Watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S – for the very first time

I have never watched Friends. Can you actually believe that? I mean, that show’s first episode had aired in 1994 and its last one in 2004, it had ten seasons and is cited and thought of even more than How I Met Your Mother (which I totally watched, several times) – but I never had any contact with it. Not knowing about Friends even must have cost me some dates – seemingly, this show had a major impact on several childhoods and people cannot take anybody not being influenced by it. Well, it was about time to correct this huge mistake in my life and give it a go. Fortunately, Netflix provides us with all ten seasons, so there was no excuse at all not to bingewatch them all.

Warning: This article contains spoilers! If there is anybody out there who does want to wait even longer to see the show, please do yourself a favour and get to some other article now!

I’ll cut it short – what an amazing sitcom! No, bingewatching those episodes was no work at all. My emotions during the very first episode were something between “Oh my god, the 90s, I am back home!” and “Were there no hairdressers at the set?“. However, it took like no time to get acquainted with the six wonderful characters, every single one of them fulfilling a particular nerdy role in a group of friends everybody would love to have around them. I guess you hardcore fans remember them all. Monica, the anancastic cook without a job, a boyfriend or loving parents. Her brother Ross, palaeontologist, super nerdy and surprisingly successful in terms of dating women. Chandler Bing, that guy who… wait, what was his job again? Ah, who cares, he claims to be a loser but may be the most successful of them all. Phoebe, the living mystery. Joey, running women’s magnet – well, most certainly running from a book or anything else containing knowledge. And Rachel, rich but poor, with her on-off-relationship to Ross. Ah, I loved this constellation, I really did.

My second thoughts were pretty obvious, too. I mean, do you see all those parallels between Friends and How I Met Your Mother? Or is it just me? To me, Chandler Bing seems like the absolute template for later Barney Stinson – well, maybe without his rather doubtful success with women. They even look pretty much the same. They both love suits (the garment, not the show)! Or the weird connections between Ted Mosby (nerdy + architect + in love with one of his best friends who was a former lover) and Ross Geller (nerdy + palaeontologist + in love with one of his best friends who was a former lover). Well, I don’t see any equivalent to Phoebe, though. She’s unique. And oh, so wonderful.

However – and this is a rather unsettling one for me – Friends kind of lost it a little bit for me in the second half, around season six or seven. Which was – another parallel – just the same time when I started getting bored by HIMYM. Is this some kind of sitcom thing? At the beginning, all characters are new, they start to develop and you as the audience have to explore them, to sort them into your many mental drawers. I get that. I even liked the little turn when Chandler and Monica developed their relationship – I would have expected any sort of trouble or breakup, but they surprised me. At some point, though, the whole show felt a little bit… empty. How to put it into words… it felt like the screenwriters had lost ideas for all those episodes, and so the main topic remained “Who loves Rachel and who will eventually get her?“. That’s definitely not the only content of the last seasons, I know. Nonetheless, it was the most dominant aspect, and eventually kind of tiresome. Has anybody else had such feelings or is it just me? Just to say, this does not mean I did not enjoy the last seasons/episodes. It just got a little bit… repetitive and foreseeable.

Something I also noticed: There is quite a lot of LGBT stuff going on in Friends. I mean, Ross’ ex-wife being lesbian and marrying another woman? The sometimes thematised very strong bonding between Joey and Chandler? The three guys having a talk at the toilet – with Chandler being naked? The women’s kisses or Rachel’s former kiss with a woman? Let’s just say, the special tension of LGBT relationships definitely was in there, which I found quite interesting and surprising for a sitcom in the US and in the 90s. I am not totally sure that every sequence and every comment was a positive one. It sure sometimes felt like the sheer thought of two men touching their arms might kill some of the characters. However, again, those were the 90s. And that has never been the main topic of the whole show. So this paragraph is mainly about something I noticed on the side. In a more positive way.

Anyway. At this point I need to say thanks to some of my friends who persistently mentioned Friends and showed surprise and incomprehension for my lack of will to close that knowledge gap of mine. I should have listened to you, I hereby admit it. But with these words I can announce: I have watched Friends. This kind of flaw is finally gone!