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The American sitcom Friends turned twenty-five on September 22, 2019, with its first-ever episode having aired on the same day in 1994. Since that first episode, the show has had unprecedented international praise. It has become an icon of television, shaped how people view American culture and even helped millions of people learn English.

In 2019, Friends is still one of the most-watched shows in the world. In 2015, Netflix paid $120 million to have it on their service for 4 years and then paid $100 million to keep the show for just 2019. Most recently, HBO poached the US rights to the show from Netflix for $425 million. Re-runs of the show have continued to bring in revenue since the show ended in 2004, grossing about $1 billion annually. From that revenue, each of the 6 members that made up the main cast receive about $20 million every year. With syndication deals, streaming rights and merchandising, Friends continues to be a cash cow.

Friends has not only continued to bring in revenue but has also continued to find new audiences, long after the finale first aired in 2004. Many of its current viewers were not even born when the first episode aired in 1994. The show seems to be able to transcend age, culture and nationality. One of the co-creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman, described its appeal by saying, “It’s not dark, it’s not twisted, it’s not about corrupt people. It’s comfort food.”

People around the world have not only found the show relatable but have also found it to be a helpful tool for learning English. Several international celebrities have credited the show as being the reason for their high English level. RM, the leader of the popular South Korean band BTS said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2017, “my English teacher was Friends.” In the same year, The New York Times published a story profiling nearly half a dozen Latino Major League Baseball players who had also used the show as an English learning tool.  When asked for her thoughts on the phenomenon, Kauffman said, “That certainly was never one of the things we had in the backs of our minds that we hoped the show would do. The fact that it has taught people English is just amazing icing on the cake.”

Although Friends has received an overwhelming amount of praise over the years, there are some people who do not think it has aged well. Some criticism has included a lack of diversity in the cast, sexism, fat-shaming towards the character Monica and the treatment of the character Chandler’s transgender father. The last of which Kauffman has mentioned as one aspect she’d most like to go back and change. Despite occasionally being regressive when viewed in 2019, the show was also ahead of its time in many ways. It was one of the first sitcoms to depict a same-sex wedding in only its second season despite gay marriage not becoming legal in the US for another 20 years. It was also ahead of its time in portraying interracial relationships as commonplace.

Through criticism and praise, it seems like the one certainty is that Friends will continue to entertain audiences for generations to come.

Difficult words

Sitcom (n): A situation comedy.

Unprecedented (adj): Never done or known before.

Poach (v): To take or acquire by force.

Syndication (n): The sale or licensing of material for publication or broadcasting.

Cash cow (n): A product that provides income or profit.

Transcend (v): To go beyond certain limits.

Profiling (v): Recording someone’s behaviour or characteristics.

Regressive (adj): Being in a less developed state.

Commonplace (adj): Not unusual, ordinary.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English:

American English: 

Match the Synonym!

1. Sitcom A. Steal
2. Unprecedented B. Moneymaker
3. Poach C. Sell for broadcasting.
4. Syndication D. Ordinary
5. Cash cow E. Describing
6. Transcend F. Comedy
7. Profiling G. Surpass
8. Regressive H. Go backwards.
9. Commonplace I. Never before.

True or False?

1. Friends has only ever been popular in the US. T / F

2. Netflix has paid more than $200 million total to have it on its service. T / F

3. Netflix will continue to run Friends on its streaming site in the US. T / F

4. Friends is not well-liked by young people these days. T / F

5. People from many different cultures adore Friends. T / F

6. Friends is often used as an English language tool. T / F

7. A BTS member expressed his distaste of Friends. T / F

8. The creators of the show meant for Friends to be used to learn English. T / F

9. Some people have complained about the lack of diversity in the cast. T / F

10. Friends depicted a same-sex wedding in its first season. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. turned / American / sitcom / Friends / The / twenty-five

2. of / become / television / has / icon / an / It

3. show / Re-runs / revenue / have / bring / to / in / of / the / continued

4. transcend / to / seems / age / to / able / show / The / be

5. lack / diversity / has / criticism / included / a / of / Some

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English:

American English:

Icing Celebrities Aired
Interracial Nationality Merchandising
Diversity Revenue Generations

The American sitcom Friends turned twenty-five on September 22, 2019, with its first-ever episode having (1)________ on the same day in 1994. Since that first episode, the show has had unprecedented international praise. It has become an icon of television, shaped how people view American culture and even helped millions of people learn English.

In 2019, Friends is still one of the most-watched shows in the world. In 2015, Netflix paid $120 million to have it on their service for 4 years and then paid $100 million to keep the show for just 2019. Most recently, HBO poached the US rights to the show from Netflix for $425 million. Re-runs of the show have continued to bring in (2)___________ since the show ended in 2004, grossing about $1 billion annually. From that revenue, each of the 6 members that made up the main cast receive about $20 million every year. With syndication deals, streaming rights and (3)________________, Friends continues to be a cash cow.

Friends has not only continued to bring in revenue but has also continued to find new audiences, long after the finale first aired in 2004. Many of its current viewers were not even born when the first episode aired in 1994. The show seems to be able to transcend age, culture and (4)_______________. One of the co-creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman, described its appeal by saying, “It’s not dark, it’s not twisted, it’s not about corrupt people. It’s comfort food.”

People around the world have not only found the show relatable but have also found it to be a helpful tool for learning English. Several international (5)________________ have credited the show as being the reason for their high English level. RM, the leader of the popular South Korean band BTS said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2017, “my English teacher was Friends.” In the same year, The New York Times published a story profiling nearly half a dozen Latino Major League Baseball players who had also used the show as an English learning tool.  When asked for her thoughts on the phenomenon, Kauffman said, “That certainly was never one of the things we had in the backs of our minds that we hoped the show would do. The fact that it has taught people English is just amazing (6)_________ on the cake.”

Although Friends has received an overwhelming amount of praise over the years, there are some people who do not think it has aged well. Some criticism has included a lack of (7)_____________ in the cast, sexism, fat-shaming towards the character Monica and the treatment of the character Chandler’s transgender father. The last of which Kauffman has mentioned as one aspect she’d most like to go back and change. Despite occasionally being regressive when viewed in 2019, the show was also ahead of its time in many ways. It was one of the first sitcoms to depict a same-sex wedding in only its second season despite gay marriage not becoming legal in the US for another 20 years. It was also ahead of its time in portraying (8)_____________ relationships as commonplace.

Through criticism and praise, it seems like the one certainty is that Friends will continue to entertain audiences for (9)_______________ to come.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Have you watched Friends? What do you think of the show?
5. Do you use any TV shows to practice English?
6. Is it right to criticise TV and movies that were made a long time ago?
7. What is your favourite TV show?
8. Do you have any fun ways that you like to practice English?
9. Is Friends popular in your country?
10. Is Netflix popular in your country?
11. Have you learned anything about America from TV or movies?
12. What is the most popular TV show from your country?
13. What is your favourite genre of TV?
14. Is gay marriage legal in your country?
15. Has a show in your country shown controversial topics?
16. Do you think its important for TV shows to be progressive?
17. Do you think it was wrong for Friends to have an all-white cast?
18. Can you see diversity on TV in your country?
19. Do you think TV has changed a lot in the last 25 years?
20. What TV show are you currently watching?