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When the TV critic Andy Greenwald, who is 38, returned to his high school near Philadelphia last May to speak to students about his job, he wondered how it would go. So he asked them what they like to watch on Netflix. Sexier than Cheers, less acerbic than Seinfeld, Friends existed at the sweet spot of populist mass entertainment and prescient pop escapism.
After all, today’s students are a digital generation who have only a vague association with the concept of “TV.” Sure enough, when Greenwald mentioned his job to them, one student in the group asked, “So what does that mean? ” Greenwald said, sure, he watches Netflix, since watching original streaming programming — on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, wherever — is all part of covering the complex new television landscape. If you were alive and sentient in the 1990s, you already understand this.
(Not to mention the absence of any primary characters on the show who aren’t straight or white.) Which is why you might expect that Friends, like similar cultural relics of that era, would be safely preserved in the cryogenic chamber of our collective nostalgia.
(There have also been replica Central Perks in Beijing, Sydney, and Liverpool.) At Stage 48, it’s not unheard of for people to get engaged on the couch; a guide told me it happened just a few weeks ago. All the time.” It is, of course, slightly strange that a 20-year-old sitcom still retains such a magnetic appeal; for example, Warner Bros.
I asked him if any visitors — some of whom have traveled from across the world on a kind of pilgrimage — ever have unusual reactions when they finally sit on the couch. also produced ER, which ran for 15 seasons, but there’s no opportunity, nor likely much demand, to have your photo taken on that show’s authentic gurney, let alone get engaged on it. Between its various syndicated airings, the show still draws a weekly audience of 16 million in the U.
No matter — the notion has an enduring appeal, especially given that, for 20-somethings now, the real world seems suckier than ever.
“The ’90s were a great time,” says Chris Mustacchio, who is 24, works in New York, and estimates he’s seen every episode of Friends more than five times.