On May 27, the cast of Friends will come together once again for a reunion episode. The highly-anticipated special comes 17 years after the end of the wildly successful show. It is set to feature a long and a bit bizarre list of guest stars including David Beckham, Justin Bieber, BTS, Lady Gaga, and... Malala Yousafzai?
The 90s sitcom is still popular today and is the theme of several cafés, restaurants, raves, and festivals. The show’s popularity is also intergenerational; it’s a popular hit amongst Gen X, millennials, and even Gen-Z who are younger than the show itself. In 2019, Friends was one of the most-watched shows on Netflix with subscribers spending 54.3 million hours watching it.
Now, 27 years after the show first hit the screens, Friends references and memes are hard to escape. Catchphrases like “How you doin’?”, “Joey doesn’t share food!” and “We were on a break” can be dropped by anyone with almost full certainty that everyone else would get it. There’s also really weird merchandise out there, like Chandler Bing-shaped earrings and shoelace charms. Even the theme song brings back memories.
But what do people who have never watched the show think about it? Also, how did they choose to steer clear of such a major cultural phenomenon? And just... why? We asked some of them to explain, and if there could BE any more regrets for missing out on the show that changed pop culture forever.
The fact that it was always on TV added to my disinterest in the show.
“I’ve never been that big on comedy shows. When I was growing up, I’d notice the show playing all the time on the TV. I don’t think I ever had the urge to watch it fully to understand what was going on. I think the fact that it was always on TV further added to my disinterest in the show. The show is available on nearly every streaming service now and I feel the same way.” - Manik K, 29
I hate laughter tracks.
“I know the show was filmed in front of a live audience and doesn’t have canned laughter like some other shows do but I hate laughter tracks. The sound of anonymous people roaring totally turns me off. It’s like I’m waiting for them to burst into laughter after every line, thinking the punch line will drop now. The anticipation of that is a buzzkill. This is also a reason I can’t get myself to watch legendary shows like Seinfeld, The IT Crowd, or The Big Bang Theory. It makes my skin crawl.” - Anish Hegde, 32
It’s just a show about six friends who have a lot of sex with each other.
“I grew up with Friends paraphernalia around me because my own friends, classmates, and cousins were huge fans. But I never got the hype around it or felt drawn towards it. I think the show is just about six friends who have a lot of sex with each other.” - Satviki Sanjay, 20
I know vaguely that Friends has a million seasons, so I don't think I'd want to commit to it.
“I can't say if it's overrated or not because I never watched it. In mainland China, Friends is what millennials watch to learn English and American culture. I grew up in Hong Kong and it was never a thing in my own circle, although Friends was frequently run (and rerun) on the city’s biggest English-language TV channel. I probably knew Jennifer Aniston then because her face was constantly beamed into my living room. Another possible reason I never watched the show is that I'm the kind of person who needs to start something from the beginning, not the middle. For the same reason, I've never watched a single Star Wars film. I know vaguely that Friends has a million seasons, so yeah I don't think I'd want to commit to it! I know nothing about the show. I guess I blank out the way most people do when I tell them about my favourite squash player.” - Alan Wong
I politely ignore the references because I don’t understand most of them.
“I usually don’t watch sitcoms. Also, from the criticism I’ve read about the show, I’m assuming the show is super overrated. I’m familiar with some of the character names. I found a meme on Phoebe teaching Joey French sometime ago that I thought was pretty funny. If I meet someone for the first time and they are a huge fan of the show, I politely ignore the references because I don’t understand most of them. I used to feel a little alienated earlier when I came across memes and references from the show but to be brutally honest, I think I’ve started to dislike the show more because of how overhyped it is. The show is probably just another sitcom with six white friends and explores their struggles in a laid back, and funny way.” - Roshan Abbas Naqvi, 19
It’s politically incorrect.
“I wanted to check out the series while I was in university but then I heard it was politically incorrect and transphobic so I was like, ‘Fuck, no. I’m not watching that’. The characters are typical American sitcom tropes, can’t say that I’m a fan. I encounter several references in conversations and then I don’t get it and people are like ‘OMG, you don't know about Friends.’ I think the memes help with some level of understanding for the show but I doubt I’ll ever watch it.” - Shinjini Chatterjee, 21
Too much drama.
“The show could never catch my attention for more than 10 minutes when I tried watching it under peer pressure. Too much drama for me. After reading and hearing so much about the show, I feel the six characters surely do have an appeal and great group dynamics. There seems to be a good blend of sarcasm and drama (at least that is what I have figured out vaguely). People judge me when I tell them I have never watched the show and yet that judgement is not a good enough motivation to watch it for me. I have been to a Friends-themed café in my city several times, and still, I never felt like watching it. All my knowledge about the show comes from memes.” - Sriya Rane, 22
I think it’s just another American sitcom with the usual, boring, non-inclusive, white folks living their privileged lives.
“I never watched it because I don’t think it’s going to connect with someone like me. I think it’s just another American sitcom with the usual, boring, non-inclusive, white folks living their privileged lives. With the buzz around the reunion, I feel like I’m the only one who’s yet to watch the show. My friends are obsessed with the show but I think my tastes are different. I feel left out when I come across memes and references from the show because I’m not aware of the context surrounding it. But that’s okay, I’m not any less cooler for not watching this show. However, people getting hyped up for the reunion or bashing it is just too much for me. ” - Aditya Tiwari, 23
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