"They become your friends, too." Watching between homework and basketball practice, the sitcom's youngest fans still find the show relatable 25 years after it premiered.
One of Lacy Roberts' favourite episodes of Friends is the series finale, which aired in 2004. She wouldn't be born until two years later.
"You see how much growth they've made in their relationships," she said, sounding more mature than her 13 years might imply. "It's cool to watch them get closer throughout."
Among Friends superfans, she's not alone: Some of the show's biggest devotees were born well after it first aired 25 years ago. They discover the sitcom through parents, grandparents or siblings; on Netflix or YouTube; in reruns on Nickelodeon's late-night lineup. Long after the show's conclusion, teenage fans and those in their early 20s are still mastering Friends trivia and decorating graduation caps in the signature purple shade of Monica's apartment walls.
We asked some of the show's youngest fans about why they're there for a sitcom that's older than they are. These are edited excerpts from what they told us.
The one who listens to Friends in the shower
Alyssa Weisberg, 22
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Favourite Friend: Rachel or Joey (She goes back and forth; it's "totally a mood.")
In the mornings before middle school and high school, my brother and I would get up at the same time. Every single breakfast, it was the biggest fight of who got the TV that morning and what they wanted to put on. Friends was finally something we agreed on.
I keep it constantly playing all night; it's really ridiculous. You know how Netflix stops after a bit of watching? I downloaded something on Chrome and now it just continuously plays, so I have Friends playing literally all night long. I fall asleep to it.
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I've seen every episode probably at least 50 times. I'm listening to it in the shower, when I'm busy or doing work. It's always on in the background. For me, it's truly just a comfort zone.
The one with the Friends birthday party
Lacy Roberts, 13
Favourite Friend: Phoebe
The first time I watched Friends, I think I was 11. It was easy to get to know the characters. I really love how they interact with each other, and even after all the arguments that they've gone through, they always come back.
It's kind of like a stress reliever. If I have a lot of homework or just finished a big test, I'm going to go watch Friends, and that'll make me happy. Usually when I'm sick, I'll watch Friends because it makes me feel better.
I had done Harry Potter trivia at a coffee shop, and because I really love Friends, I was like, Oh my gosh, we should do Friends trivia for my 13th birthday. My parents thought it was a really neat idea. It was actually kind of cheap, too, compared to some other things we looked at, and so they thought it would be really cool. There were, like, five rounds of trivia, and after each round they would put our scores on the board. My team won.
The one who explores American culture
Andrew Liss, 16
Favourite Friend: Chandler
It's the appeal of comedy and American culture and this representation of what an adult's life might be like. I'm very interested in the American life as a whole, so having a show that's based in New York — and sure, filmed in Los Angeles, and it's a TV show, so it's not superrealistic — I think the representation of American life is interesting. It does deal with problems that you might have as an adult, like unemployment, relationship problems, that kind of stuff.
I sometimes watch it on the commute to school or work, primarily because the London Underground doesn't have an internet connection, so you can either read a book — but it's really crammed — or you can watch something on your phone. Sometimes you have to make an effort to not laugh on a quiet subway full of stern commuters.
It helps that my dad likes the series, so when I'm with him, I watch it. With any good TV show, it's a bonding thing with other people as well. The neighbours above my dad have kids who are 8 and 5, and they watch the show and really like it. So it's a cross-age thing, but I think some of the jokes might fly over their head.
The one with the peephole frame
Kat Law, 23
Favourite Friend: Chandler
My family would watch Friends together when I was in elementary school. Now I watch it when I've had a bad day, or if I've watched a scary movie, I turn on Friends afterward to lighten the mood. It's kind of like this cure-all show that fills my life.
It's nice that my roommate enjoys it as much as I do. It's always on when we're getting ready to go out. Both of us have seen it several times, but we both find ourselves laughing at the same jokes even though we know they're coming. In the show, there's an iconic little picture frame around the peephole of the door. We actually bought one for our apartment. People will be like, "Is that what I think it is?"
I truly wonder when — if — I'll ever get tired of it, just because it's been so long. I'm 23, and it's still great. We'll see.
The one who crushed Friends trivia
Rachel Yaffe-Bellany, 19
West Windsor, New Jersey
Favourite Friend: Chandler
My grandma lives in England, and we used to visit her every summer. One summer when I was 7 or 8, she was like, "Rachel, I'm really into this American TV show." And it was Friends. So we just started watching it together, and I remember one day my mom walked in and was like, "Are you watching Friends? Do you even understand what's happening?" I definitely didn't.
The Friends building — the exterior that was filmed for the transition scenes — is pretty close to NYU, so that was one of the first places that I went when I came to New York. I just stood outside and was like, whoa. I've been there multiple times.
A lot of people who are younger just sort of write it off as this dated sitcom with a laugh track. But you've got to give it a chance: Some of the humour is really stupid, but some of it is really smart, too.
We had a trivia night in my dorm last year, and one of the categories was Friends. And I crushed, like, every single question. My team won trivia night; I'm just putting it out there.
The one who listens to Friends instead of music
Baz Zeru, 22
Favourite Friend: Chandler
The first time I watched it, I thought it was going to be boring or really cheesy. It was just one of those things that was on late nights, like George Lopez and all those other shows. There was nothing else to watch.
Now, I watch it over and over again. It's timeless. If I have a break, I'll listen to it in the background, so people think I'm listening to music, but I'm really listening to Friends. It's very relaxing.
When I was younger, I just watched it because of the comedy side. But now as I got older and in college, it's so relatable. It's a bunch of 20-something-year-olds living together, and they all go through things that me and you go through — work problems, relationship problems. There's stress about their future, and that's one thing that college students can definitely connect to. But then it always has a funny aspect to it. No matter what, you can go through it, and you can have your own set of friends and people who will always be there.
The one who watches after basketball practice
Elizabeth Hoffman, 15
Favourite Friend: Joey
I was in seventh grade, and there was this kid in my class who was absolutely obsessed with Friends. I didn't really know what it was about, so I watched the first episode and it made me laugh. So I just kept watching.
I'm off season right now for basketball, so I've been watching a lot of Friends. But when I'm on season, I usually leave the house around 5:30 a.m. and I don't get back until around 9pm, so I usually watch it after I shower or after I finish my homework, or in the car on my phone.
When Netflix was trying to take it off, I freaked out and started binge-watching for, like, five hours. And then my mom told me she had all of them recorded, so I was OK. My mom taught me how to knit, so we always knit and watch the show together when the kids go to bed. I have two brothers and a sister, but my mom won't let them watch it yet. They're still pretty young.
The one who loves ... Ross?
Theo Bratton, 17
Favourite Friend: Ross
I must have been 15 or 16 when I started watching Friends. I was at home, and my sister's boyfriend had it on downstairs on Netflix. I found it hilarious. There are 10 seasons — that's a whole lot of episodes. But there are so many different stories within it, so much character development. I never get bored of it.
I watch at least an episode a day. My sister is a couple years older than me, and she's into Friends as well. We spend a lot of time watching it; it's a good bonding experience. My mum has not really watched it as a whole show, but she'd seen a few episodes before I was born. She enjoys watching it with me and my sister. She doesn't have a very similar taste in TV shows to anything else I watch, like Game of Thrones or any kind of gory TV show, so I think she really likes that she has something to watch with us.
On Reddit, when I've talked about how I love Ross, I do get a bit of backlash. A lot of people don't like him at all. He does a lot of crazy things, and he's a really good father, even though a lot of people hate him because sometimes he's arrogant or stubborn. But if I had to pick a favorite couple, it would probably be Monica and Chandler. It feels like true love.
The one who made Friends through Friends
Niki Konstantinides, 22
Favourite Friend: Chandler or Phoebe
I just moved to Colorado for school, and I moved in with complete strangers. My first night here, I just started watching Friends again on Netflix, and they were like, "Oh my gosh, we love Friends." It was like this weird unifying force. We all have watched Friends a thousand times. We picked episodes that we liked the most and watched them together. Now we sit and watch Friends every night for a few hours.
You have six completely different people who love and support each other so much — throughout really the hardest part of your life, which is your early 20s into your early 30s. And they grow up together. You kind of get to learn from each of their experiences, like the weird dates that they have, or dealing with falling in love with one of your best friends or trying to rediscover yourself. Each one of them has a life path that is so different from the other ones that you really get to see a little bit of yourself in each of the characters, and it makes you love them even more. You want to see them be successful and you want to see them fall in love and have families and grow up together. They become your friends, too.
Written by: Nancy Coleman
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES