Throwback Thursday: Friends (1994-2004)

Above: The cast of Friends, as seen in Season 2
Above: The cast of Friends, as seen in Season 2

What: Friends

When: 1994-2004

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer

Reason for the throwback: As the fall television season readies to kick off, it only makes sense to look back on one of the most successful shows of all time. Whether you liked the show, loved the show or weren’t particularly fond of the show, there is no denying that Friends had a major cultural impact and like it or not, some of the elements from this 10-year monster made their way into your life.

What’s crazy about this eventual Thursday night NBC juggernaut is that it took a little bit of time to get rolling and for the actors to really flesh out their characters, but once they did and the show hit its stride, there was no stopping it. Year after year, it was a ratings success and the kick-off program of the network’s Must-See TV night of comedies. While there are always going to be people that are critical of the show and simply didn’t see what everyone else enjoyed about it, the fact of the matter is that Friends ranks up there as one of the most successful comedies of all time and established the six members of the ensemble as massive stars.

It sounds cliche, but you knew the characters when you were introduced to them.

Everyone knew a Rachel, the good looking, kind of spoiled daddy’s girl. Every group had a Chandler, the guy that had a joke for all occasions. There was an anal-retentive, organizational Monica in everyone’s life. Same goes for Joey, Ross and Phoebe.

And they had conversations and interactions that were familiar. Maybe you didn’t have a Central Perk where you all sat around each day and no one ran in wearing a wedding dress looking to reconnect for the first time in years, but you and your group got together to discuss the similar issues, problems and realities, which made it even easier to attach yourself to these six New Yorkers. Next thing you knew, three years had passed, the characters became fully formed and the show just kept motoring along.

What made Friends work and really kept you hooked (if you got hooked) was that they teased out relationships and storylines really well. As much as Ross & Rachel became a thing – both on the show and as a pop culture entity – they weren’t actually together all that long. But week after week, year after year, the possibility lingered, they danced around each other and you kept tuning in to see what would happen.

And no one got overlooked either. It wasn’t one of those shows where two of the six are the focus and the other four dance around on the periphery doing smaller, less interesting stuff. Everyone had a major relationship or two. Everyone dealt with major life situaitons. Everyone was had their turn as the central character of a series of episodes, satisfying the fans that wanted to see more Phoebe or Joey without alienating the collective that couldn’t get enough of Monica and Chandler.

Personally, I was in on Friends early, cooled for a couple years down the stretch and reconnected with it when I met a girl who loved the show and owned a bunch of the DVDs. She’s now my wife, we own the entire series and it remains a part of our regular rotation of “just put something on while we’re chilling out on the couch” shows alongside The Big Bang Theory and Entourage.

We watched “The One with the Embryos” this morning and even though I’ve seen in 517 times, I still laugh every time. I still use a lot of the quips and comments that were made over the course of the series in everyday life and I know I’m not alone in that.

You know how I know Friends was a monster that is deserving of a throwback?

The theme song, “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts, topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart for eight weeks, hitting No. 1 here in Canada. That doesn’t happen for any show. The Wonder Years didn’t lead to a resurgence in sales of Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Even movie soundtracks rarely produce chart-topping songs.

But Friends did and as much you may hate the song, chances are you know most of the words and clap at the appropriate parts.

The fact that you know exactly what I mean when I say that proves how big this show was.

Happy Anniversary Friends – enjoy the throwback!

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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