The TV show Friends remains the ultimate sitcom of all times about friendship. One of the main reasons for the show’s popularity is the idealistic premise about a group of millennial-age friends in New York City, who share their lives, their relationships, and frankly just about everything. Throughout its ten seasons, viewers see how six friends are always there for each other through heartbreak or a family crisis, or whatever else they encounter. They show why finding and maintaining close friends in a group is hard. They also show that finding friends in a mixed-gender group is even harder, especially for men.
Like my other posts on friends in Seinfeld, Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Odd Couple for my series, New Year; New Types of Friends, the cast of Friends may give us unrealistic expectations for friendship. These six vastly different people in their young adulthood appear to be there whenever they need each other. But the cruel lie is that in real life, most friendships often don’t operate like that at all. This is especially true since some suggest there is a crisis of friendships today.
Friends is an American television sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. It aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, and lasted ten seasons. The show became one of the most popular television shows of all time. It ranked within the top ten of the final television season ratings; reaching the number-one spot in its eighth season. The series finale aired on May 6, 2004, and was watched by around 52.5 million American viewers. It became the fifth-most-watched series finale in television history and the most-watched television episode of the 2000s.
The series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards. It won the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002 for its eighth season. It ranked #21 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the show ranked #24 on the Writers Guild of America’s 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time, and #28 on TV Guide’s 60 Best TV Series of All Time. The sitcom’s cast members returned for a reunion on the HBO Max streaming service that aired on May 27, 2021.
The Plot and Cast
The show revolves around the comedic and romantic adventures and career issues of six friends in their 20s and 30s who live in Manhattan, New York City. Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) is a sheltered but friendly woman, who flees her wedding day and wealthy yet unfulfilling life. She finds her childhood friend, Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), a tightly wound but caring chef. Rachel becomes a waitress at West Village coffee house, Central Perk, after she moves into Monica’s apartment. She joins up with Monica’s group of single friends in their mid-20s: previous roommate Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), an eccentric masseuse and musician; neighbor Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), a dim-witted yet loyal struggling actor and womanizer; Joey’s roommate Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), a sarcastic, self-deprecating data processor; and Monica’s older brother and Chandler’s college roommate Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), a sweet-natured but insecure paleontologist.
Monica, Rachel, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, and Joey live together (sometimes literally) and love each other — and eventually find their happily-ever-afters with each other, too.
Millennials are Lonely
Like on the show Friends, modern adult friendships are challenging to create and maintain. But recent evidence suggests friendships are also in serious decline.
A recent survey from YouGov, a polling firm and market research company, shows that Millennials are the loneliest generation with 30% saying they always or often feel lonely. This is the highest percentage of all the generations surveyed.
Furthermore, younger generations are also more likely than older generations to report that they have no acquaintances. Millennials (23 to 38 years old) report they have no friends (22%), no close friends (27%), and no best friends (30%).
By comparison, just 16% of Gen Xers (41-56 years old) and 9% of Baby Boomers (57-75 years old) say they have no friends. YouGov’s research for this survey didn’t directly examine why Millennials might feel more lonely than older generations, but earlier studies point to social media and the internet as potential influences.
Why are We Losing Friends?
Today, fewer Americans say they have a best friend than they once did. We lead increasingly busy lives as we move into adulthood. Our friendship groups shrink as we grow our careers and incomes. Friends get together less as our schedules start to vary. People move away for new jobs or to explore different areas of the country. Distance and time become barriers in a way they weren’t when you were young, single, and devoted to your friends.
In 1990 – just a few years before Friends started to air, 75% of Americans reported having at least one best friend. Now, less than 40% say they have no best friends; a dramatic decline over the past three decades.
All this research validates that finding and keeping a group of close friends is hard.
Are They Still Friends?
Even though there is no animosity among the cast of Friends, reports say the six actors have only been together in the same room twice since the show ended in 2004.
David Schwimmer is the one cast member who kept fans most informed in the run-up to the show. Prior to filming, he told The Graham Norton Show that he is going to see everybody for the first time in many years. While he’s not as close to his former cast members as others, he was just as excited about the reunion as the rest of them.
While some actors can’t stand their closest coworkers, this group of friends always seemed to get along. Their real-life relationships didn’t imitate their on-screen relationships. None of them coupled up nor did they live across the hall from one another. But they didn’t let time and distance chip away at their friendships either. Theirs demonstrates that finding close friends in a large group is hard.
The TV show Friends shows that friendships are important as we move further into adulthood. However, I see two challenges with this group:
- It was too large
- It mixed genders
My earlier post, Who is in your “5”? Jesus had 3 explained that Jesus’ inner circle consisted of just 3 men: Peter, James, and John. Even among my groups of friendships, I see smaller set of friends who are more emotionally close to each other than with the rest of the larger group. In my opinion, the ideal size for is 2 or 3 for your group of closest friends.
Also, friendships with the opposite sex can lead to temptations generally not part of same-gender friend groups. Check out my other posts, Why We Sexualize Friendships and Guidelines for Male-Female Friendships about mixed-gender friendships.
All that said, men especially need a group of 2 or 3 close, authentic male friends. These are friends who know you well; the man who is flawed and tends to cover his weaknesses and temptations. Your friends call you up to a higher standard and cheer for your accomplishments. These are your GodBuddies!
Do you have a group of friends like that?
My next post is about work friendships from the TV show, The Office.