lifestyle . Entertainment

Hits & Misses: Looking Back At 'Friends' 25 Years Later

The '90s sitcom favourite is celebrating its silver anniversary this month

Two months ago, fans rejoiced when U.S. television network TBS teased something special slated for the month of September in line with the 25th anniversary of the hit '90s sitcom Friends. The show, which ran from 1994 to 2004, has always been considered a global favourite. It is also responsible for catapult the careers of its main cast: Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribianni), Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), David Schwimmer (Ross Geller), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), Courtney Cox (Monica Geller), and of course, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green).

Many critics and TV junkies also claim that Friends also served as an inspiration — and was partially responsible for opening the doors towards this TV format — for other sitcoms-turned-pop-culture-phenomenons like How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. It's also safe to say that the continuous viewership of Friends after concluding more than two decades ago is enough testament for its strong entertainment value and cultural impact.

As for more references on scaling the show's popularity, Iranian businessman Mojtaba Asadian bought the rights to register Central Perk, the famed and then-fictional coffeehouse that served as the gang's hangout, in 32 countries in 2006, and has since opened permanent café branches in the U.S., Dubai, Egypt, and even China and Singapore — all of which mimick the actual set used in the television show. Even the orange couch in the show's opening sequence has gone on tour in several U.S. locations. And of course, even Pottery Barn is contributing to the silver anniversary extravaganza by launching a Friends furniture collection, referencing the episode The One With The Apothecary Table, where they were attributed as Rachel Green's go-to homeware shop. 

But while its legacy is truly fascinating, entertaining, and dare we say timeless, many were still quick to note that some of its jokes and arcs did not age well. That said, let's break down the hits and misses of Friends 25 years later, shall we? 

Hit: The women of the gang owned their identities 


Aside from being undeniable beauties, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe owned their personalities. They were portrayed as outspoken, funny, driven, and empowered while still having moments of vulnerability and weakness. They also played into their strengths by means of their careers, with Monica being a head chef; Rachel turning from petty rich girl to struggling waitress to a successful fashion executive; Phoebe being a passionate masseuse by day and singer-composer (in her own right) at night. They were also not reduced to just love interests in the series, but rather are always on equal footing with their partners.

Well... almost always. 

Miss: Rosschel... but mainly just Ross 

Despite being a well-loved series, fans through generations agree that Ross is the worst character in the series. Not only is he often self-centred, condescending, and just downright annoying, he also has this weird obsession with Rachel. Sure, he's been in love with her since they were in high school, but the reason why they broke up the first time was he didn't trust Rachel enough and was unsupportive of her blossoming career. And whether they were "on a break" or not, sleeping with someone else right after fighting with the supposed love of your life is just downright toxic. 


Plus, we might not have enough space to rant about Ross hitting on their cousin in Season 7 Episode 19, but just by that statement alone, it's enough to grasp why Ross is not exactly the most favoured Friends character out there.  

Hit: Monica and Chandler, and Joey and Phoebe remaining friends 


Meanwhile, we're happy that the writers picked a different arc for the other characters. Monica and Chandler getting together was such a great contrast against Ross and Rachel's on-again-off-again dynamic. Not only were they friends first, lovers second, but they were also very supportive of each other whether it be on personal or professional feats. They also powered through their most challenging arc — finding out that they're both infertile and can't have kids of their own — full of love and without any toxicity. In the end, they achieved having a family via surrogacy (cue in Anna Faris' character in Season 10) and got the happy ending they deserved. 

On the other hand, it was also great that the writers didn't pair Joey and Phoebe up romantically as their friendship was one of the purest — and probably funniest — among the bunch. Despite having their flirty moments and showing undeniable chemistry, it just showed that male and female friendships can work with a lot of love even without any romantic implications. In case you forgot, Joey remained single at the end of the series, while Phoebe married rich-but-humble good guy Mike Hannigan, played by Ant-Man actor Paul Rudd. 

Miss: Problematic arcs that are supposed to mean well but were obviously flawed


Compared to other TV shows during its time, Friends was particularly open with LGBT representation. After all, one of the main arcs of the pilot episode was about Ross finding out his wife, Carol, was a lesbian. But while there were many strong and empowered LGBT characters included in the narrative — with Carol and Susan co-parenting with Ross in the long run and even Chandler's father, who was a drag queen and a transwoman — they were also often treated as punchlines. Even Wynona Ryder's cameo in the show in Season 7 Episode 20 was made into a joke, where it was implied that her character, Melissa Warburton, was a closet lesbian who was in love with Rachel. 


Moving on from the gender issue, the whole Fat Monica arc was also often the butt of the joke in most seasons. Sure, it pushed Monica to be the amazing chef that she is, but they often made fun of her past despite knowing she was very insecure about it. And even between friends, a line has to be set somehow, right?

Hit: Tons of celebrity cameos 


On your next rewatch of Friends, try to spot the following: former Disney star and Riverdale's Jughead, Cole Sprouse, as Ross' son Ben; Sean Penn as both Ursula and Phoebe's old flame Eric; Bruce Willis as Ross' girlfriend's father and Rachel's eventual boyfriend Paul; Julia Roberts as Chandler Bing's fake hookup Susie Moss; and of course, Brad Pitt playing Will, Ross' high school friend and co-founder of the Anti-Rachel Green Club, poking fun at his then-wife Jennifer Aniston's character. 

The one where we draw a conclusion 


Friendship, romance and, most importantly, adulting are just some of the show's most relatable arcs, making it easier to understand why it still resonates with its present-day audiences. And while there are plenty of glaring misses given today's discerning viewers, at least we all know better now and can view this as both entertaining yet reflective of its era's mistakes. All that's left now is to hope that they won't attempt to reboot it. 

(Cover photo from: @friends)