Pretty sure when this new article series was getting mapped out, this entry came long before I decided to start a new blog about the ins and outs of being an adult. I only say that to shamelessly plug Exploring Adulthood, and because as I sit down to write about one of the most endearing groups of people of television, over on Exploring, I am talking about roommates and how they make us believe when we’re kids that we too can move to the big city, live with friends in a lavish apartment, and really only face major life crises once or twice a season. Friends built the standard for shows to follow like Living Single and New Girl, and while those two are amazing in their own right and closer to my heart personally, I can’t deny the power of Friends and what it meant when they said their final goodbye. Excuse me while I wipe my eyes.
Name of Episode: “The Last One”
Premiere Date: September 22, 1994
Finale Date: May 6, 2004
Impact on Pop Culture
This was one of the first shows I remember being a big deal for people. People other than me of course. I was too young and too in love with Shawn Hunter to wrap my head around Ross and Rachel, but thanks to my love of the TV Guide (remember those?) I knew about the fandom and what that show meant. They basically made the mold for friend based sitcoms, without which I’m not too sure we’d have New Girl and The Big Bang Theory. Not only did they create the standard, but their influence went beyond the small screen. When a show can inspire a worldwide haircut phenomenon, you know you’re dealing with something bigger than just some TV show on Thursday nights. Plus, with it having been in syndication since forever and having just hit Netflix, a new generation of fans are being bred every day. Well, thanks to those things and Taylor Swift bringing out freaking Lisa Kudrow to do “Smelly Cat” with her. Do you ever think that Swift could ask for a duet with Michael Jackson and get it? Her witch powers aside, Friends left their mark back in the ‘90s and continues to do so today.
Facts & Stats
- Studio audiences usually sat through tapings that lasted five hours on average, except when they taped cliffhangers. Audiences weren’t used for those episodes.
- It went through a few names before landing on Friends.
- Can you imagine if Jane Lynch has scored the role of Phoebe? Because she did audition for it.
- Gunther didn’t say a word until episode 33.
- Each cast member left the show with a piece of sidewalk from outside their infamous coffeeshop hangout.
What I Knew Before Watching the End
There were no surprises going into this one. I’d have won some quiz show if the question was to name all the main characters and sing the theme song. While not a diehard fan of Friends from day one, it’s one of those shows that makes for a great lazy day mini binge when nothing else is on, or there is but it’s that last weird season of Roseanne you can’t handle. I knew babies were born, she got off the plane, and about their final farewell to what I can only imagine is a billion dollar apartment in New York.
Finales should leave you feeling okay about the goodbye. You should feel like you’ve gotten enough from the characters over the course of the series and while most of us think we could watch our favorite show forever, that’s not always the case. He’ll, I absolutely adore The Big Bang Theory, but every other week on Gotta Watch It, I am lamenting about next season, season 10, needing to be their last. With that, Friends went out before jumping the shark, before their fans turned on them, and before ratings started to dwindle at which point they would’ve brought in cousin Oliver to (horribly) save the day. Nope, none of that — just a good old-fashioned “let’s wrap this up with a bow and send it off with a case of waterworks”.
Chandler and Monica are not only preparing to leave the city, but also on the verge of being parents as their surrogate goes into labor. Meanwhile, Ross and Rachel’s ordeal plays out until the very end. On and off like a light switch in the hands of a two-year-old, that couple will forever live in infamy like Cory and Topanga. Lastly, Joey deals with Chandler’s big move in a zany way because you can’t be too serious in a sitcom finale.
After Monica and Chandler are surprised with twins and Phoebe aids in helping Ross race around the city to the airport to confess his love to Rachel, you’d think that’d be enough. Babies being born to couples you cherish is one way to start the tears flowing, but how could those kids even compare to when Ross hears Rachel’s frantic voicemail and then we hear, “I got off the plane.” The Friends writers knew there’d be hell to pay if that couple wound up on different continents.
With M*A*S*H, we were told where the characters were going and in Seinfeld we just got their present state and sort of guess what came next. With Friends we could use our imaginations in a more realistic way to interpret where they’d all be today, and when you’ve attached yourself to these imaginary friends for so long, you do like to wonder every once in awhile about their lives today.
Even though I knew about the babies and the plane, it didn’t matter — I still bawled like I was one of those twins. All in all, this finale did its series justice. Now if fans could stop wondering and get that actual reunion.