Welcome to "New York," where the folks are friendly, the buildings never falter, and all quarrels end with a quip. Not to be found on the East Coast, this Burbank, California-based "New York" is the setting of "Friends," the popular situation comedy that first aired on NBC in 1994. With roughly sixteen million households tuning in each week, not to mention syndication of re-runs, "Friends" has become a cultural icon. "Friends" is more than just a sit-com that begins on Thursday at eight o'clock and ends at eight-thirty. It is a living, breathing, fictional reality like a second home that isn't lived in, but lived through. Many viewers talk about the characters on "Friends" as if they were, in fact, close personal friends. They remember specific lines from episodes that aired years ago; they know each character's life history, personality traits, compulsions, strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies; they even remember the names of minor characters who have appeared in only one or two episodes (Simon B4).
The show is about six singles who "hang out in a New York City apartment, drink coffee, and make jokes" (Chidley 48). Although this simple premise borders on boredom, don't be fooled. NBC has shown us through shows such as "Seinfeld," which paraded itself as "a show about nothing," that less equals success, as far as ratings and viewer approval are concerned. The key to "Friend's" success, however, is not the inherent mediocrity of the premise. Rather, the simplicity of the premise redirects creative energy toward crafting incredibly well written dialogue to be superbly performed by a quirky, energetic, and charming cast. The humorous dialogue, the chemistry between the actors, and the charisma that emanates from the television screen gives the audience a time to laugh after a long stressful day, a sense of connection with familiar characters, and a chance to enter an imaginary world where everything is pretty, everything is simple, everything is going to be okay. Although "Friends" offers its viewers such enjoyment, its viewers must be mindful that its portrayal of attractive, Caucasian, slim young adults who use coarse, sexual, and objectionable language also makes "Friends" a show that can subtly promotes unhealthy, unrealistic, and unobtainable ideals. Is it worth watching?
Before critiquing the more problematic aspects of "Friends," one must understand what makes the show such a success. Enter Central Perk, the coffee shop that our six friends (Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Courtney Cox Arquette as Monica Geller, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, and David Schwimmer as Ross Geller) regularly frequent. It is the seventeenth episode of the sixth season, but it doesn't matter if you're an avid "Friends" viewer or a novice who has never seen the show. You will still laugh. Ross and Joey are sitting on a couch as Phoebe and Rachel enter wearing...