The first episode of Friends aired twenty years ago, which means it has somehow been ten years since the show ended. Ten years ago I was settling in to life after college and Friends was my favorite show. I wrote this brief essay after watching the final episode.
“A Tribute to Friends” by Andy Jolivette (May 2004)
There has been a void in my life ever since the Friends finale last Thursday. Over the past 10 years I have shared so many great times with those six people. All the laughs I shared with Chandler and Joey during games of foosball. Playing dinosaurs with Ross (he always got to be the T-Rex). Cooking with Monica. Singing backup for Phoebe on “smelly cat.” And of course, the huge crush I always had on Rachel (in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be – congratulations, Ross!).
We met when I was in middle school, they were always there for me during high school, and they really helped me through college. Now that it’s over, I feel like I’ve lost part of my childhood and am forced to live my young adult years without six of my closest friends. I flip through the channels aimlessly searching for something to watch. Occasionally I’ll run across a Friends rerun, but it’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend before you’re over her…I’m just not ready to see them yet.
I know that many people, including me, need to be reminded that “it’s just a show,” but why have those characters found such a special place in so many people’s hearts? The cast has literally been on every talk show since last Thursday, and there probably has not been this many products available based on a TV show since Saved by the Bell (I know I got a smile from some of you on that reference). So just what is it about those six coffee-drinking New Yorkers that made watching Friends the thing to do at 7:00 pm on Thursdays for the past 10 years?
My mom gave me the official commemorative coffee table book Friends…’til the end, which includes exit interviews from all six cast members. In the book, Matthew Perry (Chandler) shares something that he had heard that expresses many people’s feelings about the show. “Watching Friends is like having a really great grilled cheese sandwich,” he said. “It’s a classic, it’s comforting, and it’s always going to be there for you.”
When I got sick as a kid and had to stay home from school my dad would stay home and take care of me. He would always give me 7up and make me grilled cheese sandwiches cut diagonally, because as he said, “that’s the only way to eat a grilled cheese sandwich.” To this day, I have never eaten a grilled cheese sandwich unless it was cut diagonally. I knew my dad (and those great grilled cheese sandwiches) would be there for me if I got sick. What a comforting thing for a little boy to know.
Whether or not you liked Friends is irrelevant, but I think we all long for “classic, comforting, always there for you” things in our lives.