Fans of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends, know well that EACH and every episode is titled, “The One with...” The program is a generational and pop culture icon. This pandemic has in part reminded me of the importance and many benefits of pop culture, as a distraction, as a reminder of the ‘lighter side of life,’ and on occasion for a bit of escaping the not entirely daily realities of the real world for the past couple of years. We can all use an extra daily dose of whatever helps make us laugh, relax or smile.
And though each generation may have their favorite sitcom or TV show, there are a few like Friends, which attracts viewers transcending across multiple generations, since the program first aired on NBC in 1994, and for the 10-rating topping seasons which followed. It’s six-core cast members became rightfully successful and wealthy, even if only a few matched those successes in later performances and venues, but the show, not unlike the Petries of New Rochelle or the Ricardo’s of New York or Mary Richard and WJM-TV have become effectively timeless and beloved by millions.
Though the program ended in 2004, Netflix paid $100-million for the rights to rerun the series starting in 2015. HBOMax later paid $400-million for air-rights for those same episodes, as well as financed and produced a long-awaited, “Friends Reunion Special” this year which resulted in first-time Emmy nominations for a few cast members, not received during the series original run. The special as well as the reruns, keep the Friends fountain of nostalgia flowing, and those bright lights of the big city burning...as well as fueling not only fond memories but a renewed desire to connect with and even ‘experience’ that Friends world and phenomenon.
Warner Brothers and Hollywood tends to not miss too many opportunities to capitalize on markets like that, so in partnership with an entertainment experience company, Superfly X, the Friends Experience was born. Originally housed in Manhattan, not far from the fictional address of where our Friends lived in lower Manhattan, in oversized apartments, just as the Ricardos did as a young married couple back in the day. The Friends Experience itself is pretty large, sort of a traveling pop-up museum, and souvenir retailer, usually occupying a previously vacant Big Box space. Tours are self-guided and take you into both of the apartments, the iconic Central Perk coffee shop, as well as recreations of several scenes and memorable moments from the series, with the entire space, also covered with ‘old school’ TV models of that era running clips from the show. It’s been a couple of weeks since our visit and I can’t get that theme song out of my head.
Daughter Barclay is a Millenial and my firstborn. The show started airing two years after her birth and was done by the time she was 12...she became a Friend-ophile much later via reruns and binge-watching online. Though we didn’t really have such options in my day, there are programs that can still similarly lift my spirits, or coax out a smile after a trying day. Besides the near-constant smile on her face as we moved room to room and scene to scene through the “best of...” I was amazed at her knowledge of the details of each episode. A trivia machine tests your recall and memory, much like Jeopardy, in sets of five questions. get all five correct and you may continue with the game. We were well into the double-digits of queries before she missed more than one out of five...
I was happy to serve as visit photographer, as well as spend the brief bonding time which a mother of preemie twin boys has available, as well as the sitdown supper which followed. The times they are growing up pass all too quickly, and the time with them as adults and even ‘friends’ can seem too few and far between, not due to distance or damaged relationships...just due to the many tugs of life. Being able to give her this little bit of leisure and downtime was for me a true joy. Thanks also to Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, Chandler , and Joey for their assistance in making this a memorable and special day. So go grab your bag of 90′s memorabilia and phone for selfies and head to Friendsville, unless you are ‘taking a break.’ I’ll be there for you.
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