The first sitcom with ingenuous comic characters coming to my mind is definitely Friends. I re-watched each episode at least 5 times and not once I was bored or tired with amazing and sincere jokes. It is incomparable to any sitcom I’ve watched. So what’s the secret in 20+ year-old popularity of a show that still gathers millions of viewers every year?
David Crane and Marta Kauffman created unique humorous characters that appeal to a viewer with their immature behavior, queer relationships, simple problems and unpredicted solutions. There’s no other series such as Friends that attracts 16 million of views per week in the U.S. only. I researched such stats in The Week article by Adam Sternbergh posted on April 24, 2016. Though I doubt this impressive number has decreased since then. Because a new generation of Netflix has a full access to all 236 episodes of this 1994 sitcom and obviously, will be viewed by teenagers and their parents even after the last Game of Thornes’ episode. The thing is that you want to return to Friends in your gloomy or sunny days but I wouldn’t re-watch even 1 episode of The Game to cheer up.
Positive, smiling and funny characters. I suppose these are 3 simple secrets of sitcom’s ongoing success. Of course, Friends would not become such an engaging prototype of reality without a brilliant cast of actors. They lived and coped with all problems of their characters during 10 years of NBC airing this show. Hence, I’m sure that success of a comic character depends 50% on a scriptwriter and other half on actors’ play.
Is Location Important?
Adrian Poynton noticed in his BBC post that sitcom’s popularity isn’t about location but characters. Maybe it’s applicable to The Office comic characters but not to Friends. Yes, I do remember those episodes in London, Las Vegas and other big cities but their New York’s flats and Central Perk café are inseparable from characters. They are more than just settings and exterior for true fans. The café is a part of Phoebe’s singing career and flats are fields of many relationship battles between other characters. It is almost impossible to picture friends living not in Greenwich Village in New York. And who cares the shooting itself was in California?
Location in Friends’ episodes predetermines most of scenes. For instance, a pun name of the café originates from Central Park which gathers all New Yorkers around for jogging, hanging out at weekends or strolling. The café also functions as a meeting place for our characters and their friends. It’s also the best place for a viewer to relax after an exhausting working day. You just need to imagine yourself on the same sofa near the extravagant characters.
How To Pass The Test Of Time?
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We get older and the cast too though funny and queer Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joe and Ross are still young and act like fools. This sitcom has been thriving for 22 years and I won’t be surprised to see my children watching the same characters on Friends’ 30th anniversary. The problems and humorous insights into the nature of relationships in this sitcom are still actual for both old and new generations. That’s why every year new fans of old series appear. However, time wasn’t as merciful to the longest ER show. I think it’s because doctors and technologies became outworn and replaced by House “charm”. Hence, the show’s everlasting success depends on universality and simplicity of comic characters. Jokes which make you laugh both in 1997 and 2016 are beyond any time frame. They create atmosphere and infect you with uncontrollable gags. Some people say that Friends is a version of our own lives which explains its growing viewership.
Do I Resemble Rachel?
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There was quite a rush among women copycatting Rachel Green’s haircuts. She was called “the hairstyle icon”. And you know, I was almost stunned meeting a title “Is this “the Rachel” haircut 2015?” in Elle post with 12 Hollywood stars wearing it like Jennifer Anniston did in my favorite episodes.
I guess every Friends’ fan could say that one of her or his crony is like Joe or Monica. I watched this sitcom at school and had 5 classmates totally like Ross and Rachel. Living in the uni dorm I found lots of true worshipers of this sitcom too. I remember those pleasant evenings when we made a break from studying and watched 20-minute episodes with our favorite humorous characters. My roommates including me were so different and having this little hobby somehow connected us. It helped us get rid of our grievances on each other.
We also projected those characters behavior on ourselves. One day I tried to copy Rachel’s style and her easy-going behavior. And the other day I was as eccentric as Phoebe with her spiritual staff. Sure, it is only artificial resemblance. You can try on all 6 masks of your favorite comic characters but soon you’ll just lay aside them to be yourself. Because even though this hot-shot sitcom resembles life and treats it easier than we do, it’s still a show.
Today when I become too sentimental and lonesome, I go back to Friends. This is my way to return to the era of no Skype, no Facebook faraway friends, no iPhones and iPads. It was an era where people didn’t entertain themselves twitting a picture or sharing some cute dog to Marry sitting next to her. Adam Sternbergh in his post for The Week said: “… sad modern paradox: knowing you can reach out to anyone at any time hasn’t actually brought us any closer together.” It’s true because every time I chat with a friend and she distracts to answer her iPhone not me, I feel like losing temper for being neglected.
We lose eye-to-eye contact and hide ourselves behind iPads trying to build some relationships. We get hurt receiving text-messages in Viber or Messenger from those who use apps to make a break-up easier for them. Which is why, such a sitcom as Friends must keep being popular among new generations. Because these amazing true-to-life comic characters can teach FB subscribers how to communicate and have fun not only by sharing some funny selfies. I do think, teenagers can also learn how to invoke joy and smile on your friend’s face just having coffee on the same couch.
You’ve been reading a guest post by Veronica Hunt
Veronica Hunt is an edtech expert and a professional blogger. She tries to provide students with up-to-date info on how to make studying easier.