Lifestyle journalist Miller (Big Girl: How I Gave up Dieting and Got a Life, 2016) goes behind the scenes of Friends.
In the same rough semantic domain as Seinfeld and the now-forgotten HBO comedy Dream On, Friends had all the virtues and some of the vices of its era—which, the author reminds us, is a quarter-century ago now. It was resolutely white, determinedly nondiverse, and marked by all the gay jokes and sexist tropes of the era, though over its long run it began to change. Miller notes, for example, that Friends featured the first lesbian wedding, though it shied away from anything particularly overt and certainly anything political. Rather blandly, the author explains, “the general consensus was that TV in that time was not a sophisticated or inclusive landscape, and in some ways Friends was better than its peers”—i.e., something was better than nothing. One reason for the success of Friends, Miller capably shows, was the absolute rightness of its cast, some of whom—David Schwimmer in particular—were reluctant, others shrewd in asserting the wisdom of allowing them to make notes and pull together as a true ensemble. (On that note, Courtney Cox emerges as a real hero.) Said one Rolling Stone writer who covered the show, “I’ve never seen a cast…stick together to the degree they did.” Given the post-Friends fortunes of those cast members, it would seem that lightning had been captured in a bottle. Miller is good at the small moments, less so about threading the show into the general culture. And for those clamoring for a reunion, as every other show of the time seems to be rebooting? Let cast member Lisa Kudrow tell it: “That was about people in their twenties, thirties. The show isn’t about people in their forties, fifties. And if we have the same problems, that’s just sad."
Nostalgic and affectionate, with plenty of dish; just the thing for fans of the show.