Back when I was a carefree twentysomething with brown Nineties lipstick and a Rachel haircut, my job was a joke (I didn’t have one) and I was broke (see previous predicament). So broke I couldn’t afford a lightbulb because I only had 13 pence. I lived on instant chicken-flavoured noodles and cheap cider, I was a deeply unemployable university dropout and the previous tenant of my condemned bedroom was an artist whose project was to er, recreate the smell of her vagina. Yep, things were bleak.
So I needed a weekly fix of Friends to protect me against the harsh realities of the world. These crazy characters lived in Manhattan despite working as baristas, they had great hair and teeth, they were kooky and danced in fountains and got up to comedy scrapes while wearing leather trousers or dancing with a turkey on their heads. Apart from Matthew Perry’s worrying physical deterioration between Seasons Two and Three there was nothing to dim their gleaming smiles. I wish my life was like that, I thought, as I poured the last centimetre of Strongbow into a chipped mug with Heinz Tomato Soup written on it, lit a damp roll-up and contemplated an uncertain future.
Since it arrived on Netflix it’s become the most watched show for under-16s
Fast-forward 25 years and that uncertain future has arrived. And where am I? I’m on the sofa with my son, who is nearly 12, watching all 77,000 episodes of Friends from start to finish. You see, the kids love Friends. Since it arrived on Netflix it’s become the most watched show for under-16s. They like it for exactly the same reasons as everybody else – the worst thing that ever happens is that someone steals Ross’s sandwich, or Phoebe burns the house down with her hair straighteners and meets a hunky fireman. Actually, perhaps the episode where Monica wears a fat suit was the worst thing that happened on TV, but generally, they manage to cheerily gloss over life’s complexities with a few hilarious zingers and a couple of ‘How YOU doins?’. And there’s always a group hug at the end of the day in an apartment with a rooftop balcony that would now be worth around $40m.
One thing that’s alarming me is that my son is deeply identifying with Ross, but if one day he grows up to be an oversensitive, emotionally constipated paleontologist, at least he’s not Joey. And watching Friends with him has actually become one of those rare Werther’s Original-style cross-generational joys. Everybody is happy, Jennifer Aniston’s hair still looks amazing, the jokes are still funny, and crucially, the internet is hardly mentioned at all because NOBODY USED IT.
The way I see it, no-one told us life was gonna be this way, so let’s all sit back, relax and watch the one where Rachel makes the beef trifle for the millionth time.