With the F.R.I.E.N.D.S reunion now available on HBO Max, millennials and boomers alike have bonded over how a simple sitcom of six friends turned television into appointment viewing.
On September 21, 1994 Marta Kauffman and David Crane were living in New York just trying to make it. On September 22, 1994 their lives would change forever; and so would the world.
After casting five relatively unknown and one somewhat known actor to all co-lead a sitcom, Kauffman and Crane were set on creating a sitcom about a group of friends trying to navigate their crazy lives in New York. The premise of their show was that there was no main character, but instead focused on the time in everyone’s life where your friends were your family. Many believed that this show wouldn’t make it big, that this show wouldn’t make anyone a “star”. Welp.
After the first season aired, the cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S became the biggest sensation since the Beatles. Everywhere they went fans flocked, begging for autographs, pictures and the occasional “How you doin?” from the actors. From mediocrity to meteoric rise, the cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S became the biggest stars of the 90’s. But what made the sitcom so iconic?
F.R.I.E.N.D.S was one of the first shows to not have a true main character. Seinfeld had Jerry, The Jeffersons had George and Alf had well… Alf. But Ross was just as important as Monica, Phoebe just as integral as Joey, and Chandler just as prominent as Rachel.
Each of the six main characters represented a member of your own friend group. That was the charm of the show, that you could identify any and all of them with someone from your high school. It made you feel like you were watching a version of your life play out on your television, with characters that you loved.
Joey was the jock. The laid-back dude who sat in the back of the class, failed every test, thought the SAT was a button on the remote to hear Spanish, and most importantly, could get any girl he wanted. Despite seemingly no prospects and constantly living on no income, Joey was irresistible with his hair, those eyes, and his classic “How you doin?” catchphrase.
Ross was the class president. Incredibly intelligent, successful and stubborn. All the qualities you look for in a class president. Ross seemed to have it all, even good looks to go with an impressive IQ. He even had the arrogance that he always knew what was best to match the class president persona.
Chandler the class clown. Couldn’t let 5 minutes go by without trying to make someone laugh, either out of pride or anxiety. He was the friend that was successful but you didn’t know why, and the one that was simply awful around women.
Rachel was the prom queen. Girl-next-door energy with more than a hint of entitlement, Rachel was the textbook definition of a prom queen. The looks to make every guy melt, the spoiled tendencies to get whatever she wanted, and a haircut that inspired millions, Rachel Green was what every guy loved and every girl loved to hate.
Monica was the head of the prom committee. She was the planner, the hygiene-crazed control freak. Everything had to be exactly the way she wanted it to be or it was the end of the world. Every group has that person who calls every shot, yet you love them all the same.
Finally there was Phoebe, the class wild child. She was the one you graduated with that her only plan was to travel the world and build a school in a third-world country. She saw the best in people, and was the ultimate free spirit. She inspired millions to be themselves no matter who they were.
While one of the best things about F.R.I.E.N.D.S was that all the characters were perfect representations of your real life, another aspect that made the show so instrumental is how the friends grew up. They started out as six single New Yorker’s in their mid-20’s trying to find their place in the world, and we got to watch them grow up to nearly 40 year-olds with careers and families.
We watched Joey grow from a struggling actor who slept with a different woman every week, to a television star who was ready to settle down. We saw Ross grow from a young museum employee with a failed marriage and a child on the way, to an esteemed professor with tenure and the love of his life (albeit with a few more failed marriages along the way). Chandler grew from a jokester with a dead-end career and a fear of women, to a promising marketer with a beautiful family. Monica went from a control freak who was obsessed with her parents approval to one of the most successful chefs in New York City and a mother and wife… who was still a control freak. Rachel went from a spoiled runaway bride to a successful fashion desinger and a mother. And Phoebe went from a free soul to a… well, she was still a free soul. But she did get married! And had her brothers triplets. Growth.
Every week when that iconic theme song kicked in, you knew you were in for tear-inducing laughs and a bond that was only rivaled by your own group of friends. It was like tuning in to watch a documentary of your own life. From burying your friend in the sand when they’re asleep, to shoving your head up the ass of a turkey to make your friend smile, F.R.I.E.N.D.S taught us that there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for our second family. It reminded us that we would always be there for our friends, and that F.R.I.E.N.D.S would always be there for us.