The cast of Friends (L-R): Courtney Cox-Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer.
The cast of Friends (L-R): Courtney Cox-Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer.

Staggering amount Friends still earns

It's hard to believe the last new episode of Friends aired 15 years ago this week.

In many ways, it's as if the show never left us, the characters and actors behind the sitcom stuck in eternal stasis.

Granted, we've moved past the craze of millions of women flocking to hairdressers and seeking out "The Rachel", but it's safe to say the popularity of Friends has not waned in the last decade-and-a-half. In fact, its popularity has increased over the last few years as a whole new generation of fans has discovered the comedy on Netflix.

 

We’re still obsessed with this group of friends.
We’re still obsessed with this group of friends.

There has never been another show like Friends, and there likely never will be. That's not for lack of trying on the part of the TV industry, of course. Buddy comedies have come and gone over the years, but none have possessed the particular magic that Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) shared. Together, they formed a cohesive group so full of dynamic chemistry that even now, nearly 25 years since the sitcom first premiered, we look to them as TV icons.

 

Phoebe, Monica and Rachel in a scene from the show.
Phoebe, Monica and Rachel in a scene from the show.

On some level, the success of Friends isn't difficult to understand. Pair attractive and talented stars who happen to possess great comedic timing as well as genuine acting chops with solid writing and a network that's rooting for it (and therefore willing to put in the cash to promote it), and you have an automatic recipe for success. However, what looks perfect on paper doesn't always translate to the viewing audience, so success certainly wasn't guaranteed.

The fact the show not only caught on but rose to such stratospheric heights likely shocked everyone from industry execs to TV critics and even fans.

While the cast members started the show making $US22,500 per episode, by Friends' ninth season in 2002, that payday had gone up to a whopping $US1 million per episode, a clear indication of what a behemoth it had become.

What's truly remarkable, however, isn't how successful Friends was in its heyday, it's that even now, more than a decade since the final episode aired, it continues to make NBC and the cast millions of dollars a year in merchandising deals and syndication revenue.

A recent report reveals each of the main cast members continues to make $US20 million a year from re-runs alone, as the show brings in over $US1 billion internationally annually.

 

Friends attracted plenty of big-name guest stars, including Brad Pitt (left).
Friends attracted plenty of big-name guest stars, including Brad Pitt (left).

Not a day goes by that you can't find an episode of Friends airing on one of its syndication networks, a fact that has ushered in a new generation of fans who know all the words to "Smelly Cat" and Ross and Rachel were totally on a break despite being babies or not even born when the episodes first aired.

Given so much time has passed and TV and movies often have a shelf life, it's impressive to see many of Friends' jokes and one-liners haven't aged poorly at all and remain as hilarious today as they were in the 1990s.

Of course, there are certain elements of the series that no longer pass muster.

Today's viewing audience might be slightly more sceptical of a bunch of minimally (or even un-) employed 20-somethings living in an expensive West Village apartment. The whole ongoing "fat Monica" gag and the repeated jokes about Carol's lesbianism aren't all that great either, but they also don't seem cruel or mean-spirited. That hardly negates their inappropriateness, of course, but it does allow Friends to remain a genuinely funny, generally good-hearted show rather than seeming tone deaf or even genuinely offensive.

Ask anyone you meet - child, teenager, or adult - what their favourite Friends episode is, and they're guaranteed to have one (or several).

Perhaps it's when Rachel was obsessed with buying things from Pottery Barn but tells Phoebe it's all from a flea market to avoid incurring her wrath over capitalism ("The One with the Apothecary Table").

Maybe it's when Phoebe and Chandler have a hilarious flirting game in an attempt to push Chandler to admit he and Monica are an item ("The One Where Everyone Finds Out)".

The thing is, there are just too many good episodes to choose from - 236 of them, to be precise.

It's heartening to know Friends, a show about the chosen family you develop, live with, laugh with and ultimately grow with, continues to resonate with audiences of all ages. With everything going on in the world today, we could all use something to make us smile, and Friends definitely fits the bill.

This story originally appeared on Decider