Of all the very many uncertain things in this world, the one thing I’m sure of is that Friends is the best TV show ever.
No, of course it’s not perfect, its not the greatest artistic work of all time and some of the early gags fall flat. But no other show has brought me, my friends, my family or the TV-watching world quite so much joy as that clan of New Yorkers.
The show’s effect on its fans’ lives is all pervasive. People do Ross’s “keep the noise down” gesture to each other, they do Monica and Ross’ arm insults, they reference Joey’s hatred of sharing when they go to restaurants. Nobody had to explain same-sex marriage to my little brother because he knew all about Carol and Susan at the age of five.
And alongside all the joy, Friends is the best possible fix for all states of emotional fragility, from break-ups to hangovers to grief. When my grandmother died in January it was only when watching The One With Ross’ Tan that I saw my dad crack a smile, and when a close friend broke up with her boyfriend we got through an entire series without her crying once. Just the sight of that Central Perk sign makes fans feel like they’re under a Hungarian goose-down duvet, cradling a gigantic mug of tea (or coffee).
So the first time I met someone who didn’t like Friends, I was sure they must have something seriously wrong with them. How was I going to bond with them if they lacked such basic humanity? Why was their soul so broken? I get the value of knowing people who have different opinions on things like Europe, euthanasia, the Tories, religion, Taylor Swift’s feminism and veganism. It’s good to see the world through other people’s eyes. But when it comes to Friends, I’d rather be as far away from the haters as possible.
Unfortunately, I happen to be in a relationship with one of these people. While pretty early on I checked that the man in question wasn’t sexist or homophobic or racist or a murderer, it didn’t occur to me that he might not like Friends. I assumed that if he was a decent human being, he would know all about Rachel’s trifle and Ross’s Margaritas. But I was naive.
A month or so in, when he casually said that he didn’t find Friends that funny and called Phoebe a psychopath, I openly judged him and suggested that he was in fact the psychopath. Phoebe is just eccentric! How could he find Ross annoying? Rachel is likeable even though she’s spoilt! So what if they don’t go to work that much? So what if Seinfeld was more innovative? I don’t see new generations of people watching that with such glee, do you?
There is some hope though. Recently I saw him laugh, despite himself, during an episode he was pretending not to watch. Maybe I don’t need to break up with him yet, I thought. And in a perverse way, he loves Friends too now. Because it’s given him a a sure-fire way of getting a rise out of me. Euthanasia, Kim Kardashian and Europe I can sometimes keep my cool about – but when it comes to The Best TV Show Ever I’m dogmatic and proud.
So if you ever meet a Friends hater, run as fast as you can. But if you find out too late, once you’ve already met their parents, just force them to watch lots of episodes and they’ll end up saying they like it. Even if it’s just so that you’ll leave them in peace and stop googling What’s It Called When People Don’t Find Things Funny And Have No Humanity?