The One About Friends


At the surface level, friends is a decade long sitcom about a group of friends. However, like many tv shows today, this series cleverly builds itself from a very long series of non-sequitur jokes. Although its plot and characters developed overtime, like Cheers, it still felt light hearted, like a sitcom. However, unlike a sitcom such as Home Improvement, the characters actually grew and progressed over the series. After a few seasons, this became a herculean feat. The entire series was based around the whole concept of how can the writers and cast keep a joke going for as long as humanly possible while concurrently developing and progressing the characters and the plot. Some of the punchlines are so ridiculous that some of the scenes could work just as well as skits on SNL. However, unlike SNL the creators have to commit to every ridiculous skit and make it canon. Consequently, this is why there were many awkward references to incest.
Regardless, that’s not to say that Friends doesn’t take on a serious tone. The infamous Ross and Rachel break-up was so soberingly realistic it plunged us into the Uncanny Valley, and it was so memorable that the show kept reminding the audience that the relationship only occurred during season 2. Yet, to this day the Rachel and Ross relationship is recalled as being one of the most prevalent themes. Some of you may be thinking, “wait a minute didn’t those two have a child together”? Yes, but the two hooking up was a one night stand which occurred off screen.
Now, this brings us to another interesting aspect of the show. It was admirable how the creators would often not show us plot points. Usually, the most important plot points would take from half to one full season to set up, but when we finally arrive at that critical moment it would cut to a commercial break and we would often be treated to the aftermath. It’s like watching a comedian spend a good portion of his time setting up a joke and then to be told we know what’s going to happen and just skipping over the punchline. In hindsight this is very ballsy for a series who built its entire show around non-sequiturs which end with the most improbable or insane outcomes. Yet, the staff wield these characters so incredibly well that the audience always feels their story is developing naturally, albeit sometimes schizophrenically. In fact, the only disagreeable part of the show would stem from the Joey character. LeBlanc’s character had several interesting subplots which could have shifted the status quo of the show. However, by the time we reach the series finale, Joey became a static character who didn’t progress or develop. So, it makes a lot of sense why his character would be chosen to go on to a short lived spinoff series. Also, by season ten, the show became a parody of itself and it was a smart idea to cap it off. It would have been dreadful to carry this show any further.
Thanks to the great ground work Friends has done, brilliant shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and It’s Always Sunny have adopted and refined the Friends formula for our continued enjoyment. It’s been ten years since the series concluded, and its comedy has held up remarkably well. This is due to the fact that Friends was the prototype for today’s Modern SitCom.