Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Chandler and Phoebe have been there for us for 25 years. They are still there for us, and there’s no sign of them going anywhere soon.
Generation Z is seemingly just as in love with Friends as their parents were when the sitcom first hit screens on 22 September 1994.
It was the UK’s favourite streaming show in 2018, and was Netflix’s second most popular show in the US last year (behind The Office). The US streaming rights have just been poached by HBO Max for $425m (£339m), although the show is expected to stay on Netflix in the UK.
Then there are the spin-offs – a new Lego set, Friends merchandise, 25th anniversary screenings in US cinemas, and pop-ups where you can visit replicas of Central Perk and Monica’s apartment. Ralph Lauren has even just unveiled a Friends-inspired fashion range.
The show’s co-creator Marta Kauffman explained its evergreen appeal to The Wall Street Journal in April: “It’s not dark, it’s not twisted, it’s not about corrupt people. It’s comfort food.”
Below, four big fans who are under 25 – who weren’t born when the show first aired – explain why they love it and which parts of the show have aged well, and which have not.
‘It has never felt old’
Shanika Ormsby, 23, from Birmingham, watches Friends every day. “My family’s quite annoyed,” she laughs. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God, again?’ And I’m like, ‘Yep!’ I can never get enough.”
She discovered the show when at university. “I was at home during the summer and at 11 o’clock every day there would be an episode on Comedy Central. Eventually I started making sure I was in front of the TV at 11. And then slowly I wanted to watch the entire thing – starting from season one. And I’ve been watching ever since.”
The main difference between the 90s and today is the lack of smartphones, she says. “It’s just technology – the way they can’t text each other and stuff like that, it makes it much easier. Rachel could have texted Ross – ‘We are not on a break!'”
In many ways, it was a simpler time. “They’re all communicating and paying attention to each other. In this age, everyone would just be texting on their phone, or the six of them would be around the table doing social media. We wouldn’t get all the jokes that we’ve got because they wouldn’t be engaging with each other.”
Other than that, the show holds up well, she thinks. “I’ve never looked at it as old.”
One criticism has been the glaring lack of diversity in the cast. “I know people have said it to me, but it has never been a problem for me,” Shanika says. “I’ve never been bothered by it. They’re the perfect cast and I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
‘It’s a form of self-care’
Ally Retberg, 22, was already a huge Friends fan before she went for an audition to play Phoebe in Friendsical (“A parody musical about Friends”). She says: “I don’t know if that’s why I got the part but it definitely helped!”
She already knew “the ins and outs of every single character”. She got the part, and the show ran at the Edinburgh Fringe and is currently on a UK tour. “If anything, I think it’s made me love it even more,” she says.
“When I tell people I’m playing Phoebe, they go, ‘Oh the ditzy one’. I get really annoyed because I go, ‘No she’s not ditzy! She’s just different!’ She’s very eccentric and she sees things from a completely different view than anyone else would. She’s in her own little Phoebe world. She’s great.”
The show attracts a wide range of ages, she says. “We’ve got loads of younger people in, tween age up to people who were in their 20s when it came out so are now in their 40s and 50s. It’s great to have that diverse audience because they give different reactions.”
Ally got into the show by watching it on E4 every day after school. “It’s a really cosy programme,” she says. “I now almost see it as a form of self-care. If I’m ever feeling down, I’ll hop into bed and watch Friends, and I immediately feel better, and I think a lot of people relate to that.
“It’s just so light hearted and relatable. In today’s world everything’s doom and gloom, but you can forget about it when you watch Friends.”
‘Light humour with deep stories’
Lekhika Chaudhary’s teacher suggested she watch Friends to help her learn English after she moved to London from India at the age of 10. Now 23, she thinks it rubbed off on her.
“I think I gained all of my sarcasm from Chandler,” she explains. “My sister laughs all the time because she says, ‘You resemble that character so much!'”
Her sister is 13, and is also a convert. “She watches it and some of her best friends watch it. The fact that she can still watch it even though it’s pre-her time is pretty amazing. It’s a timeless thing.”
Lekhika is now a presenter on Wizard Radio, an online station for teens. Young people relate to the friendship group set-up, and the attempts to navigate life and love, she believes.
“Even though how there is a recurring story, I can watch random episodes. I find I don’t have time to watch a full-on series of a TV show,” she says. “And I also like how it’s very light-hearted humour, but there are also some really deep stories in some of the big things they talk about.”
Life today is the same in most ways, but she adds: “There are some things in certain episodes where you go, ‘Oh hold on, I can see how life and people have matured since the 90s’. Some of the thought processes are not still upheld.” She points to attitudes towards Chandler’s father, played by Kathleen Turner. “One thing that I didn’t like as much is the way they weren’t as supportive of Chandler’s dad, and so it’s nice to see the way society’s moved on and changed.”
‘People at school talk about it’
At 14, Grace Marsden, from Slough, Berkshire, is relatively new to the show. Lots of her friends are also into it. “Sometimes it surprises me actually how many people watch it,” she says.
“Maybe since it’s been on Netflix and it’s become accessible to a lot more of my generation – you walk into Primark and you see Friends merchandise everywhere, and you hear people at school talking about certain episodes.”
She adds: “I can relate to some of the characters sometimes. Obviously they are quite a bit older, but with the friendships, especially when you’re younger and going through school, you deal a lot with relationships with other people.”
Some things look dated 25 years on – mainly the technology. The time period is “close, but yet it’s far”, she says. “In the episode I watched the other day, Monica picked up the phone, and it was this massive block of phone. That wasn’t that long ago, but people my age are not quite old enough to have experienced that sort of thing, so sometimes it’s fascinating. It’s odd, but I like watching it.”
When Grace started watching, she didn’t realise her mother had been a big fan first time around. “She had absolutely no idea that I had owned the entire video collection of Friends before she started watching friends on Netflix,” says mum Alexandra Keane.
“I was the mother going round Primark going, ‘They’ve got Friends quotes on T shirts!’ – not realising that there was this entire younger generation that had found Friends. I sobbed my heart out at the last episode.”