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Friends 25th Anniversary Round table :‘So, no one told you life was gonna be this way’

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In September 1994 'Friends' first aired and soon become an international success, its stars up to then relatively unknowns shooting to international stardom.
Each week people tuned in to see the lives of twenty-somethings Monica Geller ( Courtney Cox), Rachel Green( Jennifer Aniston), Chandler Bing( Matthew Perry), Ross Geller( David Schwimmer), Joey Tribbiani( Matt Le Blanc )and Phoebe Buffay( Lisa Kudrow). Set in the heart of New York and mainly revolving around scenes in their apartments or the local coffee shop, Central Perk. Friends was an instant success and ran for 10 seasons finally drawing to a close with a very satisfying finale in May 2004. Many grew up with this series and their lives they could see reflected on the screen.
Off-screen as usual the press at the time were beyond ruthless, whether it be the star’s latest relationships or one star’s battle with addiction. These were the days before social media you can imagine if there had been such a thing as shipping wars!
Year’s after its finale aired the stars of the shows lives still come under media scrutiny as they went on to new careers. Despite the at times unwanted press attention the stars have a lot to smile about thought the show reportedly brings in $1 billion a year and each of the stars making $20 million a year.

'Friends' was funny, entertaining but never shied away from weaving the dramatic storylines into the mix. The 'Friends' were always there for each other( we all know the theme song) whatever life threw at them.
When the series aired on Netflix in January 2015 criticism soon arrived ‘Millennials watching Friends on Netflix have expressed reservations about the popular sitcom’s storylines, describing it as transphobic, homophobic and sexist.’ According to a newspaper article in the UK newspaper The Independent, published in January 2015(A variety of similar articles can be found online). In fact, looking back at the lack of diversity in the cast as well as jokes at certain sections of the various communities it did take cheap shots at times and was insulting. It's worth noting 'Friends' did air the first LGBT marriage, but they weren’t allowed to kiss and in some states, they never aired the episode.
While 'Friends' might not be PC by today's standards there is no denying its success, the brilliant writing, and storylines that had fans tuning in then and now. Today it still is a success, and merchandise can be found almost anywhere, from Central Perk mugs to T-shirts.
Despite being filmed in the '90s any criticism has done little to wain its popularity and 'Friends' is still regarded as one of the most influential sitcoms of our time.

It's only fitting that here at Spoiler TV some of us took a look back at the series shared our thoughts and some of our favorite moments for its 25th Anniversary. Thank you to all my fellow SpoilerTV writers who participated in this.
DC- Zandarl, IK-Ida Karlsson, BA – Bradley Adams, JC – Jamie Coudeville, CL- Ceclie L., AC- Abby Crofton, KK – Julia Krassnik, SO – Maria Sol, SC - Shrileena Cunningham

1.Did you watch friends the first time around or via streaming service or reruns? Why do you think it has such a popular following even today?

DC: I remember the first episode airing in the UK and I instantly got a group of friends together to watch it became our friend night routine. Like the friends, we are all on different paths now but I remember those nights fondly and that's why the show holds a special place for me. It has the perfect mix of drama and comedy and even today very relatable storylines that is why I believe it still resonates with audiences.

IK: I watched Friends when it first aired on television in Sweden which was a few years after the show started in the US I believe. I was really young when I first watched it so I didn’t quite understand everything so that is why I then watched all the reruns when I was a bit older and could understand it.

It’s just such a funny show and I think that is one of the main reasons why people of all ages love it so much. But also the “your friends can be your family”-aspect of the show, I think that is something that so many can relate to and it just resonates with so many people. And thirdly, New York. The city itself is just magical and I think that people all over the world agree with that.

BA: I watched it via reruns on TV and on DVD in around 2012 — recommended by my dad, who doesn’t usually like American television, which says a lot about the strength of the show. It’s still popular for two reasons: a) because it’s really damn good, and b) because it’s a very easy show. It’s easy to get into, easy to laugh at, easy to stick with, easy to return to. It undoubtedly has the rewatchability factor that has sustained it over 25 years. Let’s not forget, too, that for so much of the series, it’s light and breezy. What better way to escape the horrors of the 2019 news cycle than a couple of episodes of FRIENDS?

JC: Well, the show premiered a few weeks before I was born. So, no. I did not watch it the first time around. I watched it through reruns. A lot of sitcoms these days try way too hard and it shows. But this show’s humor just seemed so effortless. And a lot of it was physical humor as well. Ross playing Celebration on the bagpipes and Phoebe screeching along to the point that Jennifer Aniston had to hide behind her hand because she couldn’t get through a take without laughing. You don’t see that kind of stuff anymore. The characters are also very relatable. Chandler was always my favorite because I related a lot to his sarcastic humor.

CL: Actually, I kind of did it all wrong haha. When my sister moved out of her apartment, we got some stuff she didn't want to bring with her, and that included a Friends season 4 VHS. I watched a lot as a child but had no idea what came before or after (and season 4 ends with *that* Rachel/Ross cliffhanger, so I was desperate!). We ended up getting all the seasons on DVD after a while though, and then since it started streaming on Netflix I usually watch some fave episodes semi-regularly. I think it's still popular today because regardless of how it has aged, it still feels like a comfort show and people relate to the difficulties of navigating adulthood.

AC: I watched the first time around - NBC Thursdays was appointment television back then. Plus, if you didn't watch you'd be left wondering what everyone was talking about the next day at school. The very appealing cast gets most of the credit for the show's continued popularity, with some genuinely funny writing helping too. That was a cast with great comedic timing.

KK: I saw a few episodes on German TV in the 90s. However, I did not particularly like the show back then. This was either because I was too young to understand (I was barely 10) or because the German dubbing was not particularly well done. It took me over 10 years to give the series another chance. In 2012, I watched the entire show on DVD within a few weeks.
In a way, Friends is like a modern, somewhat more realistic fairytale. Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey hang out together every day, all day. Who has the luxury of having time to do that, especially nowadays? No one. Who can afford an NYC apartment as huge as Monica’s? Certainly not a chef who does not have their own reality show. The “Friends” are living the life most of us wish we had. I believe this is one of the reasons why people are still crazy about the show.

SO: Since I live in Mexico and the local “original” airings where very late at night, the first time I watched Friends was in 2000 when I first got cable TV at home, though I had already heard about it before. I still remember that the very first episode I watched was a rerun of The One in Vegas, Part 1 (5.23) and I was instantly hooked. From there, I started watching it from the final season 6 episodes, while I was catching up with the previous seasons on reruns. Of course, I’ve rewatched many episodes via DVDs, streaming and reruns.
I think that its popularity is mainly due to the fact that it is easy to relate to the characters at a certain point in our lives and that is what they wanted to show us, the beginning of a stage of life, after university, in which we began to question ourselves about what we will do from now on with our lives and that, in many cases, when we leave our homes, friends become our new family. All this told in a fun way, in which the characters constantly make fun of themselves and you can laugh at yourself when identifying with some of the situations they are living. In addition, it is well known that the six actors in real life became great friends and that chemistry is easy to see on the screen. When you see Friends again you can remember the old days (if you had the opportunity to live them) or get a sense of what the 90s and the beginning of the 21st century were, because this show is definitely the symbol of an era.

SC: I first watched FRIENDS when I was in 4th grade. It was the episode, The One Where Ross and Rachel...You know. I'll never forget it my teacher loved the show she suggested to the whole class to start watching it. So on February 8th, 1996, I was able to talk my parents into watching what would become my all-time favorite show.

2. In conflict with its popularity when Netflix started streaming the series in 2015, it did show the ’90s was a very different time. A lot of content we would not find acceptable today as an audience. Do you often cringe at some of the lines or put it down to the time period and all done in a humorous way?

DC: I will admit I do find myself cringing at certain lines and episodes when I watch a re-run, Friends at that time wasn't alone in using gag's against peoples body image, sexually, ethnicity for laughs. However, haven't we all been part of some good-natured teasing between friends. While the '90s had improved from the 80's we still had a way to go in what was 'acceptable'.

IK: For sure! Some of the lines and honestly, some of the characters really get on my nerves now but I do realize that it’s all done in a humorous way and that it was down to that specific time period so I understand it. But I definitely cringe at some of the episodes and lines.

BA: You have to accept that certain things were made in the time period they were made in and that although we would be heavily critical if the same was done now, we shouldn’t be too heavy on the show for doing it then. It’s not a chicken and the egg scenario; society sets norms and television reflects them. None of the potentially controversial elements are done in a negative way, even if they’re not always how you’d expect them to be handled today. Content that some might describe as “unacceptable” today really is rare across ten seasons — and it’s worth remembering that we had a lesbian wedding in 1996, a transgender character in 2001. Acknowledge that certain things would not be okay today but accept that they were 15-25 years ago. Everyone’s a winner.

JC: Yeah, there’s stuff I cringe at. Ross’ attitude towards Carol and Susan. The thing with the dolls and his son. Actually, a lot about Ross bothered me, including how he was during his relationship with Rachel.

CL: I don't think it has aged as badly as other shows from the same period, and some of the jokes are indeed kind of cringe-worthy but it was what was considered humor then so... I don't really hold it against the show.

AC: How they treated Chandler's father's transition is so horrible looking at those episodes with 2019 eyes. And the amount of gay "jokes" and gay panic with the men is pretty bad. Especially when contrasted with how they treated Carol and Susan. The show had lesbian characters from the very beginning, and though they were mostly used to make Ross uncomfortable they were never really the butt of jokes. Plus they got married on television (though they weren't allowed to kiss - I'm so glad that time period is over).

KK: I usually do not cringe because I’m always aware that the show was written in a different century and different political era. What is sometimes a bit harder to ignore is the lack of diverse characters with an ethnic background or a different sexual orientation. Many describe Friends as “the show for white people” and that’s indeed what Friends is. Produced from and for white people.

SO: I definitely like to watch the whole picture. Even when there could be some issues that may not be acceptable or sound a bit harsh these days, things have changed a lot in the past 25 years, so I think we should keep that in my mind and try to understand it and especially enjoy it in its own context.

3. More than one quotable one-liner is often remembered from this series. Give a few examples of your personal favourites?

DC: some of their most famous lines were by Chandler though too many to mention he clearly had the best comic timing and deliver some of the shows best one liner's 'could he be.. any funnier'
Others had there own catchphrases like Joey- 'How you doing?' Monica- 'I Know' Ross - 'We were on a break' my personal favourite's which has gotten used several times when I have moved house is ' PIVOT' Another one I use is Phoebe's when asked if I have a plan 'I don't even have a pla' .

IK: There’s so many to choose from but I decided to choose five quotes, and realized that Phoebe has so many relatable lines!

Rachel: Sorry I’m late, but I left late

Do you have a plan?
Phoebe: I don’t even have a “PLA”

Phoebe: Oh, I wish I could, but I don’t want to

Joey: "Look at me, I'm Chandler! Could I be wearin' any more clothes?"

Phoebe: "They don't know that we know they know we know."

BA:The one that I’ll always come back to is from my first-ever episode watched: “The One After the Superbowl Part 2”. As Joey’s looking over the toilet stall at Chandler in women’s underwear, Ross walks in and says: “Uh, Joey, some people don’t like that.” I was ill at the time and laughed so hard that I ended up in a coughing fit.

There’s “No, you didn’t get me. It’s an electric drill. You get me, you kill me!” from Chandler when Joey builds the entertainment centre. Another that I love is when Joey explains why he and Ginger, the girl with the wooden leg, broke up. “You threw Pepper (her dog) on the fire!” exclaims Phoebe. “I wish,” replies Joey. And yet another from Joey, after the apartment is robbed: "Oh, man, he took the five of spades!"

Other favourites are the classics: “They don’t know that we know they know we know,” such a glorious way to show how crazy the situation of Monica and Chandler’s secret has become. Anything from the quiz episode. Any of Joey’s answers on Pyramid. Any of Joey speaking French. There are just so many.

JC: Difficult question, but let me make an attempt.
Phoebe: “They’re doing it!”
Joey: “How you doin’?”
Chandler: “I’m hopeless and awkward and desperate for love.”

AC: "We were on a break!" just because it shows how much of a jackass Ross was.
"But they don't know that we know they know we know!" because I really like that scene.

KK: Ross: We were on a break!
Joey: How you doin’
Phoebe: I wish I could but I don’t want to.
Chandler: Hi I’m Chandler, I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.
Chandler: I’m not great at advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
Joey: You don’t own a TV? What’s all your furniture pointed at?
Janice: Oh. My. Gawd!
Rachel: They don’t know that we know they know we know.
Phoebe: Something Is Wrong With The Left Phalange.
Monica: If I’m harsh with you it’s only because you are doing it wrong
Joey: the fridge broke so I had to eat everything.

SO: - Pivot! PIVOT! (Ross)
- How you doin’? (Joey)
- We were on a break! (Ross)
- Unagi (Ross)
- But they don't know that we know they know we know (Phoebe)
- Oh, I wish I could, but I don’t want to. (Phoebe)
- Could I BE wearing any more clothes? (Joey)
- Something is wrong with the left phalange (Phoebe)
- I got off the plane (Rachel)
- Somebody opened the door to the coffeehouse and a raccoon came running in and went straight for your muffin. (Joey)

SC: Like most shows FRIENDS is known for its one-liners. Probably one of the most memorable is "How you doin?" Young, old everyone knew that phrase. You could walk down the street, walk up to a stranger say "How you doin?" They would laugh and it would be like an inside joke. Two strangers would become two fans of a great show.

4.10 seasons and 236 episodes can you pick out your top three episodes?

DC: I set the questions and found this one the hardest to answer I thought I had my three then changed it, finally I decided on The pilot, simply because it started it all, it was funny and engaging from the start and instantly drew me in. Rachel rushing into Central Perk where they all are after just running out on her wedding, Ross saying he wishes he was married again and Chandler says the line pointing to the door 'I just want a million dollar's'.

The one with the blackout: Ross trying to tell Rachel how he feels and the cat landing on him you see him in the background with a clearly fake cat as the other sing, I still cry laughing at this scene. I also loved them all talking in the apartment and Chandler having an amazing experience while trapped in an ATM vestibule. Let us not mention the ugly naked guy with his candles!
The one with the embryos: the quiz because of a bet over the apartment and the boys winning any arguments soon end as they all come together when they find out Phoebe is pregnant, she acts as a surrogate for her brother and his wife.

KK:My absolute favourite episode has always been and will always be
' The one with all the cheesecake', that is the one episode I always go back to if I want to watch any episode of Friends because it’s just so hilarious.

I also really liked the series finale, so I think I have to say that as one of my top three episodes.

I think I also have to say the Pilot episode because that is what introduced us to this fantastic world that we then got to live in for 10 years.

BA:. In no particular order… “The One With the Embryos” — just relentlessly hilarious, with the quiz the highlight and endlessly rewatchable with “Ms. Chanandler Bong” and “transponster”, but Phoebe’s lack of knowledge about anatomy, the suggestion of her not being a gumball machine, her song sat upside down, all of it is magnificent.

The One Where Eddie Won’t Go”. Eddie is my favourite cameo character, with Adam Goldberg’s portrayal of the initially goofy and shy but ultimately psychotic roommate a work of art. That culminates here: his nonchalance watching Chandler sleep, his obliviousness to his moving out when dehydrating fruit, taking the fish and then replacing it with a goldfish cracker, stealing the mannequin head. All of it is outstanding, as is Chandler and Joey’s ploy to finally get rid of him. The other stories are great, too, Joey’s financial troubles sad but funny — “You spent $1,200 on a plastic bird?” — and Rachel’s obsession with the female empowerment book providing plenty of joy.

The One Where Ross Got High”. Does this one need explaining? The Geller parents hate Chandler until he’s “a wonderful human being,” but not before he’s embarrassed himself plenty. Phoebe’s dreams. The information overload from all of the friends. And, of course, the shepherd’s pie/trifle combination. Outstanding from start to finish.

5x14 The One Where Everyone Finds Out
1x01 The One Where Monica Gets A Roommate
7x12 The One Where They’re Up All Night

CL: The One in Vegas (Ross and Rachel are hilarious here, and the Chandler/Monica romance is one of my faves from the show), The One with Ross's Wedding (London! Monica & Chandler!!), The One with the Embryos (Miss Chanandler Bong!!)

AC: Season 5: The One Where Everybody Finds Out
Season 2: The One Where Ross Finds Out

Season 5: The One With The Cop

KK: I binge-watched them so I really have no idea where one episode ended and another began.

SO: It was very difficult to narrow down a long list of favorites but here are my top 3:
The One Where No One's Ready (3.02)
The One Where Everybody Finds Out (5.14)
The One In Vegas, Part 2 (5.24)

SC: Ten seasons 236 episodes it's so hard to narrow down my favorite episodes. However, my top 3 are The one with Ross's sandwich, The one where everyone finds out and The one where the stripper cries. But I love them all in their own way.

5. The stars became household names who do you think has had the most success since the show ended?

DC: Jennifer Aniston has appeared to be the most successful and certainly is still as well know today as she was back then. From TV to movies she still has a visible presence on our screens. Courtney Cox has had a big and small screen success most notably her drunken antics in Cougar Town but recently not as much as her BFF and former co-star.

IK: I feel like most of them are still successful but for me, it has to be Jennifer Aniston that’s been the most successful since the show ended.

BA:Jennifer Aniston. She’s become a movie actress and gets plenty of roles — they haven’t all necessarily been much good, but she’s the one regularly employed for the big screen. Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry have done mostly a handful of television roles, David Schwimmer likewise but did establish himself in Madagascar, Courteney Cox had Cougar Town but not a whole lot major besides. Lisa Kudrow has been in plenty, small screen and big and she is a contender here, but it’s hard not to lean towards Aniston.

JC: I would definitely have to say, Jennifer Aniston. I don’t think there’s all that much doubt about it. Courtney Cox had a good run with Cougar Town but it doesn’t really compare to all the movies Jennifer Aniston has been doing. As for the others, I haven’t really seen them in much since. Just a handful of guest spots.

CL:It depends if you're talking critically or commercially, I guess. Jennifer Aniston is probably the most consistently present, but her movies have been very forgettable. I'm excited about The Morning Show though. Courtney hasn't been in that much stuff since, but Cougar Town was a delight. My fave thing to come out with a Friends star is Episodes, however, which is by the same screen-writing team and is excellent. Matt LeBlanc shows a whole other side of himself and it's one of my favorite comedies of all time. I wish Matthew was in more successful stuff though. He's always been my fave but somehow he can never find a lasting, high-quality show to put his comedic talent to good use.

AC: Jennifer Aniston. Still doing high profile projects 25 years later. Plus she got me to watch that Adam Sandler movie on Netflix. That's power right there

KK: I don’t think any of them has to worry about job offers. However, Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox seem to be the ones who are most well known in the business.

SO: Back in the day when the show was at its peak, the six managed to get important roles in known films, but the one that continues with that streak in cinema was definitely Jennifer Aniston. The rest focused more on TV where, even haven't achieved such great success as they once had with Friends, they all have managed to stay present in our screens with prominent roles.

Do you agree with our choices?
Have your say in th comments below

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