|Created by||David Crane|
|Theme music composer||Michael Skloff|
|Opening theme||"I'll Be There for You"|
by The Rembrandts
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||236|
Kevin S. Bright
Michael Borkow (season 4)
Michael Curtis (season 5)
Adam Chase (seasons 5-6)
Greg Malins (seasons 5-7)
Wil Calhoun (season 7)
Scott Silveri (seasons 8-10)
Shana Goldberg-Meehan (seasons 8-10)
Andrew Reich (seasons 8-10)
Ted Cohen (seasons 8-10)
|Production location(s)||Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, California|
|Running time||20-22 minutes (per episode)|
22-65 minutes (extended international TV & DVD episodes)
Warner Bros. Television
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Picture format||480i (4:3 SDTV) (original broadcast)|
1080p (16:9 HDTV) (2012 remaster)
|Audio format||Dolby Surround 2.0 (original broadcast)|
Dolby Digital 5.1 (2012 remaster)
|Original release||September 22, 1994 -|
May 6, 2004
|Followed by||Joey (2004-2006)|
Friends is an American television sitcom, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, lasting ten seasons. With an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, the show revolves around six friends in their 20s and 30s who live in Manhattan, New York City. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. The original executive producers were Kevin S. Bright, Kauffman, and Crane.
Kauffman and Crane began developing Friends under the title Insomnia Cafe between November and December 1993. They presented the idea to Bright, and together they pitched a seven-page treatment of the show to NBC. After several script rewrites and changes, including title changes to Six of One and Friends Like Us, the series was finally named Friends.
Filming of the show took place at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. All ten seasons of Friends ranked within the top ten of the final television season ratings; it ultimately reached the number-one spot in its eighth season. The series finale aired on May 6, 2004, and was watched by around 52.5 million American viewers, making it the fifth most-watched series finale in television history, and the most-watched television episode of the 2000s decade.
Friends received acclaim throughout its run, becoming one of the most popular television shows of all time. The series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002 for its eighth season. The show ranked no. 21 on TV Guides 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, and no. 7 on Empire magazine's The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 1997, the episode "The One with the Prom Video" was ranked no. 100 on TV Guides 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. In 2013, Friends ranked no. 24 on the Writers Guild of America's 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time, and no. 28 on TV Guides 60 Best TV Series of All Time.
Rachel Green flees her wedding day and finds childhood friend Monica Geller, a New York City chef. They become roommates, and Rachel joins Monica's group of single people in their mid-20s: Struggling actor Joey Tribbiani, business professional Chandler Bing, masseuse and musician Phoebe Buffay, and newly divorced palaeontologist Ross Geller, Monica's older brother. Rachel becomes a waitress at Manhattan coffee house Central Perk; when not there, the group is usually at Monica and Rachel's nearby West Village apartment, or Joey and Chandler's across the hall.
Episodes depict the friends' comedic and romantic adventures and career issues, such as Joey auditioning for roles or Rachel seeking jobs in the fashion industry. The six characters each have many dates and serious relationships, such as Monica with Richard Burke, and Ross with Emily Waltham. Ross and Rachel's intermittent relationship is the most often-recurring storyline; during the ten seasons of the show, they repeatedly date and break up. Ross briefly marries Emily. Ross and Rachel have a child together after a one-night stand, Chandler and Monica date and marry each other, and Phoebe marries Mike Hannigan. Other frequently recurring characters include Ross and Monica's parents, Jack and Judy Geller from Long Island; Ross's ex-wife, Carol, and their son, Ben; Central Perk barista Gunther; Chandler's ex-girlfriend Janice; and Phoebe's twin sister Ursula.
In their original contracts for the first season, cast members were paid $22,500 per episode. The cast members received different salaries in the second season, beginning from the $20,000 range to $40,000 per episode. Before their salary negotiations for the third season, the cast decided to enter collective negotiations, despite Warner Bros.' preference for individual deals. The actors were given the salary of the least paid cast member, meaning Aniston and Schwimmer had their salaries reduced. The stars were paid $75,000 per episode in season three, $85,000 in season four, $100,000 in season five, $125,000 in season six, $750,000 in seasons seven and eight, and $1 million in seasons nine and ten, making Aniston, Cox, and Kudrow the highest-paid TV actresses of all time. The cast also received syndication royalties beginning in 2000 after renegotiations. At the time, that financial benefit of a piece of the show's lucrative back-end profits had only been given out to stars who had ownership rights in a show, like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby.
Series creator David Crane wanted all six actors to be equally prominent, and the series was lauded as being "the first true 'ensemble' show." The cast members made efforts to keep the ensemble format and not allow one member to dominate; they entered themselves in the same acting categories for awards, opted for collective salary negotiations, and asked to appear together on magazine cover photos in the first season. The cast members also became best friends off-screen, so much so that recurring guest star Tom Selleck reported that he sometimes felt left out.
The cast remained good friends after the series run, most notably Cox and Aniston, with Aniston being godmother to Cox and David Arquette's daughter, Coco. In the official farewell commemorative book Friends 'Til the End, each separately acknowledged in interviews that the cast had become their family.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||24||September 22, 1994||May 18, 1995||8||15.6|
|2||24||September 21, 1995||May 16, 1996||3||18.7|
|3||25||September 19, 1996||May 15, 1997||4||16.8|
|4||24||September 25, 1997||May 7, 1998||4||16.1|
|5||24||September 24, 1998||May 20, 1999||2||15.7|
|6||25||September 23, 1999||May 18, 2000||5||14.0|
|7||24||October 12, 2000||May 17, 2001||5||12.6|
|8||24||September 27, 2001||May 16, 2002||1||15.0|
|9||24||September 26, 2002||May 15, 2003||2||13.9|
|10||18||September 25, 2003||May 6, 2004||4||13.6|
The first season introduces the six main characters: Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross. Rachel arrives at Central Perk after leaving her fiancé Barry standing at the altar. She moves into an apartment with her high school friend Monica. Ross, who has had a crush on Rachel since high school, constantly attempts to declare his feelings for her. However, many obstacles stand in his way, including the fact that he is expecting a baby with his lesbian ex-wife, Carol. She gives birth later in the season and names the child Ben. Joey is a bachelor and struggling actor. Phoebe is working as a masseuse; she is slightly crazy because her mother committed suicide when she was a child. However, the rest of the group loves her regardless. Chandler breaks up with his girlfriend, Janice (Maggie Wheeler). Near the end of the season, Chandler accidentally reveals that Ross loves Rachel, who then realizes that she feels the same way. The season ends with Rachel waiting at the airport for Ross, who is returning from a trip.
The second season begins with Rachel waiting at the gate for Ross so she can declare her love for him. However, she discovers that he is dating Julie (Lauren Tom), someone he knew from graduate school. Rachel's attempts to tell Ross she loves him initially mirror his failed attempts in the first season, but the characters do eventually begin a relationship. Joey gets cast in a fictional version of the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, but his character is killed off after he begins to claim that he writes many of his own lines, bringing him into conflict with the show's writers. Chandler gets back together with Janice, his ex-girlfriend from Season One. Monica begins dating Richard (Tom Selleck), a recently divorced family friend 21 years her senior, but they eventually break up.
Season Three takes on a significantly greater serialized format. Rachel begins working at Bloomingdale's, an upscale department store chain, and Ross becomes jealous of her colleague, Mark. Rachel decides to take a break from their relationship. Ross, hurt and drunk, sleeps with Chloe, "the hot girl from the Xerox place," causing Rachel to break up with him. Chandler has a hard time dealing with their breakup because it reminds him of his parents' divorce. Although Phoebe initially believes she has no family except her twin sister Ursula (Lisa Kudrow), she becomes acquainted with her half-brother Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi) and birth mother Phoebe (Teri Garr) over the course of the season. Joey begins a relationship with his acting partner Kate (Dina Meyer). Monica begins a relationship with millionaire Pete Becker (Jon Favreau), which ends because of disagreements between the two.
In the Season Four premiere, Ross and Rachel briefly reconcile after Ross pretends to read a long letter that Rachel wrote for him. However, Ross continues to insist that the two were on a break when he slept with Chloe, so they break up again. Joey dates Kathy (Paget Brewster), a girl that Chandler has a crush on. Kathy and Chandler later kiss, which causes drama between Chandler and Joey. Joey only forgives Chandler and allows him to date Kathy after Chandler spends a day in a box as punishment. Chandler's relationship with Kathy ends after discovering she cheated on him due to an argument. Phoebe becomes a surrogate mother for her brother and his wife Alice (Debra Jo Rupp). Monica and Rachel are forced to switch apartments with Joey and Chandler after losing a bet during a quiz game, but manage to switch back by bribing them with Knicks season tickets and a one-minute kiss (off-screen) between Rachel and Monica. Ross begins dating an English woman named Emily (Helen Baxendale), and the season finale features their wedding in London. Chandler and Monica sleep together, and Rachel decides to stop Ross and Emily's wedding. While saying his vows, Ross says Rachel's name at the altar, shocking his bride and the guests.
Season Five starts with Ross and Emily's wedding in London. The season features Monica and Chandler trying to keep their new relationship a secret from their friends. Phoebe gives birth to triplets in the show's 100th episode. She gives birth to a boy, Frank Jr. Jr., and two girls, Leslie and Chandler. Emily threatens to leave Ross unless he breaks off all communication with Rachel. Ross agrees, but later attends a dinner with all his friends, Rachel included. Emily phones Ross, discovers Rachel is there, and realizes she does not trust him. This ends the marriage. Phoebe begins a relationship with a police officer, Gary (Michael Rapaport), after finding his badge and using it as her own. Monica and Chandler go public with their relationship, to the surprise and delight of their friends. They decide to get married on a trip to Las Vegas, but change their plans after witnessing Ross and Rachel drunkenly stumbling out of the wedding chapel.
In the Season Six premiere, Ross and Rachel's marriage turns out to be a drunken mistake that Rachel does not remember. Ross tries to get an annulment because he does not want to have had three divorces. However, when he realizes an annulment is impossible, he then tries to keep their wedding a secret from Rachel. She finds out and divorces him several episodes later. Monica and Chandler move in together, causing Rachel to move in with Phoebe. Joey lands a role on a cable television series called Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E., where he stars alongside a robot. Ross gets a job lecturing at New York University and starts dating one of his students, Elizabeth (Alexandra Holden). The relationship ends because of Elizabeth's immaturity. Phoebe and Rachel's apartment catches fire, and Rachel moves in with Joey, while Phoebe moves in with Chandler and Monica. Chandler proposes to Monica, who says yes even though her ex-boyfriend Richard confesses his love for her.
The seventh season mainly follows the various antics of Monica and Chandler, who begin to plan their wedding and run into financial problems which are quickly fixed by Chandler's secret funds. Joey's television series Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E is cancelled, but he is offered his job back on Days of Our Lives. Meanwhile, Ross tries to introduce Ben to Hanukkah with the help of an Armadillo costume. Phoebe's apartment is rebuilt, but it now has only one large bedroom instead of the original two, so Rachel decides to stay with Joey. The season ends just prior to Monica and Chandler's wedding, with Phoebe and Rachel finding a positive pregnancy test in the bathroom of Monica and Chandler's apartment.
Season 8 begins at Monica and Chandler's wedding reception. It turns out that the positive pregnancy test found in their bathroom belongs to Rachel. Rachel takes another pregnancy test, which Phoebe initially pretends is negative, in order to find out how Rachel feels about being pregnant. Rachel becomes sad when she thinks she's not pregnant, so Phoebe tells her the truth. Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica then rejoice in the bathroom. The season revolves around Rachel's pregnancy, especially once Ross is revealed to be the father. Rachel and Ross decide to have the baby but do not resume their romantic relationship. Joey develops romantic feelings for Rachel, but she does not reciprocate them. Rachel gives birth to baby Emma in the season finale. At the hospital, Ross's mother offers him an engagement ring because she wants him to marry Rachel. Ross does not intend to ask Rachel to marry him, but he takes the ring anyway and puts it in his jacket pocket. Meanwhile, in the post-delivery room, Joey picks up Ross's jacket while looking for some tissue. The ring falls to the floor. He kneels to pick it up and turns to Rachel, still on his knees and still holding the ring. Rachel accepts what she thinks is his proposal of marriage.
Season nine begins with Ross and Rachel living together as roommates with their daughter Emma. Monica and Chandler try to have a baby of their own but find out that they are physically unable to conceive. Phoebe begins dating Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd) and chooses to be with him over her ex-boyfriend David (Hank Azaria). Rachel and Emma move in with Joey in the middle of the season, and Rachel develops a crush on him, while the rest of the "friends" try hard to get Ross and Rachel back together. The group travels to Barbados in the finale to hear Ross give a keynote speech at a paleontology conference. Joey and his girlfriend Charlie (Aisha Tyler) break up, and she begins a relationship with Ross. Upon seeing Ross and Charlie kiss each other, Joey goes to Rachel's hotel room, and the finale ends with the two of them kissing.
The tenth season brings several long-running storylines to a close. Charlie breaks up with Ross to get back together with her ex-boyfriend. Joey and Rachel try to contend with Ross's feelings about their relationship and decide it would be best to remain friends. Phoebe and Mike get married mid-season outside the Central Perk coffee house. Monica and Chandler apply to adopt a child and are chosen by Erica (Anna Faris). In the series finale, Erica gives birth to fraternal twins, to Monica and Chandler's surprise. Monica and Chandler prepare to move to the suburbs. Joey becomes upset with the changes in his life. Rachel gets fired from her job and accepts a new job offer in Paris. Ross tries to get Rachel her job back by secretly meeting with her boss but eventually gives up after realizing that the Paris job is her dream job. Rachel says a tearful goodbye to everyone but Ross. A hurt and angry Ross confronts Rachel, and they end up sleeping together. Rachel leaves, and Ross--who now realizes he is in love with her--chases her to the airport. When he reaches her, Rachel realizes she loves him too, and cancels her flight to Paris. The series ends with all the friends, plus Monica and Chandler's new babies, leaving the apartment together for a final cup of coffee. Chandler makes a final joke. The show ends first with a shot of the keys to Monica and Chandler's apartment, on the counter table, and then with a shot of the apartment's purple door.
It's about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything's possible. And it's about friendship because when you're single and in the city, your friends are your family.-- The original treatment used by Crane, Kauffman and Bright to pitch the series to NBC.
David Crane and Marta Kauffman began developing three new television pilots that would premiere in 1994 after their sitcom Family Album was cancelled by CBS in 1993. Kauffman and Crane decided to pitch the series about "six people in their 20s making their way in Manhattan" to NBC since they thought it would fit best there. Crane and Kauffman presented the idea to their production partner Kevin Bright, who had served as executive producer on their HBO series Dream On. The idea for the series was conceived when Crane and Kauffman began thinking about the time when they had finished college and started living by themselves in New York; Kauffman believed they were looking at a time when the future was "more of a question mark." They found the concept to be interesting, as they believed "everybody knows that feeling", and because it was also how they felt about their own lives at the time. The team titled the series Insomnia Cafe and pitched the idea as a seven-page treatment to NBC in December 1993.
At the same time, Warren Littlefield, the then-president of NBC Entertainment, was seeking a comedy involving young people living together and sharing expenses. Littlefield wanted the group to share memorable periods of their lives with friends, who had become "new, surrogate family members." However, Littlefield found difficulty in bringing the concept to life and found the scripts developed by NBC to be terrible. When Kauffman, Crane and Bright pitched Insomnia Cafe, Littlefield was impressed that they knew who their characters were. NBC bought the idea as a put pilot, meaning they risked financial penalties if the pilot was not filmed. Kauffman and Crane took three days to write the pilot script for a show they titled Friends Like Us. Littlefield wanted the series to "represent Generation X and explore a new kind of tribal bonding", but the rest disagreed. Crane argued that it was not a series for one generation, and wanted to produce a series that everyone would enjoy watching. NBC liked the script and ordered the series. They changed the title to Six of One, mainly because they felt Friends Like Us was too similar to the ABC sitcom These Friends of Mine.
Once it became apparent that the series was a favored project at NBC, Littlefield reported that he was getting calls from every agent in town, wanting their client to be a part of the series. Auditions for the lead roles took place in New York and Los Angeles. The casting director shortlisted 1,000 actors who had applied for each role down to 75. Those who received a callback read again in front of Crane, Kauffman and Bright. At the end of March, the number of potential actors had been reduced to three or four for each part, and were asked to read for Les Moonves, then-president of Warner Bros. Television.
Having worked with David Schwimmer in the past, the series creators wrote the character of Ross with him in mind, and he was the first actor cast. Cox wanted to play the role of Monica because she liked the "strong" character, but the producers had her in mind to play Rachel because of her "cheery, upbeat energy", which was not how they envisioned Monica; after Cox's audition, though, Kauffman agreed with Cox, and she got the role. When Matt LeBlanc auditioned for Joey, he put a "different spin" on the character. He played Joey more simple-minded than intended and gave the character heart. Although Crane and Kauffman did not want LeBlanc for the role at the time, they were told by the network to cast him. Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow were cast based on their auditions.
More changes occurred to the series's storylines during the casting process. The writers found that they had to adjust the characters they had written to suit the actors, and the discovery process of the characters occurred throughout the first season. Kauffman acknowledged that Joey's character became "this whole new being", and that "it wasn't until we did the first Thanksgiving episode that we realized how much fun Monica's neuroses are."
In the weeks after NBC's pick up of Friends, Crane, Kauffman and Bright reviewed sent-in scripts that writers had originally prepared for other series, mainly unproduced Seinfeld episodes. Kauffman and Crane hired a team of seven young writers because "When you're 40, you can't do it anymore. The networks and studios are looking for young people coming in out of college." The creators felt that using six equal characters, rather than emphasizing one or two, would allow for "myriad storylines and give the show legs." The majority of the storyline ideas came from the writers, although the actors added ideas. Although the writers originally planned the big love story to be between Joey and Monica, the idea of a romantic interest between Ross and Rachel emerged during the period when Kauffman and Crane wrote the pilot script.
During the production of the pilot, NBC requested that the script be changed to feature one dominant storyline and several minor ones, but the writers refused, wanting to keep three storylines of equal weight. NBC also wanted the writers to include an older character to balance out the young ones. Crane and Kauffman were forced to comply and wrote a draft of an early episode that featured "Pat the Cop." who would be used to provide advice to the other characters. Crane found the storyline to be terrible, and Kauffman joked, "You know the kids [sic] book, Pat the Bunny? We had Pat the Cop." NBC eventually relented and dropped the idea.
Each summer, the producers would outline the storylines for the subsequent season. Before an episode went into production, Kauffman and Crane would revise the script written by another writer, mainly if something concerning either the series or a character felt foreign. The hardest episodes to write were always "the first one and the last one of each season."  Unlike other storylines, the idea for a relationship between Joey and Rachel was decided on halfway through the eighth season. The creators did not want Ross and Rachel to get back together so soon, and while looking for a romantic impediment, a writer suggested Joey's romantic interest in Rachel. The storyline was incorporated into the season; however, when the actors feared that the storyline would make their characters unlikable, the storyline was wrapped up, until it again resurfaced in the season's finale. For the ninth season, the writers were unsure about the amount of storyline to give to Rachel's baby, as they wanted the show neither to revolve around a baby nor pretend there to be none. Crane said that it took them a while to accept the idea of a tenth season, which they decided to do because they had enough stories left to tell to justify the season. Kauffman and Crane would not have signed on for an eleventh season, even if all the cast members had wanted to continue.
The episode title format--"The One ..."--was created when the producers realized that the episode titles would not be featured in the opening credits, and therefore would be unknown to most of the audience. Episode titles officially begin with "The One ..." except the title of the pilot episode and the series finale "The Last One."
The first season was shot on Stage 5 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. NBC executives had worried that the coffee house setting was too hip and asked for the series to be set in a diner, but, eventually consented to the coffee house concept. The opening title sequence was filmed in a fountain at the Warner Bros. Ranch at 4:00 am, while it was particularly cold for a Burbank morning. At the beginning of the second season, production moved to the larger Stage 24, which was renamed "The Friends Stage" after the series finale. Filming for the series began during the summer of 1994 in front of a live audience, who were given a summary of the series to familiarize themselves with the six main characters; a hired comedian entertained the studio audience between takes. Each 22-minute episode took six hours to film--twice the length of most sitcom tapings--mainly due to the several retakes and rewrites of the script.
Although the producers always wanted to find the right stories to take advantage of being on location, Friends was never shot in New York. Bright felt that filming outside the studio made episodes less funny, even when shooting on the lot outside, and that the live audience was an integral part of the series. When the series was criticized for incorrectly depicting New York, with the financially struggling group of friends being able to afford huge apartments, Bright noted that the set had to be big enough for the cameras, lighting, and "for the audience to be able to see what's going on"; the apartments also needed to provide a place for the actors to execute the funny scripts. The fourth-season finale was shot on location in London because the producers were aware of the series's popularity in the UK. The scenes were shot in a studio with three audiences each made up of 500 people. These were the show's largest audiences throughout its run. The fifth-season finale, set in Las Vegas, was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, although Bright met people who thought it was filmed on location.
The series's creators completed the first draft of the hour-long finale in January 2004, four months before its original airing. Crane, Kauffman and Bright watched the finales of other sitcoms to prepare the episode's outline, paying attention to what worked and what did not. They liked the ones that stayed true to the series, citing the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the gold standard. Crane, Kauffman, and Bright had difficulty writing the finale. They did not want to do "something high concept, or take the show out of the show." The most critical parts of the finale were shot without an audience, and with a minimum number of crew members. The main cast enjoyed the finale and were confident that the fans would react similarly:
It's exactly what I had hoped. We all end up with a sense of a new beginning and the audience has a sense that it's a new chapter in the lives of all these characters.
NBC heavily promoted the series finale, which was preceded by weeks of media hype. Local NBC affiliates organized viewing parties around the U.S., including an event at Universal CityWalk featuring a special broadcast of the finale on an outdoor Astrovision screen. The finale was the subject of two episodes of Dateline NBC, one of which ran for two hours. A one-hour retrospective of clips from previous episodes was shown before to the airing of the episode. Following the finale, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was filmed on the set of the Friends' Central Perk coffee house, which featured the series's cast as guests. The advertising rates for the finale averaged $2 million for 30 seconds of commercial time, breaking the record held by the Seinfeld finale at $1.7 million.
In the U.S., 52.5 million viewers watched the finale on May 6, 2004, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast since the Seinfeld finale in 1998. Although not the most-watched episode of the series, the finale was the fourth most-watched series finale in television history, only behind the finales of M*A*S*H, Cheers and Seinfeld, which were respectively watched by 105, 80.4 and 76.2 million viewers. The retrospective episode was watched by fewer than 36 million viewers, and the finale was the second most-watched television broadcast of the year in the United States, only behind the Super Bowl. Following the finales of Friends and Frasier, media critics speculated about the fate of the sitcom genre. Expressed opinions varied between a signalling of the end of the sitcom genre, a small decline in the large history of the genre, and a general reduction of scripted television in favor of reality shows.
Early reviews of the series were mixed; and it holds a Metacritic score of 59 out of 100, based on 20 sampled reviews, indicating "mixed to average reviews." Tom Feran of The Plain Dealer wrote that the series traded "vaguely and less successfully on the hanging-out style of Seinfeld", while Ann Hodges of the Houston Chronicle called it "the new Seinfeld wannabe, but it will never be as funny as Seinfeld." In the Los Angeles Daily News, Ray Richmond named the series as "one of the brighter comedies of the new season", and the Los Angeles Times called it "flat-out the best comedy series of the new season."
The Chicago Sun-Times Ginny Holbert found Joey and Rachel's characteristics to be underdeveloped, while Richmond commended the cast as a "likeable, youth ensemble" with "good chemistry." Robert Bianco of USA Today was complimentary of Schwimmer, calling him "terrific." He also praised the female leads, but was concerned that Perry's role as Chandler was "undefined" and that LeBlanc was "relying too much on the same brain-dead stud routine that was already tired the last two times he tried it." The authors of Friends Like Us: The Unofficial Guide to Friends thought that the cast was "trying just a little too hard", in particular, Perry and Schwimmer.
As the series progressed, reviews became more positive, and Friends became one of the most popular sitcoms of its time. It is now often ranked among the all-time best TV shows. Critics commended the series for having consistently sharp writing and for the chemistry between the main actors. Noel Holston of Newsday, who had dismissed the pilot as a "so-so Seinfeld wannabe" in 1994, repudiated his earlier review after rewatching the episode and felt like writing an apology to the writers.Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com thought that the series "hit its stride" in the second season. Havrilesky found the character-specific jokes and situations "could reliably make you laugh out loud a few times each episode", and the quality of writing allowed the stories to be "original and innovative." Bill Carter of The New York Times called the eighth season a "truly stunning comeback." Carter found that by "generating new hot storylines and high-decibel laughs", the series made its way "back into the hearts of its fans." However, Liane Bonin of Entertainment Weekly felt that the direction of the ninth season was a "disappointing buzzkill", criticizing it for the non-stop celebrity guest spots and going into jump the shark territory. Although disappointed with the season, Bonin noted that "the writing [was] still sharp." Havrilesky thought that the tenth season was "alarmingly awful, far worse than you would ever imagine a show that was once so good could be."Friends was featured on Times list of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time", saying, "the well-hidden secret of this show was that it called itself Friends, and was really about family."
Reviews of the series finale were mixed. USA Todays Robert Bianco described the finale as entertaining and satisfying and praised it for deftly mixing emotion and humor while highlighting each of the stars. Sarah Rodman of the Boston Herald praised Aniston and Schwimmer for their acting, but felt that their characters' reunion was "a bit too neat, even if it was what most of the show's legions of fans wanted." Roger Catlin of the Hartford Courant felt that newcomers to the series would be "surprised at how laughless the affair could be, and how nearly every strained gag depends on the sheer stupidity of its characters." Ken Parish Perkins, writing for Fort Worth Star-Telegram, pointed out that the finale was "more touching than comical, more satisfying in terms of closure than knee-slappingly funny."
It may have been impossible for any one episode to live up to the hype and expectations built up around the Friends finale, but this hour probably came as close as fans could have reasonably hoped. Ultimately, the two-hour package did exactly what it was supposed to do. It wrapped up the story while reminding us why we liked the show and will miss it.
To maintain the series's ensemble format, the main cast members decided to enter themselves in the same acting categories for awards. Beginning with the series's eighth season, the actors decided to submit themselves in the lead actor balloting, rather than in the supporting actor fields. The series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning six. Aniston and Kudrow are the only main cast members to win an Emmy, while Cox is the only actor not to be nominated. The series won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002, receiving nominations in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2003. The series also won an American Comedy Award, one GLAAD Media Award, one Golden Globe Award, three Logie Awards, six People's Choice Awards, one Satellite Award, and one Screen Actors Guild Award.
The table below shows the ratings of Friends in the United States, where it consistently ranked within the top ten of the final television season ratings. "Rank" refers to how well Friends rated compared to other television series that aired during primetime hours of the corresponding television season. It is shown in relation to the total number of series airing on the then-six major English-language networks in a given season. "Viewers" refers to the average number of viewers for all original episodes, broadcast during the television season in the series's regular timeslot. The "season premiere" is the date that the first episode of the season aired, and the "season finale" is the date that the final episode of the season aired. So far, Friends has been the last sitcom to reach the no. 1 spot on television, as its successors were CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, American Idol, NBC Sunday Night Football, and NCIS.
|Season||Timeslot||Season premiere||Season finale||TV season||Rank||Viewers
|1||Thursday 8:30 pm
Thursday 9:30 pm
|September 22, 1994||May 18, 1995||1994-95||8||24.3||"The One Where Rachel Finds Out"||31.3|
|2||Thursday 8:00 pm||September 21, 1995||May 16, 1996||1995-96||3||29.4||"The One After the Superbowl"||52.9|
|3||September 19, 1996||May 15, 1997||1996-97||4||24.9||"The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister"||29.8|
|4||September 25, 1997||May 7, 1998||1997-98||4||24.0||"The One with Ross's Wedding"||31.6|
|5||September 24, 1998||May 20, 1999||1998-99||2||23.5||"The One After Ross Says Rachel"||30.9|
|6||September 23, 1999||May 18, 2000||1999-2000||5||20.7||"The One with the Proposal"||30.7|
|7||October 12, 2000||May 17, 2001||2000-01||5||20.2||"The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding"||30.1|
|8||September 27, 2001||May 16, 2002||2001-02||1||24.5||"The One Where Rachel Has a Baby"||34.9|
|9||September 26, 2002||May 15, 2003||2002-03||2||21.8||"The One Where No One Proposes"||34.0|
|10||September 25, 2003||May 6, 2004||2003-04||4||22.8||"The Last One"||52.5|
Because of syndication revenue, Friends continues to generate approximately $1 billion each year for Warner Bros. That translates into about $20 million in annual residuals each for Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, who each get 2% of syndication income for Friends.
All episodes became available on Netflix on 1 January 2015, introducing teenagers to the show. UK Friends reruns' ratings in 2015 increased by more than 10% annually. As of 2016 reruns' US weekly audience, not including streaming, of 16 million would make it a hit on network television were the show still being produced. In the US the series has a syndication deal through multiple networks including Nickelodeon, TBS, and Paramount (formerly known as Spike).
Although the producers thought of Friends as "only a TV show", psychologists investigated the cultural impact of Friends during the series's run. Aniston's hairstyle was nicknamed "The Rachel" and copied around the world. Joey's catchphrase, "How you doin'?", became a popular part of Western English slang, often used as a pick-up line or when greeting friends. The series also influenced the English language, according to a study by the University of Toronto that found that the characters used the emphasized word "so" to modify adjectives more often than any other intensifier. Although the preference had already made its way into the American vernacular, usage on the series may have accelerated the change. Chandler's habit of ending a sentence unfinished for sarcasm also influenced viewers' speech. Following the September 11 attacks, ratings increased 17% over the previous season.
Friends is parodied in the twelfth season Murder, She Wrote episode "Murder Among Friends." In the episode, amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) investigates the murder of a writer for Buds, a fictional television series about the daily lives of a group of city friends. The episode was devised after CBS moved Murder, She Wrote from its regular Sunday night timeslot to a Thursday night timeslot directly opposite Friends on NBC; Angela Lansbury was quoted by Bruce Lansbury, her brother and Murder, She Wrotes supervising producer, as having "a bit of an attitude" about the move to Thursday, but he saw the plot as "a friendly setup, no mean-spiritedness." Jerry Ludwig, the writer of the episode, researched the "flavor" of Buds by watching episodes of Friends.
The Central Perk coffee house, one of the principal settings of the series, is part of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood. People sometimes propose marriage on the couch, and many tourists cry when they sit on it. The coffee house has inspired various imitations worldwide. In 2006, Iranian businessman Mojtaba Asadian started a Central Perk franchise, registering the name in 32 countries. The decor of the coffee houses is inspired by Friends, featuring replica couches, counters, neon signage and bricks. The coffee houses also contain paintings of the various characters from the series, and televisions playing Friends episodes. James Michael Tyler, who plays the Central Perk manager in the series, Gunther, attended the grand opening of the Dubai cafe, where he worked as a waiter. Central Perk was rebuilt as part of a museum exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios and was shown on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2008. Jennifer Aniston visited the set for the first time since the series finale in 2004. From September 24 to October 7, 2009, a Central Perk replica was based at Broadwick Street, Soho, London. The coffee house sold real coffee to customers and featured a display of Friends memorabilia and props, such as the Geller Cup from the season three episode "The One with the Football." In Beijing, business owner Du Xin opened a coffee shop named Central Perk in March 2010. In India, there are six Friends-themed cafes, located in Chandigarh (named Central Perk); Kolkata; and West Bengal (named F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Cafe), which features many icons from the original T.V. series, including Chandler and Joey's ugly dog statue, the orange sofa, the purple door of Monica and Rachel's apartment, and Phoebe's pink bicycle. The other three cafes are located in Delhi, Gurgaon; Bhubaneswar, Odisha; and Pune, Maharashtra. There are two Friends themed cafes in Pakistan as well--one in Lahore, Punjab known as "Friends Cafe" and the other in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa called "Central Perk". Both of those cafes have an iconic couch, a guitar and foosball table, quotes from the show on the walls and even episode reruns on a projector. They're also planning to have their own Gunther at the bar. In 2016, a Central Perk replica was opened in Outram, Singapore. It is the only Central Perk that has been given the intellectual property rights by Warner Bros. outside of the United States. The cafe also includes feature walls, replicating the walls of the main characters's apartments and memorabilia and props used on the show.
Friends has also developed an alternative family lifestyle by representing young people that live unconventional domestic lives. It presents the idea that "all you need is good friends" and can construct families through choice. The audience is able to identify with the program through the troubles seen on weekly episodes. It portrays a new way of living life and developing relationships which are not normally seen in conventional society. According to a pop-culture expert at the University at Buffalo, Friends is "one of those rare shows that marked a change in American culture." The images of youth and the roles they portray are better defined and represent a lifestyle that centres around creating and sustaining relationships between friends running their own lives and seeking help from each other.
Vox stated that Friends impacted the creation of other conflictless "hangout sitcoms", with groups of adult friends who are funny and have similar character traits. One example of this is How I Met Your Mother, which The Guardians TV and radio blog notes also shares its setting with Friends, Manhattan. Other examples include The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, and Happy Endings.
Readers of TV Guide voted the cast of Friends their Best Comedy cast of all time, ranking at 29% of the votes, beating Seinfeld, which registered 18%. A poll undertaken by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair named Friends the third greatest sitcom of all time. In 2014, the series was ranked by Mundo Estranho the Best TV Series of All Time. A 2015 Hollywood Reporter survey of 2,800 actors, producers, directors, and other industry people named Friends as their #1 favorite show.
After the produced pilot lived up to NBC's hopes, the series premiered with the name Friends on September 22, 1994, in the coveted Thursday 8:30 p.m. time slot. The pilot aired between Mad About You and Seinfeld, and was watched by almost 22 million American viewers. The series was a huge success throughout its run and was a staple of NBC's Thursday night line-up, dubbed by the network as Must See TV. When Crane told reporters in 2001 that the ninth season was a possibility, critics believed that he was posturing and that at least two of the cast members would not sign on for another season. When it was confirmed that Friends would return for a ninth season, the news was mainly about the amount of money--$7 million per episode--that it took to bring the series back for another season.
After year-long expectations that the ninth season would be the series's last, NBC signed a deal in late December 2002 to bring the series back for a final tenth season. The series's creative team did not want to extend negotiations into the next year and wanted to start writing the rest of the ninth-season episodes and a potential series finale. NBC agreed to pay $10 million to Warner Bros. for the production of each tenth-season episode, the highest price in television history for a 30-minute series. Although NBC was unable to bring in enough advertising revenue from commercials to cover the costs, the series was integral to the Thursday night schedule, which brought high ratings and profits to the other television series. The cast demanded that the tenth season be reduced from the usual 24 episodes to 18 episodes to allow them to work on outside projects.
In fall 2001, Warner Bros. Domestic Cable made a deal with sister network TBS (both are owned by Time Warner) to air the series in rerun syndication. Warner Bros. Domestic Cable announced that it had sold additional cable rights to Friends to Nick at Nite which began airing in the fall of 2011 (unlike the TBS and broadcast syndication airings, Nick at Nite broadcasts of the series, which began airing as part of a seven-night launch marathon on September 5, 2011, replace the end credit tag scenes with marginalized credits featuring promotions for the series and other Nick at Nite programs). Warner Bros. was expected to make $200 million in license fees and advertising from the deal. Nick at Nite paid $500,000 per episode to air the episodes after 6 p.m. ET for six years through fall 2017. In syndication until 2005, Friends had earned $4 million per episode in cash license fees for a total of $944 million.
Beginning on March 5, 2012, high definition versions of all 236 Friends episodes were made available to local broadcast stations, starting with the pilot episode. For the remastered episodes, Warner Bros. restored previously cropped images on the left and right sides of the screen, using the original 35 mm film source, to use the entire 16:9 widescreen frame. These masters had been airing in New Zealand on TV2 since January 2011.Netflix added all ten seasons of Friends in high definition to their streaming service in the United States on January 1, 2015.
Friends has aired on different channels in the UK in their original, unedited international versions prior to their being re-edited for US broadcast and syndication. These versions, with additional footage not seen domestically, have aired on such stations as Channel 4, Sky1, E4, and Comedy Central UK. On September 4, 2011, Friends officially ended on E4 after the channel re-ran the series since 2004. Comedy Central took over the rights to air the program from October 2011. Since 2018 Channel 5 started airing the program. In the Republic of Ireland, each season of the show made its European debut on RTÉ2. After 2004 RTÉ2 began to repeat the series from the start before moving over to TV3 and its digital channel 3e in 2010. As of February 2015 , repeats of the show have returned to RTÉ2 while also broadcasting on Comedy Central Ireland.
Friends has aired in Australia on the Seven Network (season 1 only), Nine Network (season 2-10), Network Ten (2007-09, repeats), on GEM (a sub-channel of the Nine Network), and on pay TV channel TV Hits formerly aired on Arena, 111 Hits. The show is broadcast on TV2 in New Zealand.
Series 10's finale, broadcast on May 28, 2004, was on Channel 4. It was broadcast from 9pm to 10pm and attracted Friends' largest UK audiences. It attracted almost 10 million viewers, and is currently standing at Number 10 in Channel 4's most-watched shows. Big Brother was moved to 10pm, which Friends had beaten. Friends got 9.6 million viewers at 9pm, while Big Brother 5s launch attracted 7.2 million viewers at 10pm, which is the most-watched premiere on UK TV ever. However, on January 3, 2007, Celebrity Big Brother 5s launch was watched by 7.3 million viewers, and its eviction on January 19, 2007 was watched by 8.7 million viewers.
In October 2014, Warner Bros. chairman and chief executive officer, Kevin Tsujihara, announced that the company had licensed the North American streaming rights of all ten seasons of Friends to Netflix, in a deal said to be worth around $500,000 an episode, or about $120 million in total. The show became available on Netflix from January 1, 2015. The Netflix airings are the versions aired on NBC rather than the longer international versions, as discussed below. The series will leave Netflix in early 2020 for HBO Max.
All ten seasons have been released on DVD individually and as a box set. Each Region 1 season release contains special features and are presented in their aforementioned original international broadcast versions, although Region 2 releases are as originally aired domestically. For the first season, each episode is updated with color correction and sound enhancement. A wide range of Friends merchandise has been produced by various companies. In September 1995, WEA Records released the first album of music from Friends, the Friends Original TV Soundtrack, containing music featured in previous and future episodes. The soundtrack debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 46, and sold 500,000 copies in November 1995. In 1999, a second soundtrack album entitled Friends Again was released. Other merchandise includes a Friends version of the DVD game "Scene It?", and a quiz video game for PlayStation 2 and PC entitled Friends: The One with All the Trivia. On September 28, 2009, a box set was released in the UK celebrating the series's 15th anniversary. The box set contained extended episodes, an episode guide, and original special features.
Warner Home Video released a complete series collection on Blu-ray on November 13, 2012. The collection does not feature the extra deleted scenes and jokes that were included on prior DVD releases, and are therefore presented in their NBC broadcast versions.
In Australia, The original released DVDs were released were fold out box sets which contained three discs and released as follows: Season 1 and Season 2 on March 13, 2002, Season 3 and Season 4 on July 9, 2002, Season 5, 6 and 7 on July 29, 2002, Season 8 on March 18, 2003, Season 9 on February 11, 2004 and Season 10 on November 24, 2004. Repackaged sets, slimmed into regular DVD cases also containing three discs were released from 2003 to 2004. Collector's Edition sets were released from September 9, 2003 through to February 1, 2006, these sets contains 4 discs, in fat DVD cases, with extra bonus material. On October 4, 2006, the individual seasons were repackaged into regular DVD case sets and marked as ''Including Brand New Bonus Disc". Once again each individual season were repackaged with new artwork on March 31, 2010. The first complete series boxset on DVD was released around 2004 or 2005, this was titled 'The One With All Ten Seasons" and the packaging was a black box with a lift up lid and contains exclusive packaging for all ten seasons. The second complete series boxset was released August 21, 2013 and was a red box which contained the 2010 individual season sets inside. On October 1, 2014 was the 20th Anniversary boxset, this was a white box and contained the same 2010 individual releases inside. On October 7, 2015, another boxset was released 'The One With All Ten Seasons", the same name used on the original boxset, however this time slimmed down and contains the 2010 individual releases inside. The outer box is open on insert side for the cases to slide in and out, more of a budget release. In 2016, a repackaged 'The Complete Series' Blu-Ray boxset was issued, contenting the same 10 individual season in the original set, however the box is more cut down and is opened on one side, and also does not include the book that contained the episode guide.
|DVD name||Eps||DVD release dates||Blu-ray release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4||Region A||Region B UK||Region B Australia|
|The Complete First Season||24||April 30, 2002||May 29, 2000||October 4, 2006||April 30, 2013|
|The Complete Second Season||24||September 3, 2002||May 29, 2000||October 4, 2006||April 30, 2013|
|The Complete Third Season||25||April 1, 2003||May 29, 2000||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||24||July 15, 2003||May 29, 2000||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Fifth Season||24||November 4, 2003||May 29, 2000||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Sixth Season||25||January 27, 2004||July 17, 2000||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Seventh Season||24||April 6, 2004||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Eighth Season||24||November 9, 2004||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Ninth Season||24||March 8, 2005||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Tenth Season||18||November 15, 2005||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Series||236||November 15, 2005
November 14, 2006
April 16, 2013
|October 2, 2006
November 12, 2007
September 28, 2009
(15th Anniversary Edition)
|November 13, 2012||November 12, 2012||November 21, 2012|
(JB Hi-Fi exclusive)
August 21, 2013
After the series finale in 2004, LeBlanc signed on for the spin-off series, Joey, following Joey's move to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Kauffman and Crane were not interested in the spin-off, although Bright agreed to executive produce the series with Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan. NBC heavily promoted Joey and gave it Friends' Thursday 8:00 pm timeslot. The pilot was watched by 18.6 million American viewers, but ratings continually decreased throughout the series's two seasons, averaging 10.2 million viewers in the first season and 7.1 million in the second. The final broadcast episode on March 7, 2006, was watched by 7.09 million viewers; NBC cancelled the series on May 15, 2006, after two seasons. Bright blamed the collaboration between NBC executives, the studio and other producers for quickly ruining the series:
On Friends, Joey was a womanizer, but we enjoyed his exploits. He was a solid friend, a guy you knew you could count on. Joey was deconstructed to be a guy who couldn't get a job, couldn't ask a girl out. He became a pathetic, mopey character. I felt he was moving in the wrong direction, but I was not heard.
Articles concerning the cultural influence of the program: