By Krystina Owens
I’m not sure why I’m still surprised at how short and unproductive summer breaks turn out to be. This is the end of the 14th summer break of my life and here I am again feeling no more ahead than when school let out. Why? Because summer break gives me the opportunity to binge watch shows on Netflix and not feel the slightest bit guilty about it. There’s no math formulas to memorize, no final papers due, and it’s too hot to be outside pretending to enjoy myself, so why not go ahead and start on the ninth episode of a brilliant new TV series I have discovered on Netflix? Last summer it was Parks and Rec, and the summer before was Once Upon a Time. This summer, it was Friends.
For many people, Friends is nothing new or noteworthy to talk about, but having never before seen it myself I was curious to know what the phenomenon was all about. Of course it was the pop culture topic of the 90s, but it has had a revival among a new generation since all ten seasons debuted on Netflix in January of 2015. And, whether you’re watching it for the first time or revisiting your favorite episodes, the stories and characters of Friends are always entertaining and worth your free time if you’re browsing Netflix for a light-hearted comedy.
For those that have never seen or heard of the sitcom, (yes, there still are some, believe me), Friends is the ongoing story of the lives of six Manhattan friends as they struggle with the ups and downs of work, relationships, and love. Overall the plot is nothing special, but it really is the cast of characters that makes the show so memorable and fun. Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, is perhaps the most recognizable character of the series, with her obsession for fashion and a reputation for being spoiled and popular. The story starts when Rachel joins the gang through her connection to Monica, a friend from high school, after running away from her wedding and having to face the consequences of navigating Manhattan life alone and unsupported. Monica (Courtney Cox) takes Rachel under her wing, though Rachel must once again get used to Monica’s stubborn and overly competitive personality and her requirement for all things to be kept clean when Rachel moves in with Monica. Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica’s older brother, is both pleased and nervous to once again be around Rachel, since he still harbors romantic feelings for her that he once had in high school. Unfortunately for him, however, Rachel still finds him almost as geeky as he was when they were in high school, but Ross has bigger problems. His wife is divorcing him to be with her lesbian lover, but then she finds out she is pregnant with Ross’ child. Then there’s Chandler (Matthew Perry), the jokester of the group, who hides his insecurities, lack of social skills and relationship experience behind sarcasm and wit. Try as he might, he can’t keep up with his roommate, Joey (Matt Le Blanc), a struggling yet handsome actor, who has no issues himself scoring with the ladies. But while Joey has no problems using his looks to get ahead with the opposite sex, his career is hindered by what he lacks in brains. Finally, there’s Phoebe, (Lisa Kudrow) the free-spirit, vegetarian of the group that is often considered the “weird one”. Though she hides behind her childlike innocence, Phoebe has more street smarts than the rest of the group combined, and is not afraid to kick ass to help her friends.
Since the premise of the show is nothing new-in fact, there are many similar sitcoms before and after it-Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother to name a couple. Here is what really stood out to me about the show: The diverse group of friends and their interactions with each other is the biggest thing the show has going for it. Having watched How I Met Your Mother before Friends, I was pleasantly surprised to see dynamic and dimensional characters that played off the major characteristics but didn’t rely on them to build a lovable character, unlike the cast of How I Met Your Mother with its cast based on exaggerated stereotypes. The group felt the most realistic of any group of “friends” on TV, which ultimately made them more relatable and fun to watch. Then there is the comedy: So many productions today rely on special effects and elaborate gags to make an audience laugh; Friends doesn’t. What truly is funny about the episodes is the dialogue paired with the reactions and timing of the characters, which I believe is a comedic method that is becoming lost as productions become more expensive and editing is technologically advancing. Friends simply has a funny script that as a writer I can appreciate while watching, and great actors to carry out the scenes without any kind of technology to bail them out of a bad performance. Finally, there is the heart. Friends is ultimately about being human, and the mistakes everyone makes as they try to figure out the biggest mysteries of life. But even in the darkest of times, Friends proves you can get through anything when you rely and trust people that you care about. The show reminds its audience to be the best person they can be, and have fun doing it. And that sometimes being there for someone is the greatest gift a friend can give.
Overall I would give friends five stars as a sitcom TV show, and I believe it is something that, despite its outdated technology (seriously, so many problems in the show could have been solved if they had just had cell phones in the first half!) still remains relevant to current generations as they grow up past college and their 20s. Though its ten seasons, I would recommend putting the time in to watch it or even revisit a couple of episodes-it’s a fun, light-hearted story that can cheer you up even on your worst days. More than anything, Friends is a fantastic watch because it can remind you of your own friends and the people that will be there for you, because you’re there for them too…….(see what I did there (^_^))