Monday 21 January 2019

They were there for us...has it really been 20 years since we first met Friends?

It's almost impossible to believe that it's twenty years ago this month that the first episode of Friends hit our screens.

How can that be when it seems like only yesterday that we first met Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe?

I can clearly remember the first time I saw the show. It was pre-marriage and children and I was living with a bunch of pals in a rented house in Donnybrook.

I came in from work one evening to find the others huddled round the TV, watching this brand new American comedy.

Word on the street was that it was even better than Cheers. Cynical about the hype, I sat down, thinking anything had to be better than Glenroe, to which some of my flatmates were very disturbingly devoted.

I was sucked in immediately. The characters were so cool.

They danced in a fountain in the opening credits. They hung out in a New York coffee shop called Central Perk all the time (work? who needed to work?).


When they weren't there, they were in a funky apartment being simultaneously hilarious and beautiful.

We immediately fell in love with them and began counting the days until the next episode. Looking back, it was such an innocent time.

These days we stream dark Swedish dramas with subtitles on-line, but back then the excited anticipation before every 'Friends night' was immense.

We laughed along at the characters' scrapes and mishaps and then repeated their lines word for word at the water-cooler the next day in work, thinking we were as hilarious as they were.

Joey's 'How you doin'?' was a favourite, as was mimicking Chandler's upward inflection at the end of every sentence. It was almost like we had just discovered America all over again.

But it wasn't just the funny catchphrases that had us hooked. The characters might have been very far removed from our own reality, and yet we could identify with their issues.

We all rooted for star-crossed lovers Ross and Rachel to get together, for example.

Who will ever forget their first kiss? I had tears pouring down my face as I watched that episode.

And later when Ross used the excuse that they were 'on a break' when he cheated on Rachel, it ignited heated debate between couples everywhere.

Truthfully, the show hit a nerve because we all secretly recognised ourselves in one or more of the characters.

Which Friend were you? Were you the spoiled brat, the joker, the nerd, the kooky one, the perfectionist or the dim-wit?

Predictably, I liked to operate under the misguided illusion that I was most like Rachel - she of the gorgeous hair and impeccable comic timing.

I even asked my long-suffering hairdresser for the 'Rachel' haircut.

I was devastated when he delicately broke the news to me that it was unlikely that I could ever get what I wanted because my naturally unruly mop refused to cooperate.


Unsurprisingly, Friends is now one of the most repeated shows on TV, and it's not just the original audience who are tuning in.

For the younger generation, it gives a brilliant snapshot of life back in the pre-historic 1990s era.

Some of us even find it as funny and relevant as we did.

For those like me who were devoted to it the first time around watching it now takes me back to a time in my life when I had no responsibilities. I've also discovered that I still know all the words to 'Smelly Cat'.

My only regret is that I never did get that Rachel haircut.

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