There, I said it.
The 1990’s were the heyday of sitcoms. With successful shows like “Home Improvement,” “Full House,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” etc…we were kept entertained for years with wacky situations and heart-warming endings. You’ve got a hero, anti-hero, love story, and a buddy character. Throw everyone into a setup, present a problem/complicated scenario, and get to a resolution. It’s simple math, and it worked.
“Friends” was one of the many sitcoms to dominate the 90’s, and was probably the second most popular show of the decade. This blog isn’t meant for power rankings, but if we’re talking best sitcom of the 90’s, “Seinfeld” blows it away by a million miles. But I’m not here to compare the two most popular sitcoms of the decade, and how one blows the other out of the water. We’re here to focus on how objectively bad Friends was.
Two driving forces behind a sitcom (according to this veteran TV executive) is premise and character development. Friends severely lacked in both of these dynamics, while at the same time becoming one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. Simply dumbfounding.
According to IMDB, the show “Follows the personal and professional lives of six twenty to thirty-something-year-old friends living in Manhattan.” What the hell kind of premise is this? Give me something a little more here to lure me in to your show. This would be like trying to get a sitcom off of the ground with the premise “Stuff happens.” If your premise to your show is to be about nothing…then own it. Go ahead and Google “a show about nothing” right now. I bet you’ll find a show better than Friends, just a hunch.
To be fair, this overtly broad premise does allow for a huge space to be creative. If you don’t tack down exactly what your show is about, you can spread your wings to do pretty much whatever the hell you want. What did the writers & producers of Friends do with this relentlessly fertile blank slate? Fat jokes at high school Monica’s expense, a fringe character saying “Oh…My…God,” and an ugly naked guy these six perverts continuously watch through a window. A shameful waste of creative space.
The ensemble cast of Friends was, admittedly, a super team. Jennifer Aniston is still one of the hottest women on the planet and is a bonafide movie star. Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry have all at one time or another gotten their own shows. Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer have had solid post-Friends career success as well. So, with this all-star cast, you would think it would be impossible for bad character development, right?
WRONG. (***spoilers ahead***)
Rachel Green. What’s the deal here? She was introduced to the show after running away from her wedding in season one. Many jobs and boyfriends later, she remained a a completely boring character. If your biggest contribution was a haircut, something’s missing.
Monica Geller. Monica does have some redeeming qualities; she’s a certified chef, and is incredibly clean. I’m the exact same way, except I can’t cook. Monica ends up marrying Chandler (we’ll get to that psychopath shortly) and adopting twins. Monica is Rachel’s best friend, if that tells you anything about her judgement.
Joey Tribbiani. A struggling actor who ended up romantically crossing paths with Rachel in season 10, woof. Joey eventually gets his big break on “Days of Our Lives,” a real-life soap opera that has been on television for approximately 220 years. I don’t have much against this character, to be honest. Guy took a shot at acting (and it paid off) and loves food, two things I whole-heartedly respect.
Chandler Bing. Here’s my impression of Chandler, “Could there BE a more annoying character?!” The answer of course, is no. I always hoped for more clarity out of this guy. I still don’t think I understood his occupation. Why didn’t he make a decision to dump Janice earlier? Give me some clarity, Bing!
Phoebe Buffay. Here’s your classic 90’s sitcom wacky and wild character. Phoebe’s a masseuse and musician(?) who has an evil twin sister, how hilarious! Phoebe did end up with Paul Rudd (or his character at least), which is a win I suppose.
Ross Geller. Maybe the whiniest, most self-absorbed character of all time. He did have a few legit jobs though during the show. He was a paleontologist and professor of paleontology at NYU, but that’s where the praise stops. This guy is the king of indecision. He can’t make his mind up on Rachel throughout the series, which leads to three divorces (one literally from Rachel). Ross could never seem to get out of his own way, which was of course the arc of the character, but incredibly annoying.
While I can’t deny the success the show had, I can debate its legitimacy. I’m ready to hear it from Friends army. The show was boring, predictable, and not for me, which is OK! All I’m saying is, give me Jerry & Kramer, Will & Uncle Phil, or Tim & Al any day of the week and I will be infinitely more entertained than watching “the personal and professional lives of six twenty to thirty-something-year-old friends living in Manhattan.”