“I’ll be there for you…..when the rain starts to fall….”
I find it difficult to believe that this popular show has now become “classic nostalgia”.
24 years ago, the show with titles that started with, “The One Where…” aired for the first time. Almost a quarter century ago! Does that seem crazy to anyone other than me?
Every time I scroll through TV shows, I ALWAYS click on Friends to see which episode it is. Some of them, (even after watching for a good part of my adult life) still make me laugh out loud. I know I have seen every episode more than once, and I will continue to do so until it is no longer in syndication. Why? Because it takes me back to a happy time in my life.
This show, about 6 perfectly imperfect human beings, was on TV for 10 full seasons. In a world of New York city living, these people seemed to spend every free moment together. They supported each other, at different times developed feeling for each other, and in the end still remained oddly close to each other. It may not seem like a realistic dynamic, but it sure brought ratings and love for the cast.
At a time before texting, iphones and social media, the 6 friends always seemed to be around each other. They spent time together in Central Perk over coffee, cracking jokes and sharing feelings. They went to movies and concerts together as a whole group, or in couples. They stopped by each other’s apartments and helped themselves to whatever they wanted, as if they had homes with each other. It was such a simple, yet, fantastical situation. None of them ever had envy for each other or felt like they were not part of the group. If there were hurt feelings, they were repaired within the 30 minutes that they were on TV. (20 with commercials).
It seemed to be an almost perfect dynamic. It made me, as a chronic audience member, want to find 5 people just so I could live in that kind of relationship.
The main reason I will stay tuned to episode after episode of this show, is because it was something that my daughter and I bonded over. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of a full blown argument during her hormonal teenage years, or if she “hated” me that week, for disallowing her to go out late with her school mates. As soon as the theme song came on, “Well no one told you it was gonna be this way….” She and I would curl up on the sofa together and just enjoy our time. On lucky days, there would be two back to back episodes, giving us a whole hour of sharing a snack or drinking tea together, while we watched the antics of the 6 people on the screen. It made my heart happy.
Now, she lives in a different city than I do, and we rarely see each other. The thing is, though, I still watch re-runs by myself and more often that not, I will text her or take a picture of the TV screen to show her I am thinking of her. She often does the same. We share multiple “private jokes” between each other that originated from the show and it makes us look crazy when we laugh our asses off together.
When the show originally aired on TV, she was a one year old baby. Even at her sweet, young age, whenever she heard the opening song, she would stop what she was doing and stare at the TV. Once she was old enough to pick and choose her own shows or watch TV with her dad and I, she fell in love with Friends. It was always her go-to, rather than typical kid’s shows like Dora the Explorer or Magic School Bus.
A few of the episodes that I will always watch when I see them on the TV Guide are:
The one with the leather pants
The one with the Ross’s teeth
The one with the spray tan
The one with the holiday armadillo
And quite a few others, that make me double over in laughter. It just never seems to get old!
The cast of the show are lovable, hilarious and easily relate-able for my daughter and I. Although they have all been cast with their own quirks and challenges, viewers can take something from each one of them.
The relationship between Ross and Rachel, although may seem cliche and an unnecessary part of the show, but the last season makes the audience feel like they have shared their journey.
Phoebe and her weird lifestyle and colorful opinions makes us feel like we are able to show our diverse selves, and in the right circles, we won’t be judged.
Monica and Chandler’s relationship seemed bizarre at first, but in the end, they were obviously made for each other.
Such simple topics of real life, with a ridiculous comic relief attached.
It’s these kinds of story lines and observations, that made Friends such a success. The ability to relate to characters is so important and I feel like the writers were genius at casting and creating this show. The friendships on this show appeared to be 100% unconditional, regardless of the conundrums of the week. They always seemed to work everything out.
As a mother of an almost teen and teenager watching the show, I never worried whether it was “age appropriate” or if she would take away anything that would have negative effects on her maturity. Now, it seems as though TV shows compete to see who has the most controversial, most sexual, and most vulgar show on TV. There are no more simple sitcoms like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond or Seinfeld now. Everything has gone the way of Vampires, death, soft porn and drugs. I don’t believe any of the shows that are on regular programming are fit for mother/daughter viewing.
I recall watching the final episode for the first time. My daughter was snuggled up on the couch beside me and we had our tea and a bowl of popcorn between us. On the arm of the sofa there was also a box of Kleenex. As the keys were set on the counter of the purple apartment I remember looking at my girl and seeing tears on her cheeks. She was around 12 years old then.
As the credits for the finale rolled up on the screen, she looked at me with her big brown teary eyes, and asked me sadly, “Now what will we do, mommy? We need a new show.”
At that moment I felt like it wasn’t only me who felt like Friends was OUR show. She was old enough to understand the bonding we had shared over the show on Thursday evenings. That’s when I shed my own tears. “We will find a new thing to do together, kiddo”, was my choked up reply. My heart felt like it would burst with her compassion and understanding of what we shared.
From then on, we made time for us at least one night a week. Even if we were having a mom/daughter disagreement or minor argument, we still did something. Whether it was go outside on her trampoline, or sit at the table and talk over tea, or just hang out and watch whatever her dad was watching.
After she moved to her own city, the guy she was dating bought her the entire boxed set of the show. The first person she texted, at the age of 19, was me.
“Mom, we will ALWAYS have Friends now”
If she only knew how much that meant to me, and honestly how much it means even now.
It may be a silly TV show with a few laughs and an unrealistic premise, but for my daughter and I, it means so much more.