The one where they come to Chicago

Twenty-five years after the show premiered, “Friends” is still alive and well in pop culture today.

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Photo courtesy of Vanessa Bardhoshi

Sophomores Vanessa Bardhoshi and Tala Eisouh cheers to a great time at “Central Perk” in the “Friends” Chicago pop-up.

Paige Szipszky and Hannah Brody

The Rembrandts wrote “I’ll be There for You” in 1995 as the theme song of the then-fledgling sitcom, “Friends”, and they have indeed been there for us since. Over 25 years after the show first premiered, “Friends” has stayed relevant in a world that has evolved leaps and bounds since the 90s. 

A surge of fan spirit in the Chicago area followed the September installation of the “Friends” pop-up in downtown Chicago, featuring a replica of the famed “Central Perk” coffee shop from the sitcom. Aside from the famous props, the pop-up also featured a watch lounge to stream interviews with the cast and famous episodes. The spot was a go-to for York students during the freedom of winter break. 

“I was in the city with my friends so we thought why not,” sophomore Vanessa Bardhoshi said. “I really love the cafe, ‘Central Perk’, that the ‘Friends’ characters meet at all the time. It’s one of the most iconic places in the show, so it was really cool to have it so close to Elmhurst.”

The orange couch, the site of many scenes, completed the pop-up. Visitors got a chance to be connected to the characters who made the show the phenomenon it continues to be. 

“The characters were normal people,” freshman Elizabeth Gray said. “[They weren’t] stereotypes like most shows make [characters] for dramatic effect.”

The six friends, Monica, Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe, had a profound impact on pop culture. In fact, before she was born, Bardhoshi was going to be named Rachel because her parents “loved the character so much.”

Elements of the show pushed boundaries. There was an LGBTQ+ wedding in the show two decades before same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States. Chandler’s father came out as a trans-woman. Each of the six main characters were paid equally, regardless of gender. While not renowned for its representation or political correctness, the show truly pushed the envelope. 

Author Kelsey Miller wrote the book on “Friends”, “I’ll be There for You: The One About ‘Friends’”, and she noted the show’s incorporation of a trans-woman after a conversation with a viewer of the show who was transgender herself. 

“She told me, ‘Yeah looking back, it’s horrible how they treat her and the fact she’s such a joke,’ but at that time, the only places you saw trans characters was on ‘Law & Order’ and they would be a murder victim,” Miller said to Good Morning America.

The simple humor based in New York City also played a role following the 9/11 attacks. 

“‘Friends’ was in a really unique position and they handled it in a unique way,” Miller said. “Before the attacks happened, the show was probably going to wrap up after the next season. The audience was drifting away and it seemed like it was time to go, but afterward, viewers came flooding back to it.”

The same simple humor is why the show continues to resonate today.

“Its light-hearted humor makes people want to watch it over and over again,” Bardhoshi said. “Each character’s distinct personality causes a variety of people to relate with them.”

“Friends” has impacted York in its own unique way. The class of 2019 made their t-shirts featuring the sitcom’s logo rewritten with the word “seniors” and labeled the back as “The One Where We Graduate.” “Friends” is a recognizable part of culture even 25 years later. 

In 2018, “Friends” was Netflix’s second most-streamed show, but 2019 marked the announcement of “Friends” exodus from the popular streaming site. Warner Bros outbid Netflix for the rights to the show. For those worrying about where to watch “Friends” now, Warner Bros will launch the show on their own streaming site, HBO Max.