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7 things I learned from watching 'Friends' for the first time

I want to be clear: I had certainly seen episodes of Friends prior to January 1, 2015, when all 10 seasons became available on Netflix for the first time. I am a child of the ’90s and I did not live under a rock, so I was generally familiar with the series as a whole, and had seen scattered episodes over the years. But I had never sat down and watched the show from start to finish. I would go so far as to estimate I’d probably only seen maybe 10 percent of the 236 episodes before embarking on this epic binge.

It took me the better part of five months, but I did it. I finished the series, and I have to admit that ever since, I’ve felt sort of … empty. For five months, it was my go-to whenever I had 22 minutes (or, you know, several hours) to kill. And, most importantly, it made me laugh. A lot.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways as a 20-something watching this classic show for the first time in 2015.

Friends probably would have been nothing without that specific, perfect cast.

With comedy in particular, the right casting can so often make or break a project. It’s clear from literally the first five minutes of the pilot that the six actors cast in Friends have amazing chemistry. While the scripts are certainly funny, what would they be without David Schwimmer’s knack for physical comedy, Lisa Kudrow’s offbeat mannerisms, or Matthew Perry’s comedic timing? It’s hard to imagine the show working as well without any one of the main cast members. The way the writers successfully balanced storylines for all six of them for so long is impressive.

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Ross is kind of the worst.

If we want to discuss the worst character on the show, it’s no contest. Ross is selfish, insecure, constantly jealous, stubborn, and pretty whiny. He drives Rachel away with irrational jealousy and a refusal to understand the importance of her career, although I found all of that paled in comparison to when he drunkenly marries her in Vegas, is too stubborn and prideful to get the marriage annulled, and lies to her about it for weeks. And don’t even get me STARTED about the “on a break” nonsense.

Credit: http://now-here-this.timeout.com/

While some plot points may be dated, the themes and humor generally hold up.

Sure, a lot of storylines involve answering-machine drama, and plenty of issues wouldn’t have existed in the age of smartphones, but that’s true of any show from the ’90s. While there are a few running jokes that did not sit well with me (specifically, fat Monica and Chandler’s treatment of his gay father), at its heart, Friends is still the story of a complicated group of friends attempting to navigate adulthood. And whether it’s 1998 or 2028, highlights such as “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” and “The One with the Embryos” will never not be funny. Ms. Chanandler Bong the Transponster is timeless.

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Ross and Rachel are far from the show’s best couple.

This pairing is so synonymous with the show and so frequently referenced in pop culture that someone unfamiliar would naturally assume they are its greatest love story. Not even close. Monica and Chandler may not begin dating until nearly halfway through the series, but their relationship is a hundred times healthier than Ross and Rachel’s 10 seasons of dysfunction. I would even argue that Phoebe and Mike have a healthier relationship in the short time we get to spend with them. I’m not saying I didn’t root for Ross and Rachel a lot of the time—when a couple has as much history as they do, of course I was thrilled when she got off the plane. I’m not a monster.

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Rachel has the best arc of all the characters.

One of the most popular and often successful ways to begin a series is by introducing a new character to a group or situation so the audience can get acquainted through this newcomer’s eyes. Rachel is that newcomer in the pilot of Friends, and the character she is then is almost unrecognizable compared to the one she is in the series finale.

Rachel goes from a naive, codependent girl who has never had a job and can’t imagine life without a man to a successful career woman who (almost) moves across the world, with only her infant daughter, to follow her dreams. Considering that most of the other characters (aside from Chandler, whom I would also argue shows considerable personal growth) change relatively little throughout the series, this makes Rachel’s transformation even more impressive.

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The show maintained an impressively high quality for a very long time.

It really wasn’t until seasons eight and nine that I noticed a considerable drop—and even then, the show wasn’t bad; it was just kind of mediocre. When the “A” story revolves around Monica buying a new pair of boots or Chandler taking a bath, you know things have stalled a bit. The first seven seasons, however—particularly after some natural growing pains in season one—are largely fantastic, and the energy and storytelling perked back up a bit in the final season. How many shows can you truly say have at least seven incredibly solid consecutive seasons?

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Friends was truly something special.

When I began this binge, I think my biggest fear was that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I feared I might now be too old to appreciate a show most of my peers fell in love with over a decade ago. But actually, I think the fact that I am close in age to the characters when the series begins added to my appreciation.

There’s a reason every television network has been looking for the next Friends ever since it ended. That combination of a simple premise, hilarious writing, perfect casting, and cultural influence is lightning in a bottle. Luckily, Friends will always be there for us to revisit whenever we want.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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