Could a TV sitcom about friendship, love, and life be more relatable?
When “Friends” burst onto the screen in 1994, I immediately jumped on NBC’s must-see-TV bandwagon to follow the lives of six 20-something friends living in New York.
As a 20-something myself at the time, I wanted to live vicariously through Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, and the guys. Like millions of viewers, I grew so attached to this amiable gang of Manhattan buddies that I wanted to be their friend.
From the characters’ funny catchphrases (“How you doin’?”) to the show’s long-running gags (hello, Ugly Naked Guy), “Friends” wiggled its way into our hearts for good. After an incredible 10-year run, the show ended its successful, award-winning run with a generation of fans wanting more, including me.
Over the course of a decade, the cast of “Friends” not only made us laugh, they taught us valuable life lessons along the way. Take a look.
#1: Good friends are like family.
For better (and for worse), good friends can love us, support us, and offer advice, as well as disappoint us, keep us grounded, and tell it like it is (whether we want to hear it or not).
Monica (to Rachel): Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it!
Joey (who tried to pee on Monica to take away the sting of a jellyfish): That’s right, I stepped up. She’s my friend, and she needed help. If I had to, I’d pee on any one of you!
Phoebe: Yeah, I definitely don’t like the name Ross.
Ross: What a weird way to kick me when I’m down.
Joey (watching a home video of Monica when she was heavy): Some girl ate Monica!
Monica: Shut up! The camera adds 10 pounds.
Chandler: Oh, so how many cameras are actually on you?
Joey: Why do you have to break up with her? Be a man. Just stop calling.
Rachel (to Monica): Oh, are you setting Ross up with someone? Does she have a wedding dress?
#2: Ask for what you want in life.
No matter how strong of a support system we have in our circle of friends and family, we also need to be able to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we want.
Phoebe (after she finishes playing a song at Central Perk): If you want to receive e-mails about my upcoming shows, then please give me money so I can buy a computer.
Monica (proposing to Chandler): You wanted it to be a surprise.
Chandler: Oh my God.
Monica: Chandler, in all my life, I never thought I would be so lucky (she starts sobbing) to fall in love with my best, my best.. (more sobbing) There’s a reasons why girls don’t do this!
Rachel (to an over-zealous laundry bully trying to steal her cart): “Maybe I wasn’t being clear, but this was our cart.”
Lady: “Hey, hey, hey, there aren’t any clothes in it.”
Rachel: “Hey, hey, hey, hey, quit making up rules.”
Rachel: (as they continue to fight over the cart and Rachel finally climbs into it, sits down and stakes her claim): “Listen, missy, if you want this cart you’re going to have to take me with it.”
#3: Love your friends in spite of (and sometimes because of) their shortcomings.
Self-centered Rachel, control-freak Monica, eccentric Phoebe, dimwitted Joey, judgmental Ross, and smart-aleck Chandler all showed us how to overlook each other’s weaknesses.
Joey (trying to use words he doesn’t really understand): Rach, you gotta find out if he’s in the same place you are. Otherwise, it’s just a moo point.
Rachel: A moo point?
Joey: Yeah. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.
Rachel: Have I been living with him too long or did that all just make sense?
Joey (confused as usual): Awright, when was 1990?
Chandler (always amazed at Joey’s obtuseness): OK, you have to stop the Q-tip when there’s resistance.
Joey (dressed in all of Chandler’s clothes): Look at me. I’m Chandler. Could I be wearing any more clothes?
#4: No matter how old you are, never lose touch with your inner child.
The crazy antics of the sometimes child-like girls and often sophomoric guys regularly reminded us that being young is a state of mind.
Ross: What are you doing?
Chandler: Making chocolate milk. You want some?
Ross: No thanks, I’m 29.
Phoebe (joining Rachel for a jog and running like a joyful, carefree child)
Chandler: We’re getting a house.
Monica: We’re getting a baby.
Chandler: We’re growing up.
Monica: We sure are.
Chandler: So who’s going to tell them?
Monica: Not it.
Chandler: Not it. Damn it!
#5: Parenting is hard work. Do whatever it takes to make it work.
Whether they’re trying to decide on their baby’s name, figuring out childcare arrangements or getting their baby to laugh, Ross and Rachel showed us that parenting is hard work. It often requires compromise, trade-offs, creativity and, of course, a sense of humor.
Ross (trying to agree with Rachel on a name for their baby): OK, how about Ruth?
Rachel: Oh, I’m sorry, are we having an 89-year-old woman?
Rachel (trying to make arrangements with Ross to watch their baby while she goes back to work for the first time after her maternity leave): Can you take care of Emma just for today?
Ross: Sure, just lend me your breasts and we’ll be on our way.
Rachel and Ross (singing “Baby Got Back” to make Emma laugh)
#6: Keep your sense of humor—it will get you through a lot of life’s rough patches.
Whether dealing with death, divorce, dysfunctional families, gay parents (or ex-wives), infidelity, broken hearts, or infertility, “Friends” found a way to find the funny in life’s biggest struggles.
Chandler: I’m not so good with the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
Ross: If you’re going to call me names, I would prefer Ross, the Divorce Force. It’s just cooler.
Rachel (after learning Ross brought home a new girlfriend from his trip to China): Well, isn’t that just kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic?
Spray Tan Worker (giving instructions): Alright Mr. Geller, right this way. So, how dark do you want to be? We have 1, 2 or 3.
Ross: Well, I like how you look. What are you?
Spray Tan Worker: Puerto Rican.
Ross: Two, I think a two.
Chandler (to Ross): Three failed marriages, two illegitimate children . . . the personal ad writes itself.
#7: It’s OK to fail.
Whether they were getting fired, getting dumped or just getting your teeth whitened, our favorite friends showed us how to handle the big (and not so big) bumps in the road.
Ross (to Joey on the phone, as he’s freaking out trying to get his leather pants back on
in the bathroom of his date’s apartment): They’re still not coming on, man! And the lotion and the powder have made a paste.
Monica (mad at everyone and pointing at each friend with accusations): Fine! Judge all you want, but married a lesbian, left a man at the altar, fell in love with a gay ice dancer, threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, lived in a box!
Joey (apologizing to Ross with “air quotes” for accidentally proposing to Rachel)
Rachel (to Ross): Just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy and it is a big deal.
Chandler (to a model he’s stuck with in an ATM vestibule): Gum would be perfection.
Ross (to Rachel): We were on a break!
#9: Embrace your own quirkiness.
Although Phoebe played the most eccentric character on “Friends,” everyone on the show brought their own brand of crazy, which is one of the things we loved most about them.
Joey (after eating an entire turkey): Here come the meat sweats.
Monica (being overly competitive)
Ross (trying to direct friends helping him move a sofa): PI-VOT! PI-VOT!
Phoebe (official video): Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?
#10: Friends make life better.
In the end, “Friends” taught us that, despite life’s hiccups, everything will turn out okay—if you’ve got good friends by your side. To give us their insights, the friends share their final thoughts in this interview as they wrap up their last season.
In this Warner-Brothers interview (also included in “Friends: The Complete Tenth Season” DVD), Aniston and Schwimmer reflected on the perfect casting of the show.
“They filled it the way I imagined it sounding,” said Aniston.
Schwimmer agreed, “Not one of us could have been traded out. It was like the six of us were like the perfect pieces of this puzzle, and it was great.”
I couldn’t agree more.