Why FRIENDS Worked So Well We Are Sill Talking About It
Today I'm talking about my favorite show, ever, in the history of shows, and there are a lot of great TV shows out there but this one is special, to me, and about a billion others.
Yes, I'm talking about FRIENDS
Why did it work so well?
Why do we still love it?
What did they do differently?
I'll tell you the first thing that they did was they created real characters and every single thing without exception that happened in that show was based on character.
There were jokes, don't get me wrong but mostly there was character.
Chandler was the jokester and he made a lot of "jokes" but it was WHO he was as a person.
Monica didn't joke.
Rachel didn't joke.
Ross didn't joke.
Phoebe didn't joke.
Joey didn't joke.
They were just themselves and thus they were funny.
It's funny because they were real people repeating the same mistakes over and over hoping for a different outcome. Some say this is crazy and others say this is the definition of comedy.
The writers of this show got it right every time. Even the bad episodes were great. Really, there were no bad ones, but some of the episodes stood out.
Last summer watching the reunion special on HBO Max I learned that millions loved episodes that I didn't love as much and many loved the ones I also loved. But, really...I love them all.
Let's break it down.
This is your cast.
Monica-uptight, type A, neat-freak, conservative, chef, and youngest sibling in her older brother's shadow
Ross-type A, needs to be perfect/right, PhD, older brother, married his first serious GF, insecure
Rachel-pushover, prom-queen, rich girl from Long Island, girl next door, never worked until now
Joey-actor, fly by seat of his pants, always broke, a little irresponsible, womanizer (but not a jerk), from Queens, Italian with 7 sisters
Chandler-insecure, tells jokes to cover feelings, from a broken home at a young age, has a job he hates but is good at, isn't great at relationships, nice guy,
Phoebe-twin, hippie, street smart but floopy, creative, carefree, open, honest, and fun
Now, if you look at them and all the scenes they are in, EVERYTHING they do comes from character. EVERYTHING
And, they grow as the 10 seasons unfold, all of them do.
Monica doesn't so much loosen up but she finds love and a way to deal with things that don't always go as planned.
Ross loses his marriage, his job, the love of his life, gets divorced three times but still has a positive outlook on life and ends up happy.
Rachel learns how to take care of herself, has a great career, and after many mistakes with men she finds happiness with the right one. (between her and Chandler for most growth)
Joey learns that he does actually want a relationship and even though he doesn't get one he grows as a person. His career is up and down and he handles it well.
Chandler finally learns how to commit and also quits the job he hates in trade for something he loves. (probably the most growth in the show really)
Phoebe is still Phoebe but she finds love and settles down in the end.
If you watch it, and I highly recommend that you do you can learn a lot about writing. You can learn how to introduce characters-from the pilot to the introduction of the side characters we all love: Janice, Mike, Ursula, Frank Jr., Pete, Richard, Mr. & Mrs. Geller, etc...
You will learn great pacing.
You will learn that if you know your characters and everything they do moves their goals forward people will laugh.
Think of the scene with Ross on a date with the girl when he's wearing the leather pants. That is hilarious. Ross wants the date to go well but his pants have shrunk and now he can't get them up, and it's a first date and he's in her apartment. It writes itself.
The scene when Joey wants the part in the Broadway show and lies about his dance experience. He ends up in a position where he has to lead the other actors in a choreographed dance but he doesn't know how to dance so comedy happens--naturally.
The One When No One's Ready is hilarious and they all have specific goals.
Ross wants everyone in the cab.
Joey wants to keep Chandler from getting the chair back.
Chandler wants the chair.
Rachel wants to wear the perfect outfit for Ross.
Monica wants to know if it was Richard who called.
Phoebe wants/needs a new outfit.
Comedy happens because each character is acting on what wins for them in the scene.
The One With The Fake Party is another great example.
Rachel wants Joshua to notice her.
Phoebe's baby wants meat but she doesn't want to.
Ross wants to leave and go on his date with Emily.
Emily wants to learn all about Ross.
Gunther wants to kiss Rachel.
I hope that you will go watch episodes with a new eye. Break them down. If you can find shooting scripts even better.
I use FRIENDS a lot because it's so well done.
Once you look at it with a writer's eye you will be amazed.
Live. Love. Create!
Friends is an American television sitcom, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, lasting ten seasons. With an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, the show revolves around six friends in their 20s and 30s who live in Manhattan, New York City. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. The original executive producers were Kevin S. Bright, Kauffman, and Crane.
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