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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

How ‘Friends’ will always be there for you

Elizabeth Larson

Upon hearing the news of actor Matthew Perry’s death, I know I speak for a majority of Americans when I say my heart broke. His impact as an individual and as Chandler Bing in the famous sitcom “Friends” won him such a special place in so many peoples’ lives, including mine. It feels like everyone in the country knew his face and felt like his friend, and it raises the question: why do sitcoms have such an impact on people?

The first sitcom ever broadcasted on television in the U.S. was “Mary Kay and Johnny” in 1947. Though the show aired long before many of our lifetimes, it was wildly popular among audiences for its work mirroring experiences from the time period that the audience could relate to. Although the show was black and white, and mainly played on the reality of married life in the ‘50s, it gave audiences something they had never had before: a chance to really see themselves on screen.

Even as American society progressed away from old fashioned standards and traditional marriage norms, the desire among viewers to relate to those pictured on screen remained. By the ‘90s, however, Americans and their day-to-day struggles were completely different than they were in the ‘50s, and producers had to get creative with that in order to gain popularity.

For “Friends” producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, however, the birth of “Friends” ultimately came out of one of the lowest parts of their careers. A previous sitcom of theirs called “Family Album” was canceled by CBS, leaving their futures rather uncertain.

It seems pretty lucky to be uncertain one minute and then scheming up the ideas for one of the greatest sitcoms to be the next. But ultimately, that’s the beauty of the whole show — that you never really know how things are going to go.

The first episode of “Friends” aired in 1994, and it exploded. The show targeted young people and adults alike, exploring the challenges and adventures of a group of friends in their mid-20s to 30s. It made audiences feel okay about being fired, lonely, dumped or anything in between. “Friends” gave them jokes to laugh at, heartwarming moments to smile during and even fashion trends to follow, inspiring a whole decade of Rachel-inspired blowout hairstyles.

But now, almost 30 years after the first episode’s release, the show still remains a hit. The majority of the show’s initial audience is grown, married and with stable jobs and kids of their own — kids who now watch “Friends” themselves. Even despite the show’s plethora of outdated jokes and problems unfamiliar to younger generations, it still remains popular for one reason only: the close-knit group of six.

People enjoy watching the experiences of characters that mirror themselves. Identifying with the characters on screen and their relationships with others allows audience members to step into the main character role for a little while, and producers have clearly caught on to the idea. Many other popular sitcoms have taken influence from “Friends” and gained serious fandoms of their own, like “New Girl,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

I remember watching “Friends” for the first time in middle school. By the way everyone around me was always talking about it, it seemed like “Friends” was a new trending show that I was late to discover. As I went to hop on the trend like everyone else, I was instead greeted with ‘90s New York City and people with very different problems than I had ever known. 

Even though I couldn’t relate to a lot of the relationship and job drama the characters experienced at the ripe age of 14, I still loved the show. I wasn’t used to seeing the experiences of adulthood portrayed in such a way on television before, nor did I have any idea about the lessons I would learn from watching it about independence, love and most of all, friendship.

Watching “Friends” as a young teenager was especially impactful for me as it gave me an idea of what I could expect from life as I got older. The idea of having friends by your side through all the uncertainty of jobs and relationships is especially comforting at a time in my life when everything can feel so new and scary. Even now when I’m older and I find myself in one of those scary moments again, it still brings me comfort to remember that even through all the hard parts of life, having friends there for you really makes all the difference.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the show is the universal love for it among all walks of life. Watching the show late at night at my grandparent’s house or in my own living room with my parents and getting to laugh along with them and the laugh track gave me a feeling of unity and showed me that even though I related differently to the characters on screen than they did, I could still be there enjoying it with them.

Whether or not you really ever consider yourself past those scary and unsure feelings of life or not, “Friends” truly has something for everyone. Its nostalgia and relatability make it a favorite among everyone who grew up watching it, or those still continuing to grow up with it even now.

“Friends” will never be the same following Perry’s death. Although he will be missed by so many in his life, it is still heartwarming to know that his legacy will always live on through the screen. His impact on audiences transitioning into adulthood and through other difficult parts of life, along with all the other “Friends,”will still remain for years to come, and that’s especially special today. As it’s nice to know that no matter where you find yourself in life, you can always turn on the TV and know the “Friends” will be there for you.

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