Written by Rachel Parris

Arts

Rated or Dated: Friends

Standard Issue writers have been revisiting an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week Rachel Parris dons her namesake’s brown lipstick and asks: will Friends still be there for you?

Friends 1What: I doubt there are many people out there who haven’t, at one point or another, found themselves watching an episode of Friends. The iconic sitcom aired from 1994 to 2004, then Channel 4 ensured it remained unavoidable by playing it more or less on a loop for a further six years.

Friends chronicles the lives of six unusually attractive New Yorkers, most of whom struggle to find work but nevertheless live in inexplicably spacious slabs of real estate. The sitcom documents their work lives, their love lives and of course their FRIENDSHIPS*.

Why: The creators of Friends wanted to tap into the prevailing mood of the 90s with a focus on twenty-somethings who were putting off things like marriage, kids and jobs until much later than their parents had. It was also a crucial showcase for baggy waistcoats on men, oversized men’s shirts on women, dark brown lipstick and of course the “Rachel” haircut, which was not as flattering in real life as you might expect (ahem).

Rated or dated: First, a disclaimer: I was completely obsessed with Friends as a teenager. I had the Friends diary, Friends mug, Friends posters on my wall and me and my mate would print off Friends scripts we found on the internet (our school had only just wired itself up to the internet; we sure made the most of its capabilities). We’d read the scripts out loud and do impressions of Chandler, our favourite. Sure, Joey was the one you wanted on your teenage bedroom ceiling but you actually had a chance with Chandler. Yes, we were MASSIVE geeks but so was Ross. And he got Rachel!

Friends 2So yes, I’m biased. But it turns out I’m right to be biased. Prompted by the news that the entire nine series would soon be added to the US version of Netflix I began watching my old DVDs in earnest. And it is bliss. It is great. It is RATED. Unexpectedly, the first few episodes made me cry: partly as a result of incredibly intense nostalgia but also because I’d forgotten how sentimental that first series was.

Every episode had an “aww” moment or five as the beloved sextet learned lessons about life and friendship. Once you stop wailing and snivelling you see how funny the writing is – it’s slick, punchy and virtually flawless. Even if you don’t like the sentimental bits, or the actors, or the brown lipstick (give it a chance, guys!) there’s no denying that the writers nailed it.

One thing, though: Friends wasn’t made for binge viewing the way many modern series are. Instead it’s best revisited in one or two episode chunks so that the characters stay charming and the jokes still surprise. You do get a tiny bit bored if you watch it in three-hour marathons as I did; enormous coffee cup in hand.

I felt like I was falling in love all over again with that world and those characters. And with this comes a bittersweet feeling of it being very much of the past – and of your past. But hey, if Jen Aniston can still look like that at 46 there’s hope for us all. Now, where’s my brown lipstick…?

*Tom Selleck once commented that the cast members were so close in real life that he felt very left out on set. Poor Tom.

@rachelparris

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Written by Rachel Parris

Rachel Parris is a comedian, musician, actor and improviser. She is best known for her award-winning musical comedy songs, presenting Thronecast on Sky Atlantic and improvising in hit show Austentatious. @rachelparris