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All about Friends!

Twenty years ago, the finale of the popular Friends was aired, watched by over 50 million fans across the world

By Omair Alavi |
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PUBLISHED May 26, 2024

No, it's not the official episode guide to the famous sitcom, nor does it discuss the show’s impact on the audience. Friends Forever is a celebration of a series that went on to entertain multiple generations of audiences and remains relevant even today. Its last episode may have aired twenty years back but the impact of ‘How you doin?’, ‘Someone at work ate my Sandwich’ or ‘stuck in an ATM vestibule’ remains the same.

Before you move ahead, let's recap Friends because there might be a few folks around who have no clue what the sitcom was all about. Friends aired between 1994 and 2004, its final episode was aired in May 2004, exactly twenty years back. It was a sitcom based on the lives of six young New Yorkers living in (very) close proximity, falling in love, breaking up, yet doing everything together. Because of their interactions and hilarious shenanigans, the show became a cult phenomenon, ushering in an era of ‘hangout sitcoms’ that continues today.

Not just that, it introduced the world to ‘the Rachel’ haircut, besides introducing Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross, and Joey to the audience who were so relatable that even after two decades, people are comparing themselves and their friends with these characters. Friends Forever is about these six friends and their friends (and relatives too) who entertained the audience for over a decade and achieved success like no other sitcom did before it.

Written by Gary Susman, Jeannine Dillon, and Bryan Cairns, Friends Forever takes you behind the making of the sitcom, and helps you understand the process the makers went through to create a generational comedy about six people. Generational because in the 90s it was the favorite series of the then youth, and today it is something the current youth could relate to, making it a favorite of three separate generations.

The authors not only talked to the cast who appeared in front of the camera but they also managed to speak to those behind it. The revelations by the show’s creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane will not just make you smile like the series did but also surprise you since according to them, the idea of Friends came from their own lives, and it was relatable to their audience because of the real-life situations they showed on screen.

What makes this book more important than any other reference book on any other sitcom is its ‘friendliness’; just like Friends paved the way for comedies that based its humor or characters and situations, this book gives you insights behind everything that made Friends great. You will be taken through the selection process of all the actors (be ready for surprises!) besides some of the decisions that paved the way for future TV shows like The Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother, to name a few.

Add to that the review and synopsis of ten episodes per season and you have a reference book in your hand that wouldn’t let you get bored, no matter how down or out you might be. The fully illustrated book features iconic pictures from the series whereas the narration style transports you back to the days when Friends aired on TV.

The commentary section in the 100-episode guide is like a discussion that takes place behind the scenes, before penning down an important sequence. That’s why when you go through it, you will join those viewers who had no idea how such iconic scenes were written, and how much effort the writers put into their script to make it memorable and long-lasting!

If you are looking for episodes in which Hollywood royalty like Jean Claude van Damme, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and others appeared, or want to know the real reason behind Bruce Willis' return to TV, then this book should be your next purchase. You will be surprised to find out that initially, the sitcom's name wasn’t Friends, the famous soundtrack wasn’t part of the original plans, nor was Matthew Perry, the first-choice for Chandler. Could this BE any more annoying?

If you want to know what made Friends become something that still transcends generations, why teenagers of yesteryear and today believe it’s the best amongst the rest, and how it became part of pop culture, you have to read this book to find out. It might have been released as part of Friends’ twenty-five-year celebrations, but it will be valid even 25 years later. The lesser-known facts about the series make it all the more interesting, as does the breaking of many myths (the apartment wasn’t an apartment!).

The book also explains why Friends remain one of the few things in life that, when you think about it, make you feel young, happy, and in love, even if you might not be feeling any of those things in real life. It also points out the many challenges which could have hindered the creators’ thought process, and how they stuck to the idea of six youngsters living in New York being there for each other. Had that idea been changed, or had any one actor been miscast, the show might not have been so successful.

The writers also explained in their interviews that since they created the show keeping in mind the youth, not just of the 90s but of the future, and that's why the show remains relevant even today. According to them, the decision to remove some of the traits they had written for the characters after selecting the final six actors was something that not many sitcom creators would have willingly done, which helped Friends big time.

No Friends writeup would be complete without mentioning the iconic quiz in The One with the Embryos episode. The book also mentions the ‘lightning round’ where the two batches of roommates battle it among themselves in a quiz about the other duo, and how the writers came up with the question that cost the girls their apartment!

If you didn’t know that Rachel hated ‘the Rachel’ haircut, that the character of Ross was written specifically for David Schwimmer, or that Lisa Kudrow played Ursula Buffay in Mad About You before playing her twin sister Phoebe in Friends, then you have come to the right place. This book tackles trivia like this which might seem old to some but is new to many, including the new fans who are struggling in life like these onscreen characters.

And then there was the King of Sarcasm, Matthew Perry aka Chandler Bing. He might be the only member of the main cast who isn’t alive but his sarcastic replies are still relevant, both to the young, or the old. Without him, scenes where he shouted Pivot at the top of his voice wouldn’t have become part of our lives; there was a reason why Matthew Perry wanted to say the final dialogue and this book explains the very valid reasons.

Be it the episode in which every person had Arquette added to their name or the one where Matt Le Blanc's Joey explained that he doesn’t like to share food, behind the scene information of whatever happened throughout the show's ten-season run gets mentioned in this book, reading which is more fun than you can imagine.

It may not have won more than four Primetime Emmy Awards, but what Friends did was beyond awards; it made the audience fall in love with TV sitcom characters at a time when big-budget Hollywood films were a craze; it made viewers realise the importance of sarcasm and how to use it intelligently; it showed other showrunners that if you invest in characters, then the result would be a long-term investment for sure.

The book is full of surprises for die-hard Friends fans, those who even know Chandler’s job description. It contains hilarious interactives like Joey’s fake resume vs his real one, answers to the lightning round, the countdown to the funniest Thanksgiving foods, and Ross’s infidelity trail from one of the episodes. The part where the writers try to resolve the ‘we were on a break’ situation is also something no reader (or Rachel) should miss!

If you didn’t know that most of the finalised actors had other commitments when they auditioned for the series, that it was David Schwimmer’s idea that they should all sign contracts as a group instead of doing so individually, or that director Jim Burrows predicted the series’ success even before the first episode was aired, you know where to get the information. Happy reading!


Omair Alavi is a freelance contributor who writes about film, television, and popular culture

All facts and information are the sole responsibility of the author