Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn
Friends is an American sitcom created by David Crane (Episodes) and Marta Kauffman (Grace and Frankie), which originally aired for ten seasons on NBC from September 22, 1994 to May 6, 2004. It revolves around a circle of friends living in Manhattan, a borough of New York City. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television.
The premise is simple: Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston, The Edge) flees her wedding day and seeks out childhood friend Monica Geller (Courteney Cox, Cougar Town, Web Therapy), a New York City chef. They become roommates, and Rachel joins Monica’s social circle of single people in their mid-20s: struggling actor Joey Tribbiani (Matt Leblanc, Joey, Episodes), business professional Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Go On), masseuse and musician Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow, Web Therapy), and newly divorced paleontologist Ross Geller (David Schwimmer, Web Therapy), Monica’s older brother. To support herself Rachel becomes a waitress at Central Perk, the Manhattan coffeehouse where the group often hangs out; when not there, the six are usually at Monica and Rachel’s nearby West Village apartment, or Joey and Chandler’s across the hall.
Episodes typically depict the friends’ comedic romantic adventures and career issues, such as Joey auditioning for roles or Rachel seeking jobs in the fashion industry. The six characters each have many dates and serious relationships, such as Monica with Richard Burke (Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.) and Ross with Emily Waltham (Helen Baxendale, Cuckoo). Ross and Rachel’s intermittent relationship is the most often-recurring storyline; during the ten seasons of the show they repeatedly date and break up. Other frequently recurring characters include Ross and Monica’s Long Island parents (Jack Geller performed by Elliott Gould (Ray Donovan, Mulaney) and Judy Geller performed by Christina Pickles, St. Elsewhere), Ross’s ex-wife (Carol Willick performed by Anita Barone, Shake It Up) and their son Ben, and Central Perk barista Gunther (James Michael Tyler).
Kauffman and Crane began developing Friends under the title Insomnia Cafe between November and December 1993. They presented the idea to Bright, with whom they had previously worked, and together they pitched a seven-page treatment of the series to NBC. After several script rewrites and changes, including a second title change to Friends Like Us, the series was finally named Friends and premiered on NBC’s coveted Thursday 8:30 pm time slot. Filming for the series took place at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California in front of a live studio audience. The series finale (the 236th episode), airing on May 6, 2004, was watched by around 52.5 million American viewers, making it the fourth most watched series finale in television history and the most watched episode of the decade.
Friends received positive reviews throughout its run, becoming one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The series won numerous awards and was nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series, an instant hit from its debut, was also very successful in the ratings, consistently ranking in the top ten in the final primetime ratings. Many critics now regard it as one of the finest shows in television history, including TV Guide, which ranked it No. 21 on their list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. In 1997, the episode “The One with the Prom Video” was ranked No. 100 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. Furthermore, in 2013, Friends ranked No. 24 on the Writers Guild of America’s 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time.
A critical favorite, commercial success, and cultural phenomenon, the series made a large cultural impact, which still continues today. The Central Perk coffee house that was featured prominently in the series has inspired various imitations throughout the world. The series continues in syndication worldwide. All ten seasons are available in standard definition on DVD and in high definition on Blu-ray. The spin-off series Joey was created to follow up with the series after the finale.