There were a deluge of posts and, if I may say so, manic frenzy on social media when the teaser trailer of the HBO Max show Friends: The Reunion dropped last week. While I have not watched the show for a long time now, I was extremely excited and watched the trailer just before retiring for the night and could not help but smile throughout its short duration. I have chatted with siblings both older and younger about the trailer who are as excited to see it as me (we ended up discussing again who was which character in the siblings WhatsApp group). Celebrities like R Madhavan have reposted the trailer on their stories with their own excitement for the episode. So why does Friends, 17 years after it last aired an episode, continue to be loved by me and countless people around the world?
For me, its a simple reason: it's relatable. Movies and shows by design tend to have a certain degree of suspension of disbelief, and real life seldom mirrors such fiction. This is where Friends hits the sweet spot: its fictional setting is improbable, but it never comes in the way of the story arcs. It's just as is meant to be: a setting that needs some suspension of disbelief from the viewer. What comes close to reality is the story, the characters and their quirks.
Its also primarily looked upon as a comedy but I believe its much more than that. While I have grown to watch better and tighter written shows, what I have not seen yet in all my years of watching TV is a show that has done emotion and made it relatable without making it heavy. Even when the show has had serious 'moments', there has always been a lightness of touch to those emotions.
Take, for example, Chandler. He has a gay father who cross dresses in Las Vegas. He is the child of a divorced couple, which is why he has emotional issues. He uses sarcasm as his defence mechanism to deflect from those issues. During the last season, when him and Monica decide to buy a house, he already plans to have a room for Joey because he understands the loneliness that moving away brings. Now take this arc out of the setting and you will get a drama about a boy and his emotional struggles and how he overcomes it. But within the setting, this arc gets a softness that allows the viewer to look at, understand and/or grapple with the issue without being overwhelmed by it. It allows you to relate to it within your own setting, with your own set of Friends. And that, to me, is the show's biggest victory.
No wonder that even after all these years, a small reunion episode has generated this much excitement: we want to feel the relatability once again. I hope you enjoy the episode. I know I will.