Started: 22nd September 1994
Ended: 6th May 2004
Created by: David Crane and Marta Kauffman
Main Cast: David Schwimmer – Ross Geller
Courtney Cox – Monica Geller
Matt LeBlanc – Joey Tribbiani
Jennifer Aniston – Rachel Green
Matthew Perry – Chandler Bing
Lisa Kudrow – Phoebe Buffay
Guest Stars: Elliot Gould – Jack Geller
Christina Pickles – Judy Geller
James Michael Tyler – Gunther
Maggie Wheeler – Janice Litman
Helen Baxendale – Emily Waltham
Tom Selleck – Richard Burke
Paul Rudd – Mike Hannigan
Jane Sibbett – Carol
Jessica Hecht – Susan
Plot: A group of six from New York who are very different in terms of personality but are firm friends nonetheless. They live in the same neighbourhood and are known for always hanging out at the same coffee shop, Central Perk. When they are not there they can usually be found at Monica’s apartment. The show focuses on the group’s strong friendship, as well as their romantic and career escapades with hilarious results.
So no one told you life was gonna be this way…
I really, really cannot believe that this year marks twenty years since the first episode of Friends was aired. That’s right, the hit American sit-com about the lives of a close-knit gang of six New Yorkers first hit American screens in September 1994. That’s right – twenty years!!!! My goodness where has the time gone? Since then we’ve been glued to the antics of Joey, Rachel, Phoebe and co. And incidentally it’s been over ten years since the last episode aired in May 1994.
I can’t put into words how special Friends is to me. Some might even think that’s weird. I mean it’s a television sit-com. Who gets sentimental over a television sit-com? Well, I do! Friends brings back great memories of school days, teenage years, and family moments. Plus it’s as funny as hell! What’s there not to like?
I first started watching Friends when I was in my mid -teens. Thursday night was treat night, so after a hard night hitting the books, I’d grab a ready meal and settle down in front of the telly to watch my fave show… Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? But before Whose Line began, I’d manage to catch the last few minutes of a new American comedy. It wasn’t long before I started taking my study breaks a little earlier on a Thursday night so I could watch this new American comedy from the beginning of each episode. It was really funny and thoroughly enjoyable… but even then I didn’t realise just how huge it was going to become.
It wasn’t long before the rest of my family got in on the act. By then Friends had gone from the near-enough graveyard slot to become prime time viewing on a Friday evening. So Friday evenings were spent with us gathered around the telly after dinner, laughing our heads off. Apart from me, my little brother was the biggest Friends fan in our house. We never missed an episode, and it in fact became known as ‘our tradition.’ And every Christmas, my brother would get a new Friends video (yes, it was videos back then) which he would practically watch on repeat. It wasn’t long before we knew practically every line of the script – and used to quote the characters to the point where it both amused and annoyed our sisters.
Over the last twenty years, we’ve all lost count of how many times Friends has been repeated on the telly. But the thing is that it never gets old. Every time you tune in to each episode, you laugh like you’ve never heard the gags before – and I guess that’s the beauty of the show. In all these years, I’ve only met three people who have said that they can’t stand Friends. That’s just left me wondering what’s wrong with them!
So in honour of Friends’ twentieth year, we’re taking a look at twenty things closely associated with the show that have made Friends so unique; this includes our favourite memories and things about the show that – without wanting to be dramatic – actually changed our lives.
1. COFFEE SHOP CULTURE
Today, teenagers hang out in coffee shops up and down the country. And right here in England they have plenty to choose from: Starbucks, Café Nero, Costa, as well as millions of independent coffee shops. Yep, word has gotten out that coffee is big business!
When I was a teenager, we hung out at either McDonalds or the local chippy. If we really wanted to push the boat out, then we had Pizza Hut. But Friends changed all that once we saw how much fun the Friends gang were having at Central Perk. We decided that coffee shops were the only place to lounge around in too. And it seems that we’re not the only ones who thought it was a great idea, as coffee shop culture has now taken off all over the world.
2. SOFAS IN COFFEE SHOPS
The sofa at Central Perk was very much the gang’s domain. Remember the gang’s dismay when another group took over the sofa?
I’d never seen a sofa in a coffee shop until I started watching Friends. We certainly didn’t have them here in UK coffee shops. But I thought it was a super cool idea. There’s nothing like getting comfy on the sofa with a steaming cup of coffee whilst having a natter to make yourself feel really at home. Now you can find a comfy, cosy sofa in just about every coffee shop – and I’m willing to bet that that’s mostly thanks to Friends.
3. JENNIFER ANISTON: HAIR ICON
When Jennifer Aniston accepted the role of Rachel Green, I bet she didn’t think that her hair would become just a tad bit more famous than her. The ‘Rachel’ cut was the Farrah Flick of it’s day, and the most requested hairstyle in salons worldwide.
I sported a similar do for a while but it was probably not as fab as Jennifer’s. Her hairdo was a layered, longer length bob but it was the savvy way she wore it that made it such a hit. This particular style paved the way for Ms. Aniston to enter into hair icon territory, because even though the numerous great hairstyles she sported throughout the series never quite eclipsed the success of the ‘Rachel,’ Jennifer inevitably became known as ‘the one with the great hair.’
4. SMELLY CAT
Phoebe may have known how to rock a guitar but when it came to songwriting, she was known for some rather dubious lyrics. But despite this fact, Smelly Cat became something of a classic – and proof to aspiring musicians everywhere that inspiration for a hit can come from the most unlikeliest of topics!
5. MONICA’S APARTMENT
Who wouldn’t want a spacious yet cosy apartment as inviting as Monica’s. There was criticism that a waitress (Rachel) and a just-starting- caterer (Monica) could never have afforded an apartment in NYC as cool as that in real-life but who cares? It was nice just to dream about it! And even though Monica and hubby Chandler eventually bought a house in the suburbs to raise their family, I think it’s definitely Monica’s apartment that’s the place to be.
6. RACHEL’S AMBITION
Rachel Green may have started out as something of a rich, spoilt brat but she eventually learned to stand on her own two feet when Gunther hired her as a waitress at Central Perk. However Rachel’s real dream was to work in fashion – a career she’d pursued once she’d found the confidence to do so.
This resonates well with me because I’ve been there too (no, not the rich, spoilt brat bit!). We’ve all had to abandon our dreams at some point in our lives because real life got in the way. But Rachel showed us that with a little perseverance and dedication, it’s possible to get there in the end.
7. WE WERE ON A BREAK!
Rachel wanted a break from her relationship with Ross. Ross thought that meant he could date other people – so he did. This didn’t go down too well with Rachel when she found out, so she decided that their temporary break should become a more permanent one.
This Ross and Rachel saga struck fear into the hearts of most people who were going through a rough patch in their relationships causing them to spell out exactly what ‘being on a break’ meant!
8. NEW YORK BECAME THE PLACE TO BE
OK, so even before Friends, New York was hardly on the bottom of everyone’s ‘must visit’ list. In fact for many people it was at the top of their ‘must live there’ list! But Friends – along with Sex And The City – was a great advert for New York City and made those who didn’t live there want to take an even bigger bite out of the Big Apple (even though the show was filmed in California!)
9. ROSS: THE PATRON SAINT OF GEEKS
Straight-laced, socially-awkward brainiac Ross Gellar who revelled in his staus as ‘Dr.Gellar,’ was overly-enthusiastic about science and loved his career as a palaeontologist, was the saviour of academics, and dare I say it, geeks everywhere! He proved that you didn’t have to be the coolest kid on the block to land the hottest girl.
10. THOSE CATCHPHRASES
Oh…My…God! How you doin’? Could you be any more stupid? We were on a break!
If you’re a Friends fan, those catchphrases will need no explanation!
11. THE ONE WITH THE…
Friends writers knew that even if they gave episodes an actual name, that viewers would refer to these episodes as ‘The one with the eggplant,’ or ‘The one where Rachel finds out.’ So that’s exactly what they called these episodes with the title beginning with the words ‘The One…’. No other TV show has done this and I think it’s quite clever really!
12. EVERYONE HAD A FRIEND WITH THE WORD ‘FUN’ IN THEIR NAME
Remember Monica’s ex-boyfriend, Fun Bobby? He was the life and soul of the party… until everyone discovered that without alcohol, he really wasn’t that much fun!
Nonetheless some of us took to prefixing the name of our loudest and wildest friend with the word ‘Fun’ so that it became a part of their name. I know I did and I have to say that hanging out with Fun Lucy was always a barrel of laughs!
13. IT’S OK TO GET WITH YOUR FRIENDS
So serial divorcé Ross got with Rachel, while his sister Monica cured his commitment phobic friend Chandler. Both couples highlighted the pitfalls of dating a good friend – but in the end, it all worked out for the best. And Friends’ fans cheered when these couples got together – and probably plucked up the courage to ask their best friend of ten years who they’d secretly admired from afar out for a drink.
We all waited for Phoebe and Joey to hook up but the scriptwriters had other ideas. Perhaps they didn’t want to be too predictable. Perhaps they thought Mike Hannigan was better for Phoebe. Perhaps they wanted to give Joey his own show…
14. SIMILAR SHOWS
To say Friends was huge is like saying that water is a little bit wet. It was a phenomenon – and still is! It wasn’t long before other program makers the world over got in on the act and tried to recreate the show’s winning formula: a group of close friends who are almost like family in an apartment/coffee shop/bar setting, who support each other through trials and tribulations especially romantic disasters. Unlike soap operas were friends could stab each other in the back, in these types of shows, friends had each other’s back.
Some of these shows popped up even before Friends had finished its run, and not all of them were sitcoms, but the ones that were injected the same kind of wit and humour that made Friends so popular. So before we knew it, we were settling down to watch Cold Feet, Coupling, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Sex And The City, and That 70s Show.
But of course, as awesome as these shows are, and I do enjoy watching them too, there can only ever be one Friends.
15. THE CAST BECAME MEGA STARS
The cast of Friends were all established actors before they played our favourite group of New Yorkers. But they hadn’t reached the dizzying heights of stardom with any of their previous work (although I remember Matt LeBlanc’s Heinz ketchup commercial very well!) But Friends changed all that for the six actors who went on to become household names. And ten years after the show ended, they’re still very much in the spotlight.
I also think that it’s fantastic that all six actors wanted to remain in the show through the course of its ten year run. Nobody chose to quit the series to concentrate on other projects which meant that all six of our favourite characters appeared in every series and were played by the same actors during the course of ten years which I think is amazing and quite unusual.
16. IT BROUGHT THE WORLD CLOSER TOGETHER
I’m wondering if there’s a country in the world which hasn’t broadcast a single episode of Friends… no, I didn’t think so! Maggie Wheeler who played Chandler’s ex-girlfriend, Janice, expressed her surprise when a fan from India approached her to say how much she loved Friends, proving just how much of a world-wide phenomenon the show had become. Despite the hit comedy being dubbed in multiple languages, everyone understand the language of friendship, and it’s great to know that you can go anywhere in the world and you’re bound to bump into someone who knows who the Friends gang are.
I wonder how you translate, “How you doin’?” in Cantonese…
17. TACKLING SOCIAL ISSUES WITH HUMOUR
Looking back, it amazes me that my brother was allowed to watch Friends at such a young age because as funny as it is, it did deal with some pretty adult themes: divorce; infertility; surrogacy; adoption; single motherhood; casual sex; alcoholism… not exactly a barrel of laughs. But despite the heavy content, each issue was handled with humour and sensitivity so you didn’t feel as though you were watching the most depressing show on earth.
Eastenders, take note!
18. WE WANTED OUR OWN FRIENDS GANG
I had a friend at university who explained that his posse were “just like Friends from off the telly.”
“There’s six of us as well. And we all hang out at a coffee shop too. And each one of us are just like one of the characters.”
Well he ‘s not the only one who thought that way. The truth is we all wanted our own little Friends gang, and we could relate to at least one of the characters. Me? I’m a strange mix of Phoebe and Rachel!
19. THEME TUNE
There can’t be a single person on the planet who doesn’t know the words to that famous theme tune or who wouldn’t be able to recognise the melody. Performed by The Rembrandts, it is without a doubt their biggest hit and the one they’ll always be remembered for.
The lyrics fit the concept of the show perfectly and furthermore illustrates the meaning of friendship.
Most of us were brought up on the mantra that family comes first – and for the most part that’s how it should be. But the show taught us that it was possible to love your friends like family. It’s not always about blood, genetics or DNA – it’s about the strong bond of genuine love, respect and friendship. Even the friends cast have said that they’ve become like family which is most inspiring.
So there you have it – all the things that makes Friends so fantasically unique and one of a kind. I’m so glad that Friends is as relevant today as it was when it began twenty years ago. Whereas a lot of once popular comedies now appear dated, I really do believe that Friends will remain a classic.
Here’s to the next twenty years.