There are a lot of memories I remember with nostalgia and glee from my time growing up. Whether it is tuning in to watch Dexter’s Lab on Cartoon Network or squatting on the floor, watching my Beyblade spin intently, there are few I will not remember fondly with a smile. However, pity few compare with the memory of the CD whirling in the CD player to the familiar beat of “I’ll be there for you.”
22nd September marks the 21st year since the first episode hit the television screens in 1994. 21. To put it in perspective, kids born that day can legally consume alcohol in Mumbai right now (Unless you’re Ross’ student girlfriend). Over ten years after it ended however, it still seems like only yesterday that FRIENDS was on our television screens (Repeats and downloads make sure of that. Not that anyone’s complaining though). And it is perhaps the hallmark of the great show that it remains as funny, and as fresh, and as popular as it was ten years ago. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? After all, it’s all about people finding their way in life. Just like most of us.
Even when I didn’t understand some of the humour on the show growing up, it was as influential as anything else on television, or in literature (Except maybe, Harry Potter. A close second). So, here are just a few life lessons I learnt from FRIENDS,
- Entering the ‘real’ world: The real world is not nearly as fancy and dream-like as the tales and fables we grow up listening to. It’s harsh and tough on you, especially when you’ve spent all your life with your daddy’s credit cards. It breaks you down to be an ‘adult,’ a life away from the fun and freedom we always expect to grow into. Whether it is the extra shift, or the laundry you wished you never had to touch, life teaches you stuff. It’ll suck yes, but you’ll grow to learn from it. After all, what could be worse than losing your engagement ring in a plate of lasagna?
2. Embrace your individuality: Phoebe was quirky, Ross was geeky, Rachel was spoilt, Monica was pedantic, Chandler was sarcastic and Joey was, well Joey. Ten years after the show began, these beloved characters retained shades of these qualities. And it was these qualities that made us fall in love with each and every one of them. FRIENDS taught us that change is good, even necessary. But, it also taught us that it’s always great to retain that spark of individuality that makes you different from the rest. Be confident enough to be that Smelly Cat.
3. Never plan for the uncertainty of life: Take Monica, for instance. All she wanted once was to be married by 30, have a few kids and open a restaurant of her own. However, when she did find the ‘one,’ nothing prepared her to realize that they didn’t want the same things. Life didn’t turn out as perfect and planned as she thought it would turn out to be but, it turned out to be better. Monica may not have made a life with ‘mustache,’ but she did find one with Ms. Chanandler Bong.
4. Be patient with your dreams: Millions of us recognized with FRIENDS because each one of us saw a little bit of ourselves in each one of them. Every one of them, whether it was Ross (With his dreams of a Nobel Prize) or Joey (With his dream of being a movie star), had a dream like every one of us. They didn’t achieve their dreams by the tenth season, but they were closer to it than ever before. Joey became Television’s most dateable neurosurgeon, and Ross dated a Nobel Prize winning guy’s girlfriend, which proves that no matter how outlandish your dreams are, with persistence you’ll always be one step closer to it. No matter how many ‘Lipstick-for-Men’ commercials you have to do.
5. Stay faithful in ‘love:’ No, I do not mean the time when Ross slept with the girl from the copy place (Ross: WE WERE ON A BREAK!! Yeah, we hear you, Ross). Or the time when Rachel and Joey got together (*cringe*). I am talking about the idea of love. You may have had a hard time finding love, or you may have had a hard time being in love but in the end, love will always find you. Only unless you try looking for it, and embrace it. Ross and Rachel were on again off again for much of their history, until they finally got together for good. So, never give up. You could be somebody’s lobster.
6. Food is the mantra of life: You can have it inside a Cop car, or go riding to Las Vegas with bags full of it. It could be a delicious meatball sub, or a Joey Special (Two Pizzas!). Whatever it may be, and wherever you’re having it, food is the bestest excuse you’ll ever have to find. After all, what is life without a dozen excuses? Food, in whatever form or shape, was one thing Monica’s apartment never ran out of and Joey always had his hands on. It may be fattening but, who can argue that cookies aren’t the best way to break bad news? And, isn’t a great cheesecake an excuse enough for stealing? Food certainly is the mantra of life. Oh, and sharing may be caring but, Joey doesn’t share food!!
7. True friends will always be there for you: Be it a Knicks game or a Strip Happy Days game. Be it Thanksgiving or the day your dog died. Whether you have a heart attack, or the time people think you’ve syphilis, friends will always be there for you. They’ll be your Ross, if you need guidance on extinct species. They’ll be your Chandler, if you need a sarcastic comment. They’ll be your Joey, if you need someone to finish off the leftovers. They’ll be your Monica, if you need some proper cleaning. They’ll be your Phoebe, if you need a song sung at your wedding. They’ll be your Rachel, if you want someone to fall in love with. They’ll be, and remain your FRIENDS.
FRIENDS was that rare sitcom that transcended the its genre trappings to become the most beloved show of its generation. A justified case may be made in favour of Seinfeld or M*A*S*H being the better sitcom but, neither was the cultural phenomenon FRIENDS went on to become. Someone once famously said that the greatest strength of the show was that it called itself FRIENDS but, it was actually about family. I couldn’t agree more.