The worst thing about Friends isn’t the laugh track, or the canned storylines, or the impossible West Village apartment. It’s not even the fact that six twenty-somethings in New York City never go to a bar, and instead sit around at sort of a shitty open mic night for ten years. No, the worst part of Friends is that it won’t go away. In fact, in celebration of the twentieth year of Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and then more of Ross and Rachel, there’s a pop-up Central Perk café in SoHo through October 18. But why?
Five years ago, in celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of Friends, because I guess that was a thing people wanted to celebrate, there was a pop-up in London, for no clear reason. Then, as now, Gunther was the only original cast member involved.
What I understand least is the need people feel to commemorate a show that for all intents and purposes is still on the air, and which has been in syndication since 1998. Today alone, on cable, there will be eight opportunities to watch Friends. Eight. Even leaving aside questions of the show’s quality, of which many have been raised (perhaps best by Flavorwire‘s Pilot Viruet), Friends has never really left. So what’s to miss?
Friends Nostalgia, a vocal subset of the more general-interest 90s Nostalgia, is lame. It’s in line with Beatles Nostalgia as just a pretty uninteresting thing to decorate yourself with. It’s important here to distinguish Nostalgia (capital ‘n’) as a social posture, from mere fandom. It’s possible to be a fan of something without being nostalgic for it. Let’s be real, Friends today would be The Big Bang Theory set in New York.
I don’t mean to deny the value of enjoying these things (Friends, The Beatles), or of remembering them, if you happen to; what I mean to question is the incessant hearkening back, the breathless “Remember when” that tornados around certain time periods or touchstones of pop culture to the point that the objects of reminiscence are eclipsed by the reminiscence itself. Cue twentieth-anniversary Friends pop-up café.
I’d be willing to bet we can look forward to a twenty-fifth anniversary of Friends five years from now, and likely a combination thirty-year anniversary/twenty-year finaleversary in 2024. Until then, you can get your fix of highlighted hair, dad-ish one-liners, and ill-fitting sweaters in syndication about four hours every weekday, give or take. Truly, no one told me life was gonna be this way.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.