What is the reason behind the popularity of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S sitcom? Why Chandler’s pun, Monica enthusiasm, Rachel’s enigma, Phoebe’s spontaneity, Ross’s intellect and Joey’s How you doing?! never gets old. No matter how many times you watch the show it never grows old, you crack up every time. The show’s popularity crossed all bounds and influenced youth crossing borders.
Rachel Green, a runaway bride, lost in her thoughts barge into the Central Perk, a New York cafe, and nothing was the same thereafter. The entry of Rachel Green into the “real world” as Monica says it, leaving all comforts behind to make a life of herself is a mental and literal journey of the millions of youth in their 20s. The simultaneous journey of each character running their own lives and looking to each other for moral guidance and support in tough times resonates with the youth at large and which is why the show is so popular amongst the youth.
The show marked the beginning of an unprecedented television and cultural phenomenon that nobody realised would be this relevant, even after two and a half decades and it is hard to get over it just yet.
They are each other’s lobsters: The Humble Beginnings
Friends premiered in the ’90s and lasted for 10 years before ending in 2004. Even though it’s been about 17 years since the last new episode aired, Friends is still as popular as ever and a huge part of today’s pop culture. It became a prevailing theme on many sitcoms and reflected a mainstream trend in our society.
The extraordinary everyday life of regular characters found a home in the hearts of so many people that it is hard to imagine the characters with any other faces, it is like they were meant for the show and for each other. Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston were cast while they were on other sitcoms; David Schwimmer had quit television altogether prior to being asked for the show. Can you imagine any other Ross than David? NOOO! The candid moments in the Reunion episodes show how similar they are to their respective characters. The lives of Jennifer, David, Courteney, Matthew, Lisa, and Matt are blur lives of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey, if not completely than in bits and pieces.
The Distinct characters
‘The six distinctive, individualised personalities who live in an apartment complex in the West Village in New York. Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) was a slightly spoilt, completely dependent on her father, protected, rich girl and a fashionista; Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) was the nerdy, intellectual innocent guy, who would cross any boundary for love, armed with a PhD and had his share of neediness and insecurity; Monica Geller (Courtney Cox), Ross’s sister, a chef by training who has an OCD for cleanliness, a people-pleaser to a perfectionist who knows her game quite literally; Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), a man of wits and puns incapability to form deep romantic relationships and confronting the uncomfortable situation with sarcasm; Joey Tribbiani (Matt Le Blanc), a struggling actor, a ladies’ man in all respect, kind off slow getter and absolutely a foodie, Phoebe Buffet (Lisa Kudrow), the ‘weirdo’ of the gang but also with literally “out of the box” perspective, who had a tough childhood but has outgrown all challenges and difficulties in life like a boss. We are introduced to these crazy but everyday people in the episode named ‘Pilot’, and ten years, 236 episodes and a one-and half-decade later, we are still not over them.
The makers and the cast wouldn’t have thought that the show would cross entertainment and commercial boundaries and influence culture. The cultural impact of the sitcom cannot be overemphasized.
If you are funny, punny or sarcastic, you would often be termed as “ Chandler ” of the group. Praising your fashion game, you can often get encountered with “Rachel” compliments. Any neatness obsessed person in a group of friends is called ‘Monica’ whereas the quirky one is default labelled ‘Phoebe’. Likewise, Joey’s ‘How You Doin’ has been following the actor ever since. And the fun flirting often includes the “ How You Doing” catchphrase. There are t-shirts with that phrase too, and also we talk of Joey and not talk about food, is that even possible? His “Joey doesn’t share food” is another classic that you would find and has a cult following. There are innumerable quizzes, Instagram filters asking ‘Which FRIENDS character are you?’
So much so that the hangout place of the gang “ Central Perk” cafe has sprung up all over the world. In India itself, there are at least six Friends-inspired cafes. An Iranian businessman has even started a Central Perk coffee shop franchise, spread across 32 countries.
Welcome to the real world: Friends the money-making machine
The impact of Friends is so much so that the cast gets royalties in millions. Matt LeBlanc had his last $11 when he auditioned — and after the show, is history. “You can’t just give up! Is that what a dinosaur would do?” — Joey Tribbiani
It’s one of the most-watched shows on Netflix, with viewers around the world spending 54.3 million hours (the equivalent of 62,000 years) watching it in 2018. With numbers like that, it’s not hard to see why the streaming service reportedly paid $80 million to keep it throughout 2019.
Back in 2015, USA Today reported that each of the six cast members made £14.2million ($20million).
The stars were earning £16,000 ($22,000) per episode during the first series, their popularity skyrocketed by the end of the season. When season 10 came around, the cast was on £709,000 ($1million) per episode. Friends had 236 episodes played around the world on various channels including Comedy Central where it is shown almost daily. According to Variety, the six stars were paid a whopping £1.7million ($2.5million) for taking part in the reunion special.
The money continues to roll in today, not only because of the royalties but thanks to the reunion as well.
“I like it. What’s not to like?: The Guestlist in the Reunion
The Reunion stood true to the essence of the show. It was filled with tears, nostalgia and the starry guest appearance. From Lady Gaga uncanny resemblance to Phoebe singing ‘smelly cat’ to BTS rapper and songwriter Kim Namjoon, better known as RM, revealing that Friends helped him learn to speak English.
The iconic looks of the Friends like the turkey head Monica, Happy Hanukkah Ross costume were recreated in Friends 2.0. Justin Bieber joined models Cindy Crawford and Cara Delevingne in a mini fashion show, where they rocked iconic outfits worn throughout the series. LeBlanc, 53, also modelled a Friends look in the segment. He came with a “Look at me! I’m Chandler! Could I be wearing any more clothes?” — Joey Tribbiani look on stage and we cannot stop but get nostalgic.
Until Next time
“It was an incredible time,” Cox, 56, told her co-stars during the special about being part of the series. “Everything came together. We became best friends through just the chemistry, the whole thing. It was life-changing and it forever will be — not just for us, but for people who watch it, and that’s such a great feeling to carry forever. I’m really thankful, and I love you guys so much.”