Twenty years ago today, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc graced the small screen in a big way when a television show called Friends premiered. Still grossing Warner Bros. studios over 1 billion dollars a year, the show has been off the air for ten years, but audiences everywhere still love Friends. The show chronicles the lives of twenty-somethings living in New York City. The friends meet in a coffee shop called the “Central Perk,” where they dabble with life’s big and small questions. If you haven’t seen the show, then you’ve probably been living under a rock, so the descriptions will be brief.
What makes Friends so successful compared to any other television franchise? It’s relatable. Although few people could realistically get an apartment that big in New York City, except for the actors themselves, twenty-somethings and beyond look to the show for some candid humor mixed in with the struggles of daily life. Friends attracted all walks of life. There was no violence, no nudity, no blood. It was just a half hour of damn good television. Friends was real life exaggerated in a way that was approachable for audiences. It’s been impossible for any network to replicate the show’s effect since.
While many things have changed since the 90’s, life is still a struggle no matter who you are, and the show brings that truth candidly to life. Friends was ahead of its time for so many things. Take Ross’ ex-wife who left him for another woman. While LGBT rights have been a big issue for a long time, it was not often represented on television. It’s still hard to get a job of any kind in today’s world. Take “The One With the Bullies,” where Monica invests her last $127 in the stock market just so she doesn’t have to take a low- end job that she doesn’t want. The very first episode, where Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) breaks away from her wedding to find solstice will always be relevant to women. It’s empowering that her character breaks away from a “safety net” marriage to find her own way. Rachel begins as a powerful character in the show because she doesn’t want her entire life mapped out for her. Friends teaches so many little anecdotal life lessons, it’s impossible to list them all in one article. Friends changed a lot of the “norms” on television and will forever be a cultural icon and a symbol for every twenty or thirty- something just trying to survive. Happy Birthday Friends! Thanks for keeping the memories going strong for 20 years!