With all the multi-channel television available out there, and let’s not forget the internet, TV really has become more globally shared. If a new drama garners critical praise in America, British TV hipsters fire up their laptops to indulge in a show that they fell all so clever that only they know about. Ratings? Who cares! All a show needs now is small, dedicated fan base to talk about it loudly enough and (so long as the writers/producers still want to make it) it keeps going forever. The same happens to comedy.

But there was a simpler time. When in Britain we had just 5 channels. When the only programmes sent from abroad were guaranteed ratings behemoths. Friends was undoubtedly the mightiest of these. And it was such a simple premise: 6 twenty-something’s trying to find their way in New York. Careers paths changed, relationships floundered and family (in particular parents) invented new obstacles and reminded everyone why they left home in the first place.

I watch repeats of Friends endlessly. There are pure, simple joy. Even weak episodes raise a few laughs. Those watched dozens of times before are comfort blankets. I find myself having to watch a lot of episodes of sitcoms twice; first time to follow the plot, the second to laugh at the jokes. With Friends I am still laughing at the third, fourth and fifth viewing. And, to be honest, I can’t tell you why. It was just funny. Or rather, it still is funny. People may point to other comedies that are better written, braver in concept, with more dimensions to the characters. Yet Friends still beats them all.

Critics can nit-pick all they want. How could Phoebe afford to live when she only ever had about 3 massage clients? Was Chandler’s job that well paid that he could support him and Joey? Why was the girls apartment so much bigger than the boys? These questions don’t matter (although I must admit the last one irked me occasionally).

I caught some people on Facebook discussing Friends after the rumour of a movie circulated for the umpteenth time. They claimed they never laughed at the show, and that they didn’t understand the fuss. Investigating their profiles further, I found statuses of eternal love for Breaking Bad and The Wire. Says it all really- Friends wasn’t made for people who want grit (presumably they don’t have enough in their own lives so they have to seek fictional). It was made for people that want to see people who deserve to be happy, and often are. It will never be replaced, and nor do I want it to be.

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