I remember the first time I watched Friends. I was about 13 years old, and staying over night at my grandparents’ house, and I was bored. This is the set of grandparents who had not one toy in their house, and when my sister and I would go over to visit, we were allowed to play with the one pair of binoculars and a cabinet full of Tupperware. It was breathtakingly dull. I don’t know why I was allowed to watch TV unsupervised, but Friends came on and I sat and watched the episode enthralled- it was The One With The Evil Orthodontist, which has a scene with Rachel having sex with her ex, Barry, in the chair at his orthodontist office. I remember frantically looking over my shoulder waiting to be found out and get in trouble, but I didn’t. I don’t remember whether I started regularly watching Friends after that, probably when I could sneak it on the TV without my parents noticing that it dealt with themes they probably wouldn’t have approved of, but I know that I started watching in earnest when I started college in 2000. Friends was like a comfortable blanket that I could sink into when the stress of a high stakes university got to be too much. The show ended right before I graduated in 2004, and I remember being sad about it. I had ordered a branded mug from NBC and it followed me through grad school and into my first house after I got married before it unceremoniously got broken by my children.
Now, onto the actual subject of this review, the book. I’ll Be There For You: The One About Friends, goes into the history of how Friends the TV show came to be and gives behind the scenes details about its inception, and trials and tribulations along the way. The book has a general narrative that follows the chronology of the series, while also framing many of the chapters with over-arching themes such as the show’s worldwide success, narrative hits and misses, its problems with racial diversity, and the fact that it was both progressive and regressive with the way that it handles its LGBTQ+ storylines (being ahead of the curve in terms of representation, but also couching those stories into gay panic jokes, chaste lesbians, and an extremely problematic trans storyline). The final chapter also addresses a complicated sexual harassment lawsuit that was mostly buried in the media. I found this book to be interesting, and I always love behind the scenes stories of how this series came to be. There is nothing earth shattering here, and it’s obviously only for people who are interested in Friends, but I found it an enjoyable, easy read. I recommend it if you liked, or regularly watched the show, or are interested in the zeitgeist that surrounded it.