After much anticipation and several delays due to coronavirus, the long-awaited Friends reunion episode is finally here.
The special comes almost 17 years after the first episode of the much-loved series aired in September 1994. What followed were ten seasons, 236 episodes and a global army of loyal fans who could likely drum up a Friends reference to fit any given social situation.
Catchphrases like Joey’s “How you doing” and “Joey doesn’t share food” have become so widely used in conversation that even those who have never seen an episode of the series know exactly what they reference. Despite being one of these people, Friends still managed to make its mark on me. I was around eight years old when I learned what it means to “steal someone’s thunder” thanks to The One With Monica’s Thunder, which my older sister had on at the time.
As someone who didn’t watch the series, from the outside looking in, loyal Friends fans appear almost cult-like, and it feels too late to join them. I spoke to others like me to find out why they missed out on one of the biggest cultural phenomena of their time.
The one where my parents said no, Hannan Imran, 28
“When Friends was first very popular and everyone was watching it, I was young and living with my parents. We only had one TV in the house, and they controlled what was on it. At the time, they thought Friends went against their beliefs on relationships before marriage.
“By the time I moved out, there wasn’t a big hype anymore so I was over it, but I did feel left out of the jokes and the memes. There are also so many episodes and I don’t have the time for it anymore.”
Canned laughter annoying, Hannah Dalton, 26
“I really can’t stand comedy that’s got a laughing audience behind every two minutes. I like to watch whatever I’m watching in peace. I like to feel like it’s just me watching it and not hundreds of others, and I suppose I’d like to laugh when I’m ready to laugh, not cued by when it’s telling me to laugh.”
The one where Friends was just ‘another dumb show’, Jodie Kenny, 28
“Watching six people talk a lot without actually having much to say never appealed to me. It has been described to me as friends who drink coffee, live together and go to work, which hardly sounds fascinating.
“I don’t know a whole lot about the show, apart from the characters Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc play. A show can get away with having one idiot character, but three? Maybe it’s because I have Asperger’s, but Friends just seems like another dumb show without an ounce of intelligence in it.”
The one where the fans were annoying, Zubair Al Kaubraa, 25
“I feel like it’s a chore to keep up with hundreds of episodes from decades ago, I prefer watching something new and fresh. I think I’ve watched some scenes on Twitter, seen memes, but sometimes I feel like the jokes are cringe. I take pride in not watching it as some fans are annoying in the way they show off the inside jokes.”
The one where the characters were all the same age, Mariyah Akhtar, 22
“When you’re watching a programme, you usually always have a mix of different ages, but just watching a group of older people [the characters are in fact in their mid-20s] is not entertaining. I’ve also never watched it from the beginning, and because there are so many episodes, I’m not going to bother starting. I’ve tried in the past, but I got ten minutes in and didn’t find it funny.”
The more hyped up it gets the less appealing it seems, Hannah Montoya, 28
“Honestly, I never even heard about it until I was in my 20’s, and it seemed like it was just another sitcom. Watching a group of people live normal lives didn’t seem super appealing to me.
“Almost everyone I know has watched Friends at some point. It almost seems like I missed out on a cultural staple. But the more it’s hyped up, the less appealing it seems to me.”
Friends references transcend the need for context, William May, 26
“Being left out was never really a problem because people who enjoyed Friends enough to make references in real life were more than happy to give an amateur rendition of the scene or a full retelling of the episode. Some references don’t require context at all, like ‘Joey doesn’t share food’.
“Because of this I never felt the need to watch Friends and instead enjoyed a distilled secondhand version of everyone else’s favourite bits. Plus, 10 seasons is quite the endeavour to start on, and I quite enjoy the patchwork of Friends references made by people I’ve met.
“Nostalgia can alter perceptions drastically; Friends might actually suck, and I don’t think I’ll take the chance of fogging up my nostalgia goggles.”