Friends is the most overrated comedy ever

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 16, 2004

Friends is the most overrated comedy ever.

Reader comments

MaxFeb 16, 2004 at 1:56AM

In my opinion that article is right, Friends is one of the most overrated sitcoms around. That said it has lasted 10 years there have to be a whole bunch of people who don't agree with me. My only problem with the article is the line 'Friends smutty ripoff, Coupling.' Coupling is a fantastic British show that was (apparently) ruined with a re-make on American television. It's interesting that it's an article on a CNN website as well.

dowingbaFeb 16, 2004 at 1:58AM

They fail to mention that most of the first few seasons' jokes were copied directly from Seinfeld episodes, and that Seinfeld "broke new ground" by defying the sitcom custom of one or more stars backed by a supporting cast long before Friends ever did. Friends adds two more characters and some corny soap-opera drama every season-finale and suddenly it's unique?

JoeyFeb 16, 2004 at 2:09AM

Coupling *was* a Friends clone written for the British market. Even the airings of the UK version of Coupling on PBS and BBC America have gotten ratings lower than the static and emergency broadcast system.

WrightyFeb 16, 2004 at 5:16AM

Coupling far outstrips Friends for comic value, don't know about the US version. And why the bitterness Joey? - You've got your own spin-off series now....

MacDaraFeb 16, 2004 at 5:48AM

Surely saying that 'Show X or Show Y is overrated' is unnecessary, seeing as virtually EVERY popular sitcom ever made, as a whole, has been vastly overrated. (Yes, even The Simpsons - the last few years have made a mockery of the mid-90s classics.)

As for this Friends/Coupling debate: Coupling is just Friends with ruder jokes, because somehow rudeness equates with funny (probably for people who felt The Fast Show went over their heads).

florianFeb 16, 2004 at 8:05AM

Coupling has a completely different kind of humor, the coupling jokes are always overplayed stereotypes of things that really happen to you.
And yes it focuses on sex, so what I'm not a prude american I'm a proud englishman ( good sentence ;) ) .

Coupling is much better than friends.

GrahamFeb 16, 2004 at 9:56AM

Watched about three eps of Friends, and that was only because I watching it with someone whom I was trying to crack onto. Eh, even Just Shoot Me was better.

Coupling, however, is a lot better, though US adaptations of British shows are as a rule, dire, because something always seems to get lost in the translation.

spygeekFeb 16, 2004 at 10:41AM

How did Seinfeld break the "new ground" of an ensemble cast? Seinfeld was supposed to be the star of that show. They named the show after him, for chrissake! The other three were not stars at the beginning.

I think it's funny how quickly everyone's forgotten that Friends was a funny and very popular show its first few seasons. It's gone way downhill since then, I agree, but back then it was a water-cooler show just like Seinfeld (but for a younger crowd).

Kip IngramFeb 16, 2004 at 11:13AM

Actually didn't Cheers feature an ensemble cast? Taxi did as well, practically speaking.

I even have a hard time regarding MASH as "about" Hawkeye; there were supporting members of the cast (it takes a lot of people to run a MASH) but the core cast was relatively large (Hawkeye, Trapper, Henry, Hotlips, Frank, and Radar as an absolute minimum).

I really don't think Friends broke any new ground, though that's not to say it wasn't good in its early years. A show doesn't have to be groundbreaking to be good.

sakanaFeb 16, 2004 at 12:33PM

Shocking. Absolutely shocking.

danFeb 16, 2004 at 2:08PM

Doesn't the fact that it ran for 10 years kinda indicate that it can't be too bad?

TimFeb 16, 2004 at 2:27PM

I think at some point it stopped being as important if Friends was hysterically funny and more important that people just liked these actors/characters and enjoy tuning in every week to watch them, regardless of what they're doing. People just want to see Joey being Joey. There are shows that are much better written, but people are really attached to their Friends.

dowingbaFeb 16, 2004 at 2:29PM

Dan, there are soap operas that have been running even longer...

RyanFeb 16, 2004 at 2:56PM

Somebody out there really must think otherwise--there's some reason that it's been so high in the ratings for so, so long.

KatieFeb 16, 2004 at 4:37PM

Does anyone else find it ridiculous that the author of this article (whose name, ironically, is Frazier) says that Friends "doesn't hold a candle" to Frasier? Oh come on, I'm willing to concede that Friends might be overrated, but Fraiser, how can he find Kelsey Grammer's excuse for a sitcom to be better?

royFeb 16, 2004 at 5:34PM

A bit sad for CNN to come to that conclusion after 10 long years. Like you can eat a Big Mac without satisfying your appetite, you can watch an episode of Friends without being amused... at all. All it takes is a punch through the goofy behaviour and canned laughter.

CoryFeb 16, 2004 at 5:37PM

Thanks Katie. Personally, I'd rather watch Friends over Frasier, and I think that Friends isn't that hot.

My main problem with both of these shows is that they bear absolutely no resemblance to my (and, I'm hoping, most people's) living and working reality. I don't have a high rise apartmen in Seattle and I don't have any friends who don't hate their jobs and and bitch out their friends on a regular basis. If the coffee at Central Perk made my life like that of those in the Friends series (or whatever that shop in Frasier is called) I (and many of my friends) would do it in a heartbeart.

Conversly, there's no way I'd ever yearn for the lives Hawkeye, Archie Bunker, Lucy from I Love Lucy, or Ralph from The Honeymooners lived.

Are there really that many people who are trying to live the middle class dream on their working class wages?

Kip IngramFeb 17, 2004 at 1:55AM

dan: Doesn't the fact that it ran for 10 years kinda indicate that it can't be too bad?

No, actually it doesn't. As a nation we have abysmal taste. After all, we kept Roseanne on the air for years. Thank goodness for John Goodman (a highly underrated talent).

Katie, Fraizer was outstanding. I didn't give them credit; when I heard that they were going to spin off of Cheers I shook my head and thought "No way." But they really pulled it off.

I want to reiterate than I'm not saying Friends was bad, that Fraizer was better, or any such thing. All of those questions are a matter of taste. I just wouldn't put any of them in the "groundbreaking" category.

DahlFeb 17, 2004 at 11:51AM

Yuch, hate Frasier. And Everybody Loves Raymond for that matter. And how exactly does Frasier not practice inbreeding? They never even showed Niles's 1st wife, and then he married Daphne - come on. At least on Cheers, Frasier wasn't that above everyone because he did drink at Cheers everyday. But now he's drinks coffee and fine wine and hates his dad's beer halls? Why exactly did he change so much?

Sure, Friends is unrealistic, but I find it entertaining, and not as irritating as Frasier's attitude or Ray Romano's voice.

Joel KorbFeb 17, 2004 at 1:32PM

Friends is (or at the least was) a great show. What it isn't is a great comedy. People I know (myself included) watch friends to feel good. It's light fare with decent laughs, pretty people, and a feel-good atmosphere. The genius of it is that it pulls off the soap opera part so well. There aren't the insane closeups or over the top melodrama, but many viewers feel like the characters are their friends, at least for the duration of the show. Although the characters aren't deep, they are sketches of various types that we all know and can identify with: the control freak perfectionist, the clumsy nerd, the flighty but sweet new-ager, the white collar stiff whose nod to life is irony, the lovable idiot. The characters can be annoying, but rarely unlikeable. You enjoy "hanging out" with them and find yourself rooting for them.

(Frasier, as far as I can tell, is considered smart solely because it thinks it's smart. And they have scenes separated by fading-to-black.)

Kip IngramFeb 17, 2004 at 6:48PM

Peace. :-) It's not like Fraiser is a sacred cow of mine (obviously not, since for some reason my brain wouldn't even come up with the its correct spelling in my earlier post). I've enjoyed both shows (Friends and Fraiser) over the years, and will miss both of them. But I still don't think either of them broke new ground.

AmyFeb 17, 2004 at 11:15PM

Being a loyal Friends fan, I have to disagree with the article. Nothing cracks me up more than an episode of Friends. As cheesy as it sounds, they are my "friends." Every Thursday night I tune in to watch, to laugh, to cry, to feel. They know every emotion and they know how to put a smile on my face when I'm feeling down. 10 years isn't too much nor is it too less; it's just right. But nothing will ever replace the loveable Friends. I admit it, I will cry when the last episode airs because what's left? Reality shows?

As for Coupling, I do like that show (the original British version). It is a clone of Friends, just more sexual. No harm done.

CraniacFeb 18, 2004 at 3:25PM

I am still mourning the loss of News Radio

donald tettoFeb 19, 2004 at 12:41AM

This thread has taken a sad, sad, turn. Read some books, people.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.