It’s fair to say that Friends is one of the biggest and most influential television shows in history. In a way, it’s part of a sort of natural relay of feel-good sitcoms about young(-ish) adults finding their way: Seinfeld took us from the ‘80s into the ‘90s; Friends occupied the ‘90s and ‘00s; and How I Met Your Mother picked up from there and carried us into the ‘10s. Most TV aficionados would call Seinfeld the best of the bunch, and it’s unclear if there’s another successor on the way. But among them all, Friends may actually have the most unique and surprising legacy.
Much of that legacy concerns the broad impact the show had on pop culture and society. It launched careers, it paved the way for How I Met Your Mother, it presented a version of New York City that to many Americans now feels nostalgic…. It even helped to shape a certain type of adult friendship many now strive for. But Friends also has a stranger, somewhat more random legacy that — in a way — speaks more to just how big an impact it made.
As far as we’re concerned, the following are some of the most interesting and bizarre aspects of this more complete legacy.
Episodes is about as strange as it gets in the spinoff department. This is a British-American show about a TV comedy duo traveling to America and casting Matt LeBlanc — Joey, of Friends — as the lead. To be clear, this is different from the show Joey, which more of a direct (if short-lived) spinoff. This is LeBlanc playing a version of himself as an actor cast in a new show. It’s inventive, and LeBlanc’s work in it has been acclaimed. But it also speaks to the lasting impact of Friends that so many years later one of its actors — someone who frankly would probably be unknown if not for Friends — has the clout to carry a show about himself.
2. The Real Central Perk
Friends had a handful of go-to sets, but “Central Perk” — the coffee shop the group habitually gathered at — became the iconic one. It might not have been the most realistic gathering place, given that it was a Manhattan coffee shop that actually had open space, and it was filled with working adults who seemed to have unlimited free time. But it still became a sort of ideal vision of a big-city coffee shop. And as of last year, there is now a real Central Perk — in Manchester, England. That this casual, feel-good American sitcom would lead to the opening of a themed coffee shop in the United Kingdom 15 years after the show’s finale is simply wild.
3. The Friends Slot Game
If you’re familiar at all with arcade slot games as they now exist online, then you may have a feel for the themes and properties that largely define the genre. Typically, the games feature a blend of well-known fairytales and mysteries, characters from myth and legend, a few superheroes and other cinematic heroes, and a blend of additional miscellaneous content. Among all of these types of themes though, the Friends online slot that features on Foxy Games isn’t out of place, as it sits next to other similar thematic titles that have gained iconic pop culture status over the years. Its presence is a clear indicator of the show’s lingering popularity, and one more odd, enjoyable addition to the show’s sprawling legacy.
4. Jennifer Aniston Launching Apple TV+
Matt LeBlanc starring as himself in Episodes is something we never saw coming. Jennifer Aniston headlining her own projects is less of a surprise. She was far and away the biggest star on Friends by the time the show ended, and has had a busy, successful career in the years since. Still, it’s almost a new level of stardom for Aniston to have been the lead in the very first drama ever produced on Apple TV+ (The Morning Show). When you think about the resources Apple has on its hands, and some of the other stars the company has already signed (they already put out an original Tom Hanks movie!), the choice of Aniston speaks to her reputation as one of the most successful TV actresses in history. That’s mostly down to Friends.
5. Friends Launching HBO Max
Finally, just as Apple turned to Aniston to help get its original content off the ground, HBO acquired Friends to help launch HBO Max. The entire show is available for streaming on the new HBO platform now, and while it’s far from the only beloved content there, it’s certainly been pitched as one of the selling points. What this tells us is that 16 years after Friends wrapped up, one of the premiere content platforms in the world still views it as a way to capture the attention (and, you know, subscription money) of a whole generation of viewers.
It’s no great revelation to say that Friends is beloved, or that it has a devoted following. But when you consider all of these points, it’s clear that not many shows can match the breadth of this one’s legacy.