Friends: Why we still love it twenty years on

Written by emmalj

Television faces an important milestone this September: the twentieth anniversary of Friends.

Television faces an important milestone this September: the twentieth anniversary of Friends. Every effort is being made to ensure the show gets the commemoration it deserves, with the iconic sofa making an appearance at Leeds festival, and Comedy Central’s nationwide poll determining the most popular episode.

It takes something special for a comedy to stand the test of time whilst maintaining such appeal, so it seems fitting, in celebration of its twentieth birthday, to look at twenty reasons why Friends has been able to do just that.

It’s relatable

Friends is grounded in the trials and tribulations of everyday life, from money worries to pushy parents, meaning the show consistently develops a level of understanding and empathy between its characters and audience.

It’s desirable

There’s something to be said for a show that presents the monotony of everyday problems whilst sparking envy in its audience. Setting the sitcom in the apartments of New York gives Friends an idealised edge which entices British viewers in particular.

If you’re going to lose your job or leave a man at the altar, you might as well do it in the city that never sleeps.

Realistic relationships

Writers seem increasingly keen to create the most intense, earth shattering and heartbreakingly perfect relationships. Whilst trends like the Twilight saga prove this is undeniably successful, Friends offers welcome relief.

It shows that relationships will entail irritation and complication, and will blend into the monotony of everyday life rather than being one unfaltering spell of passion, and that’s okay.

Clever characterisation

Friends takes familiar character traits and sets them up to be humoured, but develops them into multi levelled characters with complex histories. Funny, without being unbelievable or heavily stereotyped.

Inside jokes

These prove a great way to maintain a loyal audience: viewers come to predict them, which inspires the notion of inclusivity, making them feel as though they are part of the group.

Application in real life

You can use Friends to your advantage. Struggling to interact with the opposite sex? Use Joey’s failsafe ‘how you doin’?’ Uncomfortable in a social situation? Make an awkward joke like Chandler. Transferable skills and all that.

Sex appeal

The characters may not be your typical romantic heroes and heroines, but you’re lying if you say you haven’t fancied at least one of the group, whether you’ve fallen for Ross’ geek chic or Phoebe’s unique musical talent…


Ongoing plots developed alongside self contained storylines completed in one episode mean Friends can be enjoyed both by one-time viewers and ‘I never miss an episode’ fans.

It’s not all fun and games

Whilst everyone needs comic relief, we also need to have our emotions challenged. With storylines like Monica and Chandler’s inability to conceive children, Friends is not simply light hearted comedy, but deals sympathetically with difficult situations.

Those episodes

Certain episodes are pretty much considered individual masterpieces. The One Where No-one’s Ready, The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break…you know the ones.

The theme tune

If you don’t clap along, you’re doing it wrong.

Recurring characters

A show focused on a small group of characters needs engaging recurring characters to stop it becoming repetitive. Luckily, Friends is full of these, each one bringing their own quirks to the comedy: think Gunther and his all-consuming love for Rachel, and Janice just…well, being Janice.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ll be aware of ‘shipping’. For those who take being a fan to this level, Friends is perfect…three guys, three girls and a lot of sexual tension.

Guest star

Well, a sitcom so good it attracted the likes of Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis as guest stars was hardly going to go out of style quickly, was it?

Number of episodes

Friends boasts an impressive 236 episodes. Viewers can follow the show for a long time, becoming completely absorbed in the storylines and characters. Oh, and you won’t get bored quickly.


Although the show began long before this became a household term, you need only consider Joey and Chandler to see that Friends fulfils the love of male friendship which has recently emerged in pop culture.


Each character is flawed, but in comfortingly familiar ways, helping us realise that no-one, not even Rachel Green, is perfect.

Universal appeal

It’s hard find something you’d watch with your family, then take to a night in with your friends, but Friends bridges this gap perfectly.

The bittersweet ending

We’re increasingly aware that things don’t always end happily ever after. In many ways, storylines where all loose ends are neatly tied up are simply unrealistic. Friends avoids this, offering a happy ending whilst showing that sometimes life must move on

The moral

It’s funny, it’s silly, it’s romantic, it’s sad…but amongst all this, there’s a wholly universal moral upholding Friends: you can get through anything with good friends (and good coffee).

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.