I’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends, by Kelsey Miller

This one’s a little tricky, because it is not fiction, nor a memoir. I’m tempted to spend this whole review waxing nostalgic about perhaps the best sitcom ever produced (although I can’t really avoid doing that), but rather, I ought to articulate how another person did it first.

But just the same, here is my own story with Friends.

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Friends was one of two shows (the other being Frasier) that Megan, my college roommate, and I watched together. We spent afternoons after our classes, evenings after we did our homework, and sometimes whole weekends, sharing in the comedic misadventures, failures, and hurrahs of six New York twenty-somethings. We finished the entire show in less than one academic year. Sometimes, we turned around in our desk chairs, exhausted from homework or a bad day, and we just knew, without saying a word, that it was time for a few episodes—or a whole season.

I agree with Kelsey Miller that the reason Friends is so good is because it is a relic of an era, while also managing to stay relevant and relatable. We might not have Monica’s apartment, and the gay/lesbian jokes are a little too abundant, but I’ll be darned if I still don’t laugh at Chandler’s Pinocchio dance or Joey trying to speak French. And as Miller stresses, while the show is pure escapist cheese, its central theme is still friendship–obviously; I mean, the show IS called Friends.

I first watched the show when I lived in the college bubble, when my greatest worry was pleasing my witch of an English Department Head. And now, I watch it because adulthood sucks (as Monica proclaims: “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it!”). But either way, I could see my friends and myself in each of Friends’ main leads. Our everyday hijinks weren’t nearly as well timed or neatly concluded, but we were still a unit and we were a family.

And apparently, so were the people behind the show. They banded together when the going got rough, and when they understood the fans’ relationship to the characters and story, they were not afraid to stick with it. It really seemed like lightning in a bottle: the cast got along, the audience truly enjoyed what they got, and the sincerity of it all didn’t bog it down, but rather made it strong.

This isn’t the sort of book you read for comfort, as you would watch the show. You read it to know about how the actors got cast, how they navigated avoiding the gravitas of real world events like 9/11 in the show’s canon, and how the cast and crew grew with the show. It isn’t high on sentimentality or nostalgia, but rather does what journalism sets out to do: tell a story, and tell it with truth.

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