CULTURE: “I'll Be There For You”: The One in 2020
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
“So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke
Your love life's DOA
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year, but…”
This might be one of the most well-known melodies in show business. As one of the top American sitcoms and as a timeless show, Friends turned 26 this past September. Yes - exactly 26 years ago, on September 22, 1994, Rachel Green leaves her fiancé at the altar and runs into cafe Central Perk. She reunites with her high-school friend, Monica Geller and meets five other New Yorkers. Little did she know that this eclectic group would become the alternative family of both Rachel and an audience for generations to come.
From the first season, the audience sees why these six characters need each other. Eccentric Phoebe brings up her mother’s suicide, sarcastic Chandler references his dysfunctional family, and food-loving flirt Joey struggles as an aspiring actor. Monica and Ross Geller are the brother and sister duo - Monica is constantly put down by her parents while Ross is preceded by a reputation for failed marriages. Meanwhile, Rachel is challenged by her first encounter with social and financial independence as a naïve “daddy’s girl”.
Friends is one of those shows that captured the prime of the characters’ lives in where they meet the ups and downs of thriving in the adult world. It is also a rare production that progressively challenged the domestic norms of its time. The topics covered throughout the episodes range from same-sex marriage to transgender family members. The cast is also well-known for their demand that each member receive equal pay. The fact that men and women were receiving equal income was, unfortunately, considered ahead of its time.
But what changed?
After the national tragedy of 9/11 and the harsh hit of America’s economic slump, the societal perspective on more lighthearted genres of shows changed. The reality is that our society has become more concentrated on corporate, self-seeking values. Every person fights for themselves and their way to get ahead in life - the exact opposite of Friends. But this contrast may be the exact reason why audiences end up returning to the series of Friends and why the sitcom has secured its place as one of the most popular shows in history.
What stayed the same?
The chemistry and fresh personalities among the six peers, the nostalgic vibe, an unfailing sense of humor - this says it all. The show allows its audience to peer into the lives of a tight-knit group that conquers similar obstacles through collective regret, sorrow, hardship, joy, and amity.
There is a distinctive appeal of simplicity and idealism in the show as well. In a cynical - more of a cut-throat - kind of world, the show offered solace, laughter, and warmth. Each persona reflected the hidden eccentricities of every viewer, which may have been another reason why this show became so well-liked. Everyone was familiar with: the Long Island princess, the dinosaur geek, the quirky and ditzy hippie, the obsessively clean freak, the sarcastic funnyman, and the flirty actor with his iconic “How you doin”.
The friendships were endearing, alluring, and just effortlessly right. It was what everyone wanted - to be constantly surrounded by a group of people who saw you at your best, at your worst. There were recurring love lines, pure platonic love, and, of course, their memorable theme song.
“I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you
('Cause you're there for me too)”
Rebecca Cho is a columnist and critic for The Incandescent Review and a high school writer from Jericho, New York. Follow her Instagram @becca_cho1020.