friends

Friends – the Gathering
In a few weeks, a quartet of my oldest buddies and I will be getting together face-to-face for the first time in almost a decade. We’re going to spend a couple of days at our place in Malmö and boy, have I’ve got some fun stuff lined up for that weekend! We’ve been friends for about 40 years now, but as life inescapably takes us in wildly different directions, our meetups are few and far between. At this pace, we might have 2 or 3 more gatherings before we stop recognizing each other…
 
Speaking of friends…
 
I just read that the sitcom Friends is one of the most popular shows on Netflix. That’s kinda weird, no? But what makes this really baffling is the age group of the viewers.
 
Turns out that Friends is super popular among young folks – mostly teenagers, none of which were born when the show’s finale aired on May 6, 2004 (and watched by a whopping 50 million people!).
 
Fun fact: apparently, each original Friends cast member earns close to $20 million/year in residuals, thanks to the show’s sustained popularity.
 
In a day and age when we rarely talk to each other over the phone, let alone meet up on a regular basis (for whatever reasons/excuses), it could be argued that when an almost ancient sitcom about a bunch of friends hanging out is still exceptionally popular among kids, teens and tweens, that it’s an indication or symptomatic of something gone awry.
 
Perhaps the very fabric of what makes human society so compelling, inspiring and dynamic is slowly being unraveled and replaced with pseudo-relationships and virtual friendships? I for one jump a little every time my phone rings these days. As if I’ve completely forgotten about that little handy functionality.
 
Now, I don’t want to come across as being this testy curmudgeon, ‘cause historically, there have been umpteen television shows which have literally hypnotized huge swaths of society on both sides of the Atlantic.
 
When I grew up, reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, I Love Lucy, Get Smart and even the quirky sitcom Gilligan’s Island, had me and most of my friends up way past our bedtime (I personally had an obsession with Mary Ann and Ginger as well as 99 and the Flying Nun – but not so much with Lucille Ball).
 
And The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later Late Night With David Letterman certainly had an impact on millions. But this was obviously way before the Internet as we know it, decades prior to instant messaging, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. TV, radio, and cinema were entertainment venues and complementary components in society. Not replacements for it.
 
I’d like to see polling that gives insight as to what exactly it is that the younger gens see in a show like Friends. Is it as simple as the affable and somewhat relatable characters? Can a teenager in 2019 really relate to a Chandler, a Joey, a Rachel, a Ross, a Phoebe or a Monica? Or, maybe it’s how the sextet together tackle more or less realistic life issues and overcome daily challenges as a fun-loving gang of cheeky, sarcasm strewing musketeers? Could Friends even be providing a kind of counseling and guidance to today’s always “on” generation?
 
It’s been a while, but I’ll easily admit to having watched the entire Friends series. I can even concede, albeit more reluctantly, that I’ve likely seen every single episode twice. Heck, I might as well own up to having watched several Friends specials and dozens of blooper reels. When our daughter Elle was younger, we’d watch a few episodes together on planes, trains and sometimes even instead of a bedtime story. There was something comforting about the show. And that’s exactly what makes its persistent popularity so phenomenally interesting.
 
I just looked on Amazon and you can actually buy the entire 10 seasons of Friends for less than $100. You’ll need a DVD player though, as the complete show is delivered in a box with 40 discs. Think I’ll stick to Netflix when I need a Friends fix. Or, just gather some good old buddies for some fun IRL.
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