20th anniversary of “Friends”

Marisa Hildebrand

This fall marks the 20th anniversary of Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Monica. We welcomed the “Friends” cast into our living rooms once a week for ten years, and over 52 million Americans tuned into the show’s finale on May 6, 2004.

       Communications professor Pamela Sanger regularly watched the show and said “Friends” pulled in such a vast audience because it was so relatable for 20-somethings trying to make their way in the world.

       Sanger said, in a communication sense, the cast was able to form an “urban tribe”, or quasi-family, that could support one another in the absence of real family. Many college students go through the same culture shock as Rachel, the same perfectionist qualities as Monica and have the same sarcastic sense of humor as Chandler.

       The show also gave an audience of young adults some comfort in knowing that life will not necessarily be perfect picket fences after college, and it is okay to find comfort just “hanging out” with friends.

       Rhys Mathews is a junior international student from Wales studying government. He said “Friends” was (and is) just as big of a deal in the U.K.

       Mathews said the syndicated series played every afternoon in an hour block on a local television station. The show is so popular that he swears one of his friends back home can hear the first ten seconds of a “Friends” episode and immediately know which season is playing.

       He says the positivity in American television is what draws international viewers because U.K. sitcoms rest on dark elements.

       But the “Friends” series went well beyond entertainment value. Several iconic phrases, and even a hairstyle, spawned from the show.

       “How YOU doin’?”, “we are SO over” and “we were on a BREAK” are just a few of the classic lines, Sanger mentioned, that became staples in American vernacular.

       Coming to the U.S., Mathews said “Friends” does, in a way, do justice to the way some Americans behave and see life. A couple characters in particular seem to stand out in the states.

       “There’s a lot of Chandlers out there,” Mathews teased about Americans. “And some who think they are Joeys.”        

Lauren Segura, a junior communication major, said she enjoys watching Friends because it is about people living together through tough times and making it work.

       Despite watching reruns, scenes from the show still make her laugh.

       “The Pivot!” Segura yelled laughing, referring to season five when Ross bought a couch and could not fit it up the stairs.

       “Friends” has elements any college student can relate to living with roommates and trying to find a niche in life. The show even helped nurture others like “The Big Bang Theory” and “The New Girl.”

But despite its similarity to “Friends,” Segura said “The New Girl”  will never quite match up.

       Perhaps that is why “Friends” is one of America’s darlings and made it to 20 years of syndicated adoration.