Okay, so maybe you live under a rock and have never heard of or seen the TV show Friends. I feel you: I didn’t start watching until July of this year. Sadly, Netflix is purportedly removing both Friends and The Office from its library in early 2020, but you still have three months to binge watch all 236 episodes (they are 22 minutes each; it should take you about 86 and a half hours, so grab the popcorn).
The show follows the lives of six twentysomethings living in New York: Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Ross. Netflix describes the show as “Love, laughter, and the best friends you could ask for. Just like real life. But with really nice apartments.” I find this to be an incredibly accurate description. While the show is a comedy, poignant, feel-good moments abound. And the apartments are pretty nice.
Despite Netflix’s huge selection, not to mention the millions of dollars it pours into creating new shows to hook viewers, the two most-watched shows in the streaming service’s history are The Office and Friends shows from 15 and 25 years ago, respectively. Why do viewers prefer an arguably outdated sitcom to more recent hits such as, say, Stranger Things or The Crown?
“It’s funny,” comments Kathryn Stearns ‘22. Lily Meierhoefer ‘22 agrees. “It’s easy to watch because it’s funny and the episodes are short.” Each episode is only twenty minutes long, half of today’s standard 45.
Part of Friends’ appeal lies in its watchability (is that a word? That’s definitely a word). There are no major thought-requiring plotlines; yes, a lot happens, but everything is funny and light and fast. It’s comforting to escape to a world where your biggest worries are whether Ross and Rachel really were on a break or that Monica won’t let Phoebe play with her dollhouse.
It’s nice to immerse yourself in someone else’s problems for twenty minutes, especially with all the heavy things happening in the news. No, we should not blind ourselves to reality. But is it comforting to focus on Chandler not being able to remember which one of Joey’s sisters he kissed instead of the most recent mass shooting? Yes.
So maybe Friends’ continuing popularity lies in its reliability, its reassurances. Gunther will always love Rachel. Monica will always be outrageously Type-A. Phoebe will never stop singing “Smelly Cat” to a lukewarm audience. Wars start, governments fall, and six friends will continue to trade stories and laughs on an ugly, orange couch in a fictitious coffee shop.
“I’ll be there for you,” the now-iconic theme song promised. Well, it has been, hasn’t it?
image: NBCThe Guardian — https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/aug/21/the-age-of-comfort-tv-why-people-are-secretly-watching-friends-and-the-office-on-a-loop