The One Where “Friends” Turns 25


Courtesy of Netflix

The classic umbrella opening scene from “Friends.” The show celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Sierra Hoeger

A burnt orange couch that can be recognized anywhere, one-liners that are understood and referenced by many and the presence of coffee and the theme of friends becoming family are all potential factors that make “Friends” one of the most successful television shows of our generation. 

It’s hard to pinpoint or even begin to imagine how young adults in 2019 can relate to the world of “Friends” today, given the fact that the show takes place 25 years ago, almost in a completely different world— a world where apps didn’t exist and coffee shops were just starting to gain prominence. 

The show resonates with viewers old and new, from those who remember sitting down to watch the premiere to those who first discovered it when Netflix added the show to their streaming site in 2015. 

“There’s something very nostalgic for people who’ve watched it when it was on that remains for people who are finding it. I think tapping into it and seeing what the world looked like at that point in time, but how the interaction and friendship can very much still be the same in a 2019 context,” said Novotny Lawrence, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Izabella Wickus, freshman in elementary education, said, “I just like the show mostly for its humor and sarcasm, but I also like how it’s about a typical friend group with people that are all different from one another.”

“Friends” aired on Prime time television on Sept. 22, 1994, and was a fan favorite for 10 years, drawing an audience of 52.5 million viewers for the series finale in 2004. For the 25th anniversary of the series premiere, many companies are debuting themed lines of clothing items, furniture and other “Friends”-related merchandise to celebrate. 

The stars of the show themselves took to social media, each posting the same picture with a different caption about the importance of the show in their lives to commemorate the anniversary.  

The One with The Apothecary Table 

Pottery Barn released a line of Friends merchandise, including everything from the famous apothecary table in the show to mugs, kitchen towels, prints and throw pillows. Items range from $14 to a whopping $1,099. 

Mugs and kitchen towels don the famous line “Joey doesn’t share food!” and also include his famous lobster reference that could potentially serve as a gift for the lobster in your life. 

Pottery Barn is also offering a giveaway that includes a free trip to Los Angeles and a Warner Bros. set tour, which includes the set of “Friends.” Could we be any more sold?

The One with Ralph Lauren

No need to worry about awkward tension in the elevator or accidental mishaps in the copy room when Ralph Lauren offers a complete set of “Friends”-inspired clothing online.  

Blazers, sweater vests, handbags and much more resembling the styles and prints the characters wore in the show can be purchased. However, items may be out of the price range of a college student. It’s a shame we all don’t have the salary of a transponder, because maybe then we’d be able to afford it. 

The One with the Lego

Put together your very own 1,070 piece Central Perk Lego set to display on your new apothecary table. The set comes with all six characters, including Gunther and even Phoebe’s beloved guitar. 

The Lego set is sold out online and seems to be just as popular as the sitcom. The coffee shop set is currently unavailable, but if you add it to your online wish list you could get notified when it is back in stock.

For those who wish to fully immerse themselves in the world of “Friends,” a trip to California or New York provides ample opportunities to get your fix of anything and everything related to the show. 

Located in Burbank, California, The Warner Brothers Studio Tour is sure to be a “Friends” fan’s heaven. Thousands of people each week travel near and far to enjoy a cup of coffee from Central Perk, sit on the famous burnt orange couch and learn more about their favorite TV show. 

A functional cafe within the studio, Central Perk offers a full lunch menu as well as dessert, and coffee, of course. The cafe even has coffee beans for sale, so you can take the taste of “Friends” home with you. 

Fans can be immersed into the set of Central Perk by relaxing and taking pictures on set, including on the couch. Giant mugs seen in the TV show are included as props to make the photos seem more true to “Friends” culture. 

If you’re lucky, and enough fans are in line, employees will provide a hands-on experience, assigning characters to fans and allowing them to reenact a scene from the series. Given cue cards to read from and camera directions, extras fill in and fans can watch themselves as if they were in an episode of “Friends,” making the stop even more worth it. 

“I’m not sure that I can pick just one episode that’s my favorite, but I like all of the Thanksgiving episodes because each one has a different story and flashbacks to the group of friends the previous Thanksgivings together, which I thought was fun to watch,” Wickus said. 

On the East Coast, one can expect to be reminded of “Friends” anywhere they go, given that it’s where the series takes place. 

In SoHo, Manhattan, a “Friends” pop-up allows fans to truly step foot into the world of the characters. With large photos and facts from the series covering every bit of white space on the walls, fans learn more about the TV show at every turn. 

The pop-up offers plenty of opportunities for photos, including ones taken in the Barcaloungers in Joey and Chandler’s apartment, with the multi-colored umbrellas from the opening scenes and with props to recreate the PIVOT scene, complete with a couch and a stairwell to help get the job done. 

Props used in the TV show are displayed as well, including Rachel’s 18-page letter to Ross and Ross’ Spudnik helmet, among many others. 

For a taste of “Friends” a little closer to home, visit the University of Iowa, where the financial building, Calvin Hall, is featured in an episode. 

In season 10, episode 11, a flashback of Ross and Chandler’s college days is shown and a transition scene depicting a college campus includes a shot of Calvin Hall. 

Critics and TV buffs have written numerous amounts of articles surrounding the prevalence of “Friends” in today’s society, where almost nothing is the same. 

“There’s something about the perception of TV shows when they’re considered classic, or iconic shows,” Lawrence said. “The idea of introducing things to new generations; sometimes we think that things before our time are ancient, and that they won’t speak to us, but there’s something very human and recognizable about interactions with people and friends.”

“Friends” was one of the first TV shows to dive into topics about sexuality and sex, rarely shown on television beforehand. These topics sparked both conversation and controversy. 

“The One with the Lesbian Wedding” episode aired in 1996, marking the first lesbian wedding to be aired on TV. Some NBC affiliates refused to air the episode, banning it from their station. 

Nowadays, LQBTQIA+ friendly shows like “Queer Eye” are wildly popular with viewers, winning Emmys and becoming internationally widespread. 

Difficult topics portrayed in “Friends,” such as relationship problems, financial troubles and the day-to-day struggles of being an adult in New York City are all seasoned with humor, a good balance of laid-back and high maintenance characters and conclusions that make it seem like everything is going to be okay. 

“It’s the human connection,” Lawrence said. “First of all, we just like to laugh in general, as a society. So we find these things that we consider special, that are humorous, they entertain us, they make us happy. I think that that’s one of the reasons that people are attracted to it. The things that [continue] to resonate with us, like sitting in a coffee shop, talking with your friends, talking about love, talking about life — all of those things are still really real and will always do that.”

The overall theme of the show is exactly what the title indicates — friends. It’s about being friends and having person-to-person relationships that everyone can relate to, that we all crave and need in our live — unless a friend of yours disagrees with you on the whole “we were on a break” debate. Then you might need to rethink some things.