THEY’LL BE THERE FOR YOU
How Friends made friends with a whole new generation. By VANESSA KO
IN CONTRAST to today’s popular sitcoms, Friends seems quaint. First there are the explicitly ’90s things such as the fashion, pagers and cassette tapes. Then there are the production elements like the laugh track and the unrealistically large apartment interiors. Finally, there are the charmingly funny storylines that magnify life’s small catastrophes, sans any edge or darkness, sometimes with jokes that would be considered politically incorrect today.
It’s dated. And yet, a new generation of young viewers is discovering Friends
– 20 years late – and loving it. Part of the appeal is precisely its quaintness. What’s old is retro cool.
But there are also enduring qualities to the show. The glue that holds the series together is the six main characters’ distinct personalities and how they clash and complement. There’s cute but spoilt Rachel; neurotic Monica; quirky hippie Phoebe; scholarly but hapless Ross; cool guy Joey; and droll-humoured Chandler. They’re in their 20s, living in New York and hang out in their outsized homes and the local coffee shop. And much of the drama and laughs comes from the way their personalities come through in each situation.
Just a few episodes, and new viewers will pick up on precisely who these people are. We’re showing six episodes onboard this month, and they are some of the funniest and most popular in the show’s 10 seasons. They cover several of the friends’ romantic entanglements with each other – both failed and successful – iconic phrases like ‘ We were on a break!’ and a very bad spray- on tan.
It’s hard to overstate the impact Friends had on US culture. For a while, everyone – and I mean everyone – wanted Rachel’s haircut in season one, simply referred to as The Rachel. The name Emma shot to No. 2 on the popularity ranking of newborn girls’ names after a baby in the show was so named, and still hovers at the top of the list today. The influence reaches across continents, too: head to Beijing, and you can visit a faithful replica of the show’s coffee shop, Central Perk.