A good friend of mine is an out-and-out foodie who hates sharing her meal. ‘Joey' doesn't share food, she'll screech every time one of us tries to pinch a bite from her plate — and no, Joey isn't her name. She lets on that her sister is ‘such a Monica', obsessed with cleaning, you know, and if she finds you delightfully eccentric, she'll insist you're a ‘total Phoebe'.

Oh, can she be more original, one may ask in that somewhat smart alecky Chandler tone. For scores of teenagers and twenty-something-year-olds, six random twenty-something New Yorkers from the crazily popular U.S. sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. are the ultimate reference points for all things contemporary. Be it relationships with the opposite sex, emotional break-ups or indoor games — it's somewhat a Holy Grail of what “modern lifestyle” is all about. So much so that it isn't odd anymore to talk about Rachel and Ross' blow-hot now, blow-cold now relationship or refer to Joey's endearing dumbness, as if they're real attributes of real people you met over coffee.

Roughly 10 years since it was first telecast in India, and six since its last episode was shot, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is still a TRP buster.

Now telecast in an endless loop of reruns — you can catch it multiple times on at least three channels on any given day — the show where characters do little more than hang out at a coffee shop, hook up, go ‘on a break' and sometimes divorce (three times, all in good humour) and occasionally go to work, has had a deep sociological impact on Gen Y.

For starters, the coffee shop culture; it wasn't until the early 2000s that it became acceptable to pay Rs. 49 upwards for a bland cup of coffee. Out went those cups and saucers, it was time for the large bowl-like mugs – that ‘Friends' sip on at Central Perk. (I am told that in a small town near Vizag, a rich lad even opened a shop called ‘Central Perks'). Why not, I say! A list of objects, attitudes and cultures spurned from the sitcom include foosball tables, barcaloungers (those huge, ugly recliners that the boys love) and, of course, fashion (remember those Rachel hair ‘streaks' that were a must-have some time back).

But what did F.R.I.E.N.D.S. have that Frasier, Seinfeld or Will and Grace didn't? Anna Joseph, proud owner of a 10-box DVD set and a pricy coffee table book, can't believe I'd even ask. “It's just funnier, simpler and more relatable to. It's more us!” she insists. Really? What's so ‘us' about a bunch of white Americans who live uncomplicated lives in large, spacious apartments and appear alienated from any social/political issues of their times? Precisely, retorts Anna. “I like it because it's mindless comedy. The humour is simple and slick, unlike Brit humour that's all too verbose. At the end of a long day, I can come back to and unwind to a familiar episode. It's comforting,” she says.

It's not like there haven't been good shows since. ‘How I Met Your Mother', a show that's now running into its fifth season here, is a play on the same. A couple of friends who do the same — bumble around, couple-up and are ‘there for each other', with a suit thrown in for good measure — this show too has it all.

So is it time to pull the plug on them? Not likely, going by the three hours of ‘Best of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.' that we were forced to watch last weekend. With the ten gazillionth rerun set to be aired in the next few hours, these F.R.I.E.N.D.S. appear to be in no mood to leave!

Keywords: FRIENDS opera

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CultureJanuary 13, 2011