It all started rather innocently. In final years of my undergraduate study at IIT Madras, in 2001-03, personal computers had just started arriving on the campus scene. They were not as ubiquitous as they are these days but they were slowly becoming prized possessions for few. With computers in hostel, local network soon mushroomed allowing sharing of movies, serials, music, photos and much coveted male juice. I cannot point when or why but suddenly Friends was TV show everyone was watching. People raved and praised comical escapades of six youngsters in New York City. I cared to not to be sucked into this frenzy, partly because I didn’t own personal computer, but mostly because I didn’t wanted to distract myself from study by getting addicted to this new craze.
When I moved to United States in 2003, I had opportunity to watch this series purely by chance. We had TVs in common kitchens of our dorms and only channel that worked without hiccup was TBS. My limited understanding of American culture and accent limited opportunity to appreciate other soaps on TV. That these serials aired at 8pm which was about time we prepared and had our dinner made our encounter with Friends inevitable ritual. TBS used to run Friends, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond back to back in loop successively from 8pm to 11pm every day of week. I think within those two years of Master’s degree, I must have watched all seasons of Friends at least 2-3 times. In 2004, I witnessed sentimentality and emotions among students around me for airing of the last episode of Friends. I was still not that caught up that I missed what I now can say was a momentous opportunity.
When I moved to Los Angeles for job in 2005, more free, and more importantly alone, time made me acquire all ten seasons of Friends on my PC. I would pop one disk in my laptop when I come home while having dinner and watch 5-6 episodes in one go before I went to bed. This was time when I went berserk about my obsession, nay love, of Friends. I probably watched all 10 seasons made up of around 250 episodes of 22 minutes each about 8-9 times then. I became, and am still to date, crazy about this soap. I believe Friends to be the best sitcom ever created. I love the consistency of serial when humour doesn’t run dry from first episode to last unlike many other serials. I love relatively cleanliness of humour. I love them for respecting intelligence of their audience. I fell in love with characters and got to know them inside out by watching them over and over. I felt sorry when things went wrong. I cried when Friends ended. It is not often that I identify with characters of a TV drama but I longed to have their story continued. I detested being torn and thrown away from their lives. I also couldn’t help but not isolate six friends from their future appearances elsewhere. They had to be my loved characters, not some actors and actresses who could work elsewhere.
Friends has its share of crazy fans, specially in India. If two strangers meet, then they just need this common link to have loads of hearty conversation. In those 250 odd episodes I believe Friends covered practically every situation and emotion and many moment of my life can be linked to one where someone did something similar. What’s remarkable about this serial is that I never get tired of watching it and still laugh at right places even after knowing scenes by rote. I laugh when I not watching too by remembering scenes. This is not a usual feat to achieve. What this has also done is that I compare every sitcom with bar set at Friends, and as I said before, none have been able to match it.
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