Does “Friends” Stand the Test of Time?

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There are some TV shows that I could watch over and over again and not get tired of them. This isn’t the case for every show I’ve fallen in love with over the years (“Sex and the City” anyone?) But at the top of my list for re-watchable shows is the classic 90s/early 00s sitcom, “Friends”. This year marks 25 years since the show’s debut. Select episodes will be screened in theatres in New York and Los Angeles. All the excitement got me wondering, does “Friends” stand the test of time?

I have watched so many of the episodes over the years I know a lot of the jokes by heart. Some moments of the show are better than others. Some even come off as offensive when viewed with a more modern lens. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I still love the show, and other reasons I have to turn my brain off in order to continue loving it. Warning: spoilers for all seasons of “Friends”, Do I have to say this about a 25-year-old show?

Why I Still Love It:

The One With Everything About Monica and Chandler’s Relationship

I might be a bit biased, because, as a self-proclaimed neat freak, I relate to Monica the most. But I love Monica and Chandler’s relationship, from its inception – where they sleep together, drunk, at Ross’ wedding – all the way to their joy with adoption. I cry every single time I watch the episode where they propose to each other. I cry when they find out it might be too difficult for them to conceive naturally (considering I don’t want children of my own, this perplexes even me). Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry have such great chemistry. Something they probably owe to being real-life friends before the writers paired their characters together. I am HERE FOR ALL OF IT.

The One Where Joey Acts

As an actor myself, I cannot count the times something has happened to Joey in his acting career and I’ve thought, “Man, I can relate to that!” Like Joey, I’ve made horrible mistakes at auditions – if you’re familiar with the show, no, I’ve never peed on Jeff Goldblum or put my hand in my pants during a commercial audition with a child! I can certainly relate to struggling to get auditions, trying to find an agent, and getting gigs you thought would be your big break only for them…not to be. I figure if it’s happened to Joey Tribbiani, then it’s a rite of passage for a performer.

The One Where Phoebe Does Literally Anything

Lisa Kudrow is an underappreciated comedienne. Phoebe is so zany and so sure of her self. It’s not hard to fall in love with the character. She is strong in her opinions and unapologetic about who she is, but still has a sense of right and wrong. Despite growing up with a rocky home life (her father leaving, her mother committing suicide, her being homeless), she has strong family ties. So strong she agrees to be a surrogate for her brother who she barely knows, but embraces when she finally meets him. This story line was also a clever way of incorporating Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy into the show. That’s something that TV shows hadn’t been doing for very long by that point.

Why I Now Feel Icky About It:

The One With Chandler’s Father

It seemed so hilarious at the time, to have Chandler’s transgender male-to-female father played by Kathleen Turner. However, the casting is not even the most offensive part. When we consider that plot point in conjunction with increased awareness of transgender rights today, it just feels gross. There are SO many jokes that basically amount to “Hey! Chandler’s dad wants to be a lady! Get it????? HYUK, HYUK, HYUK!” See also: the episode with Brad Pitt where he and Ross admit to starting a rumor about Rachel supposedly being intersex. Talk about ick factor.

The One Where Ross is Really Kind of a Controlling Jerk

I’m not as harsh on the character of Ross Geller as a lot of people are. But there are definite moments where Ross comes across as a complete ass. Some of that was intentional, like the whole story line about him cheating on Rachel…wait, sorry, they were “on a break”. But go back and watch the episode with guest star Freddie Prinze Jr. He plays an overly sensitive male nanny, hired by Rachel and Ross. Ross forces Rachel to let him fire Prinze because he’s uncomfortable having a man take care of his child. Not because he is concerned that Prinze will hurt the baby, but because it’s “weird”. It’s part of the damaging belief that men cannot be as good at childcare as women. Don’t even get me started about how Ross stops worrying about Joey hitting on his female nanny when they discover she’s a lesbian. Because of course no woman would ever put her job ahead of having sex with a cute guy – she has to be a lesbian to be immune to that!

Criticism aside, I will still be sad to see “Friends” leave Netflix next year. The nostalgia factor is high with this show, which is why I think that, overall, “Friends” does stand the test of time. I’ll be singing “Smelly Cat” for at least 25 more years.

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