"I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour...
I'll be there for you, like I've been there before...
I'll be there for you...'coz you're there for me too!"
Yes, these lines are from the popular and much-loved US sitcom, FRIENDS. I caught myself humming this tune the other day and realized that I knew the words to the whole song. I had memorized it without even realizing it. And that's just one example of how this serial becomes a part of your life. I am a huge FRIENDS addict and have seen not just all the seasons but also multiple reruns of the same. In fact, FRIENDS is one of those rare serials whose appeal does not diminish over time and which is consistently funny.
FRIENDS started off in 1994 and continued through 10 seasons right until 2004. I remember watching an episode on Star World (or was it still Star Plus back then?) and then catching another on Zee Cafe on the same day. FRIENDS was and still is, one of the best ways of passing a lazy Sunday or enlivening a tired weeknight at home. Every episode with the sitcom's central characters, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe was sure to generate several grins, a few chuckles and a couple of belly-laughs.
The gang who hang out at Central Perk the New York coffee house, became such a big part of my life growing up that my friends and I often refer to their exploits or try to decide which FRIENDS character we are most like. Here's a short roundup of the six key characters around whose lives this serial revolves:
Ross Geller (David Schwimmer): Thanks to him, we know what the word "paleontologist" means. He works in this capacity at the New York Museum. He is quite geeky with his love for dinosaurs and fossils and is not street smart at all. He is Monica's brother and has been Chandler's college roommate. He has long had a crush on Rachel and has an on-off relationship with her. Despite being a decent guy who wants nothing more than to settle down happily, much to his chagrin, he has been divorced three times. The first time (to Carol) because his wife turned out to be a lesbian, second (to Emily) because he said the wrong name at the altar and third time (to Rachel) because he got married when he was drunk. He has two children: a son Ben from his marriage to Carol and a daughter Emma with Rachel.
Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston): She starts off as the spoiled daughter of a rich doctor who runs away from her wedding. She finds her feet with the Central Perk gang by learning to live on her own by first working as a waitress and then using her natural fashion sense to work as a buyer in fashion house of Ralph Lauren. She also knows Ross and Monica from high school and shares a room with Monica. She is always very stylish and the kind of girl all the guys fall for. She is also credited with giving us "The Rachel" - a layered haircut that she popularized on the show and which was then adopted by women all over the world.
Monica Geller (Courteney Cox): The mother hen of the group who loves being the hostess. By profession she is a chef and is often rustling up some delicacy or the other. She is also known for her obsessive-compulsive and competitive nature. Everybody knows Monica will get mad if there is any kind of mess around. Monica has a history of being extremely overweight and some flashback episodes show her like this leading to much hilarity. Monica eventually finds love with Chandler Bing and marries him.
Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow): The singer of "Smelly Cat"! Phoebe is an eccentric masseuse and musician. Phoebe is known for her toneless self-written guitar songs which everyone pretends to like. She is in her own words, "flaky" but is also street smart having to be on her own on the streets of New York City. Her previous lifestyle and wild stories often shock her friends. She also has elaborate stories about her previous lives. She has evil twin sister named Ursula who is completely self-centred and with whom she doesn't get along. She has also acted as surrogate mother and given birth to triplets for her step-brother and his wife. In the last season, she marries Mike Hannigan played by Paul Rudd.
Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc): He is a struggling actor and food lover who shares a room with Chandler. They initially live across the hall from Rachel and Monica. Joey finds fame (and stalkers) with his role on Days of our Lives as Dr. Drake Ramoray. Joey is a womanizer with many short-term girlfriends throughout the series. To woo the girls, he uses his standard catchphrase, "How you doin?" to great effect. Joey's key charm lies in being a child at heart and a loyal friend.
Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry): He is the wise-guy of the group and is always cracking sarcastic jokes about everything. He used to work in a vague analysis job for a large multi-national corporation but is not happy at it so he quits and becomes a junior copywriter at an advertising agency during season nine. He has had an unhappy childhood with his father being a Vegas burlesque dancer and his mother an erotic novelist. Chandler hates Thanksgiving since his most vivid memory of Thanksgiving was when he was nine years old and his mother and father told him they were getting divorced so his father could run off with the house-boy. Chandler therefore refuses to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way. So every Thanksgiving episode has a backstory about Chandler. As Joey says, "It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chandler bumming us out!" Though he started off as the one with the most problems with commitment, Chandler is the first of his friends to settle down happily with Monica.
Due to its popularity, the show has also seen several celebrity stars appearing in guest roles. These include Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Julia Roberts etc. And one of the best parts about FRIENDS is that the actors became good friends even in real life. They negotiated jointly for pay hikes and insisted on being treated as an ensemble cast without any member being given more importance than the other.
Essentially FRIENDS was a story of six young people on their own and struggling to survive in the real world using the comfort and support of their friendship. It struck a chord with so many viewers because one could identify with each one of the characters at some point of time or the other. We have all been a little geeky, a little sarcy, a little control-freakish, a little crazy and so confused a lot of the time.
For those of you who have watched it, you know what I mean. And for those of you who haven't, go watch an episode now...you don't know what you're missing!
Here's a toast to one of my favourite serials, something that has brought so much laughter into my life: a promise to be FRIENDS forever!
Picture courtesy: Google Images