the whole show that it made perfect sense. What a relationship.
Also while I’m here, not that Ross was in the right for doing what he did, but they absolutely were on a break.
8) Joey and Chandler’s bachelor pad
What a dream Joey and Chandler live. From the chick and the duck, to the cooler full of beers, to the foosball table, to the Barcaloungers, to a TV in a cabinet, that place had it all. And, to top it all off, it had two very close friends (get it?) who not even Cathy could come between. It’s the dream for almost anyone to have a friend that close.
Whilst we’re on the subject of characters, it’s time to mention the most important part of all…
Ask anyone who their favourite character is and I don’t doubt this is who you’ll be told. Realistically, Chandler makes the show, with his funny nature, biting sarcasm and genuine complexity borne out of a difficult childhood. And yet, despite his clear emotional damage, he still manages to be a good friend to his nearest and dearest, and be a good husband to Monica (spoilers I guess, although if you made it this far then the show is probably ruined for you anyway.) What a guy.
10) It’s still absolutely hilarious
This is the key to Friends’ continued success: it’s still really, really funny.
The show is so well written, and the jokes are still great. In fact, I know what jokes are coming, and I’ll still laugh. I envy those who have never had the chance to watch the show and get to view it all for the first time, because it’s a truly magical experience. Friends presented our dreams; taking on life with 5 people to share all of it with.