It supposedly started with ’nothing to tell’. Though, as it turns out, there was a lot to tell. A group of six friends had enough to tell in order to create a pilot episode to a show that was quickly picked up by NBC in 1994. Over the next ten years, Friends became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
Considering that it ended 11 years ago, it might seem strange to label Friends as a classic show. But for a generation, it is one that is culturally relevant. It sparked a trend in long afternoons in coffee shops, oversized cups, hairstyles, and enough one-liners to deal with every life situation.
But what made Friends so great?
Coming off the back of sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Ellen, the idea of a tight-knit ensemble cast is not the most original idea. Yet, for a show that is called Friends, it is an idea that emphasises the closeness of the characters—a concept that is imperative due to the countless connections they share, ranging from high-school friends, siblings, best friends, and roommates. Throughout the show’s run, these links continued to grow and strengthen each bond, which sparked an additional strand of comedy stemming from endless clashes of neuroses, ranging from Monica’s obsessive cleanliness to Phoebe’s resistance to Pottery Barn.
Not only do the characters work well as a group, but they also work individually, and their unique traits make them equally endearing, making it so that you want to see what happens to these characters. Looking back to that first scene in Central Perk and then seeing them leave Monica (and Chandler)’s apartment for the last time shows how much they have changed during the ten years, whether it is in a personal or professional sense. Yet their collective dynamic remains intact. It promotes the idea of a second family or a backup support group for life’s problems—something that everyone now has in some form or another.
In addition, the comedy is simple and straight-to-the-point. Thanks to the combined talents of creators Marta Kaufman, David Crane and Kevin S. Bright, every interaction is laced with a comedic undertone, yet there are small gems in simple lines, such as “how you doin’?” and “we were on a break”, that have become practically synonymous with the show. In fact, Friends has created so many ‘life phrases’ that everyone can effectively diffuse any situation with an offering from the sextet or related parties.
As consistently sharp as the jokes are, the comedic charm of Friends isn’t limited to wit. Physical bouts of comedy such as cringeworthy dance moves, embarrassing jogging, and the occasional outburst never fail to strike the funny bone, and sooner or later, these begin to transcend into real life—making Friends all the more relatable.
In fact, the simple relatability behind Friends just proves that shows can indeed start off as nothing, only for them to become something very special.