Karl Puschmann reminisces on Friends unstoppable twenty year reign of G-rated ubiquity.

Twenty years ago, one of the most cheesy, schmaltzy, overrated sitcoms ever to hit television screened for the first time. It was, of course, a smash hit, a phenomenon, a nightmare.

No, wait. A recurring nightmare, because once TV2 began screening Friends, they never stopped. It's screened night after night, year after year and now, decade after decade. Endless. Relentless. Monotonous. Could it be on TV any more? Hey, TV2 can we have a break?

No, it seems not.

As a long-time resident of the world of free television, I've had no escape from the six chirpy, annoying New Yorkers who are Friends (TV2, 6.30pm Monday-Friday). Guys and gals with their no real problems, their blazing white teeth and their generation-defining haircuts.

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So many memories. So much to dislike. Where to start? The monkey? The ducks? The fat suit? The cloyingly titled coffee hangout Central Perk? The dripping sentimentality? The oh-please-make-it-stop cheeriness of the theme tune? Phoebe warbling Smelly Cat over and over? Any episode revolving around Phoebe? Phoebe?

At this point in my life I've known these friends much longer than I've known many real friends - I've seen them more too. A constant in the chaos of reality. With various people in various houses in various countries I've watched these six squares break up, make up and make out with each other. An incestuous little group - even more so considering a third of this cosy crew are siblings. Maybe Jamie Whyte's a fan?

Even back in Friends' heady 90s heyday its driving plot device of Ross and Rachel's will they/won't they? affair played out. Now doomed to drag out for eternity.

They're together! Yay! They're broken up! Oh no! They're together! Yay! They're broken up! Oh no!

For 10 plodding years these two carried on like a couple of 13-year-olds. A real friend would have sat Ross down and said, "Dude, seriously. You're a professor of dinosaurs or whatever. Sort your shiz out already."

But not one of his friends did. Bunch of enablers. Joey, the freeloading ultradoosh, Chandler, snarky but awww sooo sad, Monica, finickity and constantly nagging, Rachel all hair and bland, and Phoebe, the kind of person you'd do whatever necessary to avoid. Can you actually imagine spending any time with these people?

I can. Because I have. For 20 years. My gawd. How the time drags. So much hilaaaaarity: Joey with a turkey stuck on his head, Phoebe pregnant, carrying her brother's twins, rain falling against the window while a weeping Rachel listens to U2. Well, I suppose listening to U2 is enough to bring anyone to tears.

I know this is the equivalent of hating on Happy Days, a similar show that defined a generation. But Friends just never clicked with me. It could be that I'm just too much of a lone wolf to relate to a group of people that live in each other's pockets. It could be that I think they're a bunch of flippin' nerds. But it's more likely that I'm just not its target market and it simply wasn't made to appeal to me.

At its core, Friends is a soap opera with a laugh track or a cheesy rom-com stretched thin over 236 episodes. "I'll be there for you," they promised 20 years ago. They have been. Whether I wanted them to be there or not.

- TimeOut