It’s one of the most successful sitcoms of all time but it’s a mystery as to why. My wife has been binging the series lately (and is thoroughly enjoying it, I’ll admit) but I’ve found nothing likeable about any of the characters or the writing.
Admittedly, when Friends first aired it was back in the “one episode a week” days, so being able to watch episodes back-to-back intensifies the experience in a way that didn’t happen back in the day. The lack of a space between episodes that comes with streaming services isn’t always a good thing.
This isn’t an issue exclusive to Friends, either. Binge a full season or more of The Big Bang Theory and watch how the antics of sex-starved Howard (before Bernadette joins the show) or desperately lonely Raj quickly stop being funny and start to seem creepy, even flirting with sex predator territory at times.
But at least the characters on that show were diverse in their personalities and pursuits. Friends is just a bunch of thin, attractive young people who are so disgustingly selfish, self-pitying and self-absorbed it’s a wonder they even have friends at all.
Monica and Ross are the worst by far. She is obnoxiously loud as well as being grotesquely selfish and inconsiderate most of the time while he is a moody crybaby who neglects others because he’s too busy feeling sorry for himself.
The worst part is, most of the characters are exactly the same at different times and none of them ever grow out of it. The character arcs in Friends are flat – by the end they’re all the same petulant douchebags, just older and married and/or with kids.
For example, the entire series is littered with jokes about Monica when she was young and overweight. But now she’s skinny and pretty like the rest of the group so they repeatedly “punch down” with cheap fat jokes. It’s low-hanging fruit and it hasn’t aged well.
Not only are the characters wholly unlikable but the writing overall is weak. The dialogue and storylines are so immature for six characters who are supposed to be adults. I can see why so many of the people I went to high school with loved this show back then because most of the issues that arise in this show are very “high school”.
The whole on again/off again Ross and Rachel thing just showed how shallow both of them were (especially Ross) and the way the rest of the group carried on about it makes me wonder if the writers left hidden tape recorders in high schools and just wrote down what they heard.
Then there’s the inconsistency. The worst is Phoebe, who’s a ditzy idiot in one episode then more shrewd and cunning than the rest in the next. Then back again. That character either has a multiple personality disorder or the writers just forgot who she was from time to time.
Overall, Friends was a terrible show. The characters were horribly self-centred and the storylines were childish. Even the jokes were weak. The setups and punchlines were so lame and basic. The sarcasm of Chandler was often the only clever comedy, and fortunately there was plenty of it, especially in the earlier seasons.
But by the end, he had succumbed to being Monica’s doormat and he usually looked just as miserable as I felt watching this pathetic and grossly overrated show.
Then again, the series finale was watched by over 52 million people back in 2004, so maybe it’s just me.