I’m old enough that I watched Friends when it first aired, although I don’t remember watching the first episode. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and that was some Not Great, Bob time in our household, so a show that was that funny and that escapist was exactly what I needed. It saw me through my early adolescence, into university, until I caught up with where they started – my early twenties – just as their story was ending. But Friends didn’t go away, not only because it was popular and so many people I knew watched it, I mean in the UK it really never went away. A satellite channel picked it up and showed re-runs on loop until…I think they’re still going. And I watched a lot of those re-runs, many many times. To the point where I could recite the lines and know the punchline before a joke had even been set up. And still I laughed. Still I loved spending time with those six friends.
My like of each of them shifted throughout the years, from my massive crush on Ross (I’m sorry, I was young!) to my dislike of Monica’s shrieking in the later seasons (seriously, she’s almost unrecognisable from the first series), but there was always something about them as a whole that kept me watching. Maybe I was already nostalgic before the show even ended.
So this book is right up my street. I was expecting it to cover a lot of familiar ground – I’m pretty sure I had a companion book years ago – so it was nice to learn things I didn’t know about the show and the cast. It’s also a very thoughtful discussion of the show and how it fits into popular culture in general. There has been a lot of (rightful) criticism in more recent years about its lack of diversity, and it is always somewhat shocking now to watch an episode and see how free they are with the homophobic jokes. Like, really? That was ok? But it was, and back when I first watched it I don’t imagine I even blinked. So it’s of its time, but it’s not above criticism, and I think the author really handles that well.
The one thing I wish it did have is photos. This book is crying out for 2-3 glossy colour sections of photos. It’s the first thing I looked for when I opened it. Yes, we’ve probably all seen the actors’ high school photos and headshots, or we can google the magazine covers referenced (which I did, and the Rolling Stone cover was nothing like I imagined it to be). But how much easier and fun is it to have them RIGHT THERE? Baffling to me. Is it a rights thing? Too expensive? I missed them either way.
It is tempting to go back and watch the show in order now, something I haven’t done in many years. I could do with a bit of TV comfort food.