When Friends debuted in 1994, no one anticipated the sensation it would become. Through its decade-long run, the show maintained an uncanny connection to its audience, who saw it both as a reflection of their own lives and an aspirational escape from reality. I’ll Be There for You is a deep dive into Friends history and lore, exploring all aspects of the show, from its unlikely origins to the societal conditions that amplified its success. Journalist and pop culture expert Kelsey Miller relives the show’s most powerful moments, sheds light on its sometimes dated and problematic elements and examines the worldwide trends that Friends catalyzed, from contemporary coffee culture to the wildly popular ’90s haircut The Rachel. I’ll Be There for You is not only for fans of the series, but for anyone who’s ever wondered what it is about this show—and television comedy—that resonates so powerfully.
Kelsey Miller graduated from Boston University with a BS in Film & Television. She began her career in the film production industry before transitioning to full-time writing. Soon after joining the staff of Refinery29, she created The Anti-Diet Project, one of the website's most popular franchises. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is currently working on her next book.
I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller is a 2018 Hanover Square publication.
So no one told you life was gonna be this way Your job's a joke, you're broke Your love life's D.O.A It's like you're always stuck in second gear When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month Or even your year, but I'll be there for you
When this book started showing up on my Goodreads feed sometime back in the fall of 2018, I immediately thought of someone I know, who happens to be a die hard “Friends” fan. The minute the book went on sale I bought a copy for that die -hard fan, who was thrilled to receive it for Christmas.
When asked if they enjoyed the book, they praised it highly, and seemed like a satisfied customer. So, I began to wonder if maybe the library had a copy of it, because, while I can’t tell you I’m one of those die-hard fans of the show, I do have fond memories of it. My family used to gather around and watch it together, which was rare back in those days. While I do have Netflix, I never watch the reruns of Friends anymore. But, after reading this book I feel the urge to do a little binge watching. It would be fun to view the series in hindsight, watching the show develop the way the author describes it in this book.
As the blurb states, this book is a critical analysis and a retrospective. What does that mean exactly and what should one expect to find in this book that they didn’t already know?
Retrospective: an exhibition or compilation showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time.
Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the show, the characters and the actors who portrayed them, this book does an admirable job of proving how the show solidified over time, showing the ways it improved, the mistakes that were made, how they rebounded from them, and what they could have done differently, or if they should have.
Naturally, to examine the show in such a way some background is imperative. While some of you probably know a lot of trivia about the show and the actors, I must confess, that while some of the information was mildly familiar, I’d forgotten most of it by this time.
I don’t remember that infamous Coke campaign- The “Who stole the Diet Coke’ game. I do remember the show airing after the Superbowl one year, but I don’t recall the backlash. Do you? The business savvy of the actors, the impact the show had on the culture of other countries, and how the characters evolved over the years was especially interesting to me.
This book, I think, could give even the most knowledgeable fan a new perspective on the show. Even if you are one of those who frequently watches the show on Netflix, at least for now, you may not really remember the climate of the country at the time those episodes originally aired. This bittersweet look back, is perhaps the part of the book I enjoyed most.
It is also worth noting that while Friends was certainly unrealistic, we forgave it for many faux pas we wouldn’t let pass today. The author examines the show’s obvious lack of diversity, which is an unavoidable subject, and the way it approached Carol and Susan’s wedding, Chandler’s father, and other social issues, which, of course, would have been handled much differently today. In some ways the author seems to be examining the show under an unfair microscope, since I really don’t recall ,Seinfeld, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier, or countless other shows in the nineties being dens of diversity or addressing some of the topics that Friends did. In fact, some of the jokes on other nineties sitcoms were far more offensive that anything on Friends. So, really, Miller’s argument could be applied to nearly all network television in the nineties and early 2000’s.
The show is a freeze frame of a very specific period in time, a time in one’s life when your friends were your family, those days before marriage, before kids, before more serious career obligations. It’s the promise of what might be, what could be, and now it’s a show people often turn to in times of stress, like comfort food. So, the question is, why does it still resonate? Why is ‘Friends’ the show people turn to when they need a break, when they are upset, stressed or in times of tragedy?
Maybe, just like with books, there’s a time when one grabs hold of the fluff, the lighter, gentler stories, for comfort, to take us away from all that in your face reality for a while. It’s why we give the show a break from the criticisms, why we overlook its flaws and lack of realism. To expect the show to live up the our current normal, to criticize it for its light fluff, to wish it had been different, edgier, darker, or more realistic would take away the very thing that drew viewers to it to begin with, and what keeps drawing them back time and time again. The thing you must remember, is what the show was intended to be in the first place. It was never supposed to be cutting edge, or political, or groundbreaking or an envelope pusher. Its purpose was to provide an escape, and that is why it is still so popular.
I don’t think the purpose of this book is to drop never before seen footage, so to speak, or to bring new information to light, or to be a book of Friends trivia or tabloid gossip -fest. It is meant to be a critical analysis, and retrospective, which shows how the characters and actors grew and developed over the course of the series’ ten seasons. I suppose there are some who will have heard all the anecdotes, and will therefore, find the information here redundant. It’s not a rehash of old and tired information, nor is it an enthusiastic fan-girl homage. It did exactly what the blurb suggested it would, offer a critique, analyzing the show from various angles, pointing out its strong suits and weak points, and the impact the show had on pop culture.
Overall, the show survives Kelsey Miller’s scrutiny. At the book’s conclusion, I, like so many others, am happy to let Friends stand, just as it is, frozen in time. But one can’t overlook the show’s staying power, the way it still offers hope, peace and comfort to global audiences of all ages and stripes. However, I must also make it clear that while I rarely watch television anymore, it is good to see the medium finally make some inroads into diversity-land.
Besides the obvious nostalgia, I loved how the reader is given open permission, and even urged to indulge in the light, fun, fluffy comfort that Friends offers. Having a bad day? Watch some Friends episodes!! No one feels embarrassed, afraid or ashamed to admit they like to binge watch the show when they are at home sick, or just when they need a little pick me up… or for no special reason at all. It’s okay to still watch Friends. No one is going to shame you for it. Everyone understands. They get it, and it’s still funny, and yes, it feels good, even if it is unrealistic.
Now if we could just give readers that same permission to enjoy something light, fluffy, fun and comforting, without feeling the need to make up excuses, apologize or pull out the ‘guilty pleasure’ card.
I wanted to read this book when I first found out about it, but I won't. Why? B/c I LOVE Friends, and having read some of the reviews changed my mind. I don't want some SJW bullshit.
My bf and I always say this show couldn't be made today. Why does "diversity" have to be forced all the damn time? Why can't 6 white people be friends without someone bitching about it? There is NOT homophobia. They just bust on Chandler. Doesn't anyone know how to razz their friends anymore? And heaven forbid all the women are thin! No fat girls? Oh no not that!!
Truth is, this show was actually ahead of its time. Ross's ex wife is gay, Ross and Joey both dated not one, but two black women (the same ones actually) and they don't go "hey everybody, we're a mixed race couple"!!! No, they just...live their lives - hey imagine that!!
They touch on abortion without making a big deal about it (In case you're wondering it's when Phoebe lied about the test being positive at Monica's wedding and then said "at least you know how you really feel about it").
Joey, for all his serial dating, is actually a sensitive guy who leaves women alone if they say no.
Today there'd be 6 different races, 2 gays - FLAMING gays mind you, one trans now b/c that's the new in thing and if you don't have any of that you're "a bigot", rape jokes and all sorts of other shit.
Like I said, I love this show, and it's perfect - just the way it is.
Yesterday culminated a hectic week in my life as I celebrated my son’s bar mitzvah. In need of a book that did not require much brain power, I was drawn to a new book about the Friends television that I have seen circulating around my goodreads feed. Friends is one of the few television shows that my husband and I watch other than live sports. More than ten years past its last episode air date, the show is still good for a half hour of laughs. I know that most nights between 7 and 10 pm, I will be guaranteed to find at least two episodes of this now iconic program. What is it that is so far reaching about a show about six Friends? I knew that Kelsey Miller’s new boom was one I had to read.
From 1995-2004, Friends was must see tv. Ironically I was not much of a fan when the show originally aired. A conscientious student in both high school and college, I rarely watched tv at all. Of course, I heard about Friends from classmates and my own friends but at the time I was not drawn to the group of six New Yorkers. Perhaps it was that age gap that did not draw me to the show initially. In high school I did not aspire to be single living in New York City and in college I thought I would be a single mom living I. Chicago raising three kids. Not Friends material. Fast forward fourteen years- - married, four kids- - and as Miller notes, the era of must see tv has past. I still mainly watch live sports, but I do need a sitcom or two for comic relief and there are not any current ones that resonate with me. And that is how my husband and I have turned to Friends in recent years and have watched pretty much every episode in syndication.
The creative team of Crane/Kauffman/Bright created a now iconic premise of six twenty somethings who are in between school and starting families. My generation smack in between Generation X and the Millennials have married much later than their predecessors. After college when still finding themselves, a close knit group of friends can be more than a substitute for family. This is the premise that Crane/Kauffman/Bright set out to achieve and come to symbolize with their now iconic show. There was no official star but an ensemble as each friend represents different characteristics that are most often found in any group of friends. This is what NBC was banking on when they signed a group of six young, unproven actors to work as a symbiotic team. NBC bet on the house and won.
Today the actors from Friends are still for the most part known as their character from the show than as themselves. They are now middle aged and moved on from the stage of their lives when friends are family. Yet, the show lives on. Kelsey Miller has written about the show in chronological order and allowed fans to relive all their favorite moments from the ten years of the show from the opening in Central Perk to the emotional ending ten years later to everything in between. From hysterical Phoebe and Joey moments to the Ross-Rachel drama and Monica keeping everything grounded in her neurotic way, Miller has highlighted all the reasons why Friends was the highest ranked show on television for most of its run. In the days before digital streaming, a fan had to wait a week for the next episode. This lead to many what ifs and speculation, which added even more fuel to the Friends phenomenon. Miller has touched on all this and more making the book a fun read and an escape from stressful life, just as the show was designed to be during an in flux time in many viewers’ and the characters’ lives.
While Kelsey Miller will not win awards for her book on Friends, she touched on the iconic show in a way that was light, fun, and fast to read. I did not watch Friends initially- too busy - - but I do watch the show regularly in syndication and on Netflix. Even my eleven year old daughter recognizes the Rembrandts opening song and sometimes watches episodes with me. The show might be dated, filled with references from the 1990s and early 2000s, but it is still fun to watch whenever I get the chance. Kelsey Miller has reminded me once again why my husband and I still tune in to watch a show that has been off the air for over ten years, when we ourselves are much past the stage that the Friends were made to represent. A fun read, I’ll Be There For You: The One About Friends helped to diffuse the hectic week I just lived, much like the show was designed to do, showing how much of a cultural phenomenon the show still is.
“The thing that mattered most about Friends was right there in that simple, one-word, unambiguous title.”
I watch the complete series of Friends at least once a year. More if a major event or life catastrophe happens. There’s something about it I can’t quite pinpoint, but it makes me feel calmer, like everything will be okay even if real life is a complete disaster right now.
“Some things don’t change. Friends is a reminder of that, and that’s why so many of us reach for it in times of grief or fear, when catastrophe strikes or when life seems suddenly unrecognizable.”
When I heard a book was coming out about my beloved series, I jumped at the chance to get an ARC. But I was also nervous. This is something I love and have read and watched so much about already.
If you are a Friends’ fan you will love this book. Not only does Miller give us great behind-the-scenes access, she also brings to light some criticism and issues with the series. I’ll Be There For You is knee deep in nostalgia but it also doesn’t shy away from any controversies Friends had (lack of diversity, etc). Like the ending of the series, this book leaves you feeling bittersweet.
“The memories we made on Stage 24 are better than any dreams we ever had.”
This is a really well-written and fascinating behind-the-scenes book. Not superficial at all, but a very well-researched and in-depth look at the show, its production, the cast and it's cultural impact from then until now.
I've seen each episode like 50+ times, so this was refreshing for me to read into more details and it really interested me.
I really enjoyed it and I recommend to all Friends fans!
I was quite excited about this one. Mainly because I'm a big Friends fan - when I say I watched the TV show 20 times, I really mean 20 times. At least. Although every time I re-watch it I find something else that's problematic which I haven't noticed the first time. Which is totally fine, because the times back then and right now were so, so different. I also felt like reading some non-fiction so this was perfect timing.
So why such low rating?
Because this book really didn't bring anything new to the table. Which is so, so disappointing. I wanted to find things that I've never heard of before, I wanted more insight on episodes, on actors themselves, maybe even some piece of juicy gossip. Instead, literally 80% of everything in this book can be found on Pinterest and Instagram 'fact' posts about Friends.
Things like 'the part of Ross Geller was written specifically for David', 'or Matt Le Blanc was really poor before landing this role', ' or the show was supposed to be named "Insomnia Cafe"'. Like, yeah I KNOW, what else is new??
The rest of the book wasn't much better - the beginning was so slow and boring I almost gave it up completely. First of all, most of it reads like a page from Wikipea, but maybe with a little bit of soul. Second, there was a lot of useless information about other shows of that time - most of which I've never heard off. Sure, you have to tell the story of how the Crane/Kauffman/Bright production came to be, but did you have to drag it out so long?
That is honestly my biggest complain - the book reads as if it only was written for people who grew up with the show, who watched the episodes as they came out. People like me, who started watching Friends only when Netflix acquired them, weren't really taken into consideration at all. Such a missed opportunity.
The book also went on exploring issues of racism, lgbt+ rights and sexual harassment associated with the show itself, or with the Hollywood, but I don't think it did a very good job on that. The thoughts didn't seem original or organic - they all were things said by other people. I honestly feel like the author didn't do much herself at all, except collect the information and type it all together.
I especially didn't agree with points of view that stated Carol and Susan's wedding was 'too straight' because they both wore dresses and because it all was so traditional. It says that they didn't want to be too cliche with it, which I agree with, but then it contradicts itself and says that they straight washed it all to be safe. Maybe they did, but with openly gay producer I'm pretty sure they knew what they were doing.
The book also seems to focus on the fact that 'Friends' were indeed friends. It repeats that statement at least once in every chapter. They were friends, they really were close, yes they were friends - which made me think 'maybe they really weren't?' Otherwise why repeat it so many damn times? Unless it's just bad, repetitive writing - which, I mean it was.
Big thanks to HARLEQUIN - Trade Publishing (US and Canada), Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for a digital copy of this book. all opinions are my own, honest and come from the heart.
Full disclosure: I am crazy about Friends. For a long time now, this series was my refuge and my security blanket when dealing with anxiety and life in general. So when I’ve heard that a new book about Friends is coming up I was over the top happy. I’ve previously read articles and watched interviews with and about the cast and directors and I’m happy to say that not a lot of information that I’ve personally found on the internet was on the book. So I’ve learned a lot of new things. The structure too worked for me, following a chronological timeline of events. I also appreciated that uglier parts weren’t left out.Yes, people working on Friends were 100% percent part of the toxic culture that we now know this industry has. There is no doubt in my mind that everything that came out about some things that were happening behind closed doors is true. And not talking about the elephant in the room would have been a mistake. Overall a well balanced book. Plus, it’s always nice to know people are having the same obsession that you have.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I had to request this one. I adore the show FRIENDS! It's one of my favorite shows of all time, and this book really reinforced why I feel that way. It's got a timeless quality and delves into the feelings of what it means to have a framily when your family disappoints.
This book doesn't make it all appear to be roses and rainbows, either. It discusses the problems with the show - the gay jokes, the huge lack of diversity and representation, etc. And I can see those problems, more so as the years go by and those things have become a bigger part of the national dialogue. While it has its issues, every show does, and it doesn't diminish the huge effect that the FRIENDS phenomenon had on the world.
The author's telling of the history of the show is compelling, and I really enjoyed it.
I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller is a book reflecting on one of the most popular US television shows at turn at of the millennium. Despite promising to delve into the behind-the-scenes making of the show, the book never even addresses basic questions about the show. For example, why is each show titled "The One about BLANK"? There are very few interviews with the support staff involved in the show which limits the book to publicly available material. In fact, most of the book feels lifted from wikipedia and other popular internet sites without containing any independent research. Furthermore, the majority of the book is spent criticizing a corporately-produced, 20-year-old show for not demonstrating contemporary sensibilities with regards to equality in gender and race. This time would have been better spent exploring exactly why Friends continues to resonate with viewers. I'll Be There for You is a fantastic concept but completely misses what made the show a phenomena in the first place.
You Should Read This Book If: -You love nostalgia and want to prance down memory lane with people who can drop Friends inside jokes as frequently as you can. -You want a well-researched look at the writing, casting, and those highly-publicized salary negotiations. -You’re into pop culture phenomenons. Because Friends definitely is one.
Kelsey Miller loves Friends in the way that I do. Soothed by those TBS reruns and able to easily ramble off some of the all-time best quotes (“They don’t know we know they know!” “15 Yemen Road, Yemen.”), Miller takes the reader on a well-researched and well-written journey into the history of Friends.
There’s a lot of layers of cultural influence and Miller digs into them all: from The Rachel haircut to the highly publicized team-effort salary negotiations. She takes in-depth looks at 9/11 and the impact it had on Friends, along with the writers decisions on how to acknowledge (or,errrrm, not acknowledge) the national tragedy via a show that was set in lower Manhattan.
Miller also looks at some of the serious social justice issues of Friends. If you rewatch Friends in 2018 (which is a thing I’ve been doing), it’s easy to see how deeply, deeply problematic the series is. Homophobia runs rampant. LGBT characters are scarce, and people of color are virtually non-existent. Sure, we get a lesbian wedding, but it’s going to be as heteronormative as possible and no way in hell are we going to see the couple kiss. Friends doesn’t have a black character that appears in more than one episode until season 9, which is more than a little ridiculous. The one trans character the show features is designed to be the butt of a series-long joke. Additionally, instead of casting a trans actor, they cast a cis woman to play a trans woman. Why.
The author acknowledges all of these things, but is perhaps a bit too easy on the show. She seems to excuse them based on her own anecdotal (and sometimes seemingly tokenizing) interviews; she’ll interview a black or trans friend who attests to be relatively unbothered by the lack of representation, so *shurg*. Miller’s sentiment is generally well, yes, there’s transphobia, but at least they HAD a trans character! At least they HAD a gay wedding! She argues quite a bit for the fact that Friends was simply a relic of it’s time. Perhaps Miller is just more forgiving than me.
In a powerful chapter, Miller does bring to light a story about a black, female assistant in the Friends writers room who was subject to racial and sexual harassment. In 2004, Amaani Lyle lost a harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against Warner Brothers on the grounds of “creative necessity.” Miller is highly critical of the court's ruling, noting that it lead to a precedent of creating a culture that marginalizes a population that’s already historically underrepresented in the entertainment industry. Miller points out that Lyle was truly at the forefront of #metoo and bravely speaking up to end misogyny in the entertainment field.
Friends IS a cultural phenomenon, and I’ll Be There For You ties the history together pretty nicely. I don’t think there’s any insider information that’s too groundbreaking here, but it’s written with the same heart and humor that Bright, Hoffman, and Crane put into their beloved show, plus lot of insight that’s relevant to 2018.
Rating: 8/10, because I would have loved to see the author be just a bit more critical, but hell, this book is good.
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I love Friends. I have watched the entire series as it aired, on DVD, and streaming on Netflix when it had the rights. There are so many iconic moments that still make me laugh. So I was excited to see a book about the show and I quickly bought and read it.
Ehhh. There are some insights but nothing that great, given that the show ran for so long. And much of what is there is just retelling. So I would have given it three stars.
Unfortunately, the author felt compelled to examine the show, albeit briefly, through a 2018 lense of political correctness and identity issues. She goes on how the show had many "homophobic" and "transphobic" moments, and was incredibly non-diverse, with 6 white people forming the main cast.
Then at the end, the author devotes substantially more pages to a very tangential harassment suit filed by a writers' assistant on the show alleging lots of dirty locker room talk in the writers' room. These pages weren't about the show, the actors, the plots, etc. It was just a chance for the author to tie into #MeToo. A really unnecessary diversion.
I find it a bit surprising that the theme of Friends being an escapist, feel-good, no-drama show is mentioned repeatedly, and that theoretically the readers were fans of the show. Yet the author didn't have the sense to realize that her diversions into political correctness and identity issues ran exactly counter to that whole vibe and that people might find it really alienating. Thus one star only.
This was like drinking a tall glass of fat!! ... just a vanilla milkshake with chicken bits floating in it...
Ah the nostalgia! I am a HUGE Friends fan, I owned all the DVDs in high school and have been re-watching them over and over again. Now, that the reruns are on TV, I've set my DVR to record them so I can watch a few episodes to fall asleep to every single night. I love the camaraderie and the collaboration that this group of actors brought to this TV show. It's hard to choose one favorite main characters as their are parts that I love about every single character, but Monica would be my absolute favorite.
Miller pulls together her research and packages it in a way that was both interesting and made sense. Her devotion to this franchise drives the novel forward and drips off the page. I can feel her passion and resonate in our Friendshood of this show. I learned a lot more than I thought I would about the series and appreciated the delightful stroll down memory lane. Now, to take advantage of the show streaming on Netflix before it ends...
This book was SO much fun. It probably helped that I had just finished rewatching every single episode when I picked this gem up. If you're a Friends fan, you'll LOVE this book -- it's nostalgic and funny and insightful and gives a great behind-the-scenes look at both what happened on the show, but also how the time in which it aired impacted its popularity, as well as the mark it left on our culture (and cultures beyond the U.S.). Whether or not you've seen every episode, this book is an absolute joy to read. It made me want to watch the show all over again.
Besides being a pleasurable read that revisits one of the most popular sitcoms on television, it also doesn't ignore the problematic aspects of the show (way too many homophobic jokes and a lack of diversity being big ones). It does a good job of discussing why those aspects existed (it was the 90s after all) without excusing them and acknowledging that it wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- fly today.
Whether you're a diehard fan or a casual viewer, I'd highly recommend adding this to your TBR.
I love Friends so I was so excited to be selected to read this (from NetGalley). I wish I hadn't. I figured once I got past the very long-winded, self-serving intro about the author by the author (about how she loved Friends, not about her writing qualifications) that I would get some good tidbits and stories that I hadn't yet heard. Not really. There was nothing new at all. The writing was so dull. Although it was interesting to learn about the history the creators of the show had together, even that went on way too long. It felt like a chore to read (I guess it kind of was).
As I was reading, and getting increasingly more bored and frustrated, my star ratings were decreasing. I figured I'd give her 2 stars just because she had to wade through so many interviews to include in this work (she had no personal interviews unless you count her talking to her friends and family or one person in the biz that had had no actual connection to Friends) but then she just went way off the rails for me. That's why I had to end this book with a 1-star rating. You can't look at a sitcom of 20 years ago with today's eyes. If you want to write a book about how Friends wouldn't fly as a sitcom today that's perfectly fine but don't tout this book as the "definitve retrospective of Friends." Title it accordingly such as 'Why I Think Friends is Offensive Today.' Either you're offended by Friends or you like it. It seems to me she's too wishy-washy to really tell. You really can't have it both ways. Miller seemed to be stuck on things like how Carol & Susan were or were not portrayed, Fat Monica, Chandler's dad, the lack of diversity, and at one point she talked about 'slut shaming.' Again, fine if you want to write about those topics but don't try to make this sound like a memory book about the actual show Friends.
I don't know what I was expecting but definitely not this. I do not recommend this book as a fun "retrospective" of Friends. I was very disappointed.
I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. I watched every episode of Friends when it was out in the 90's and this brought back good memories of a favorite show. I especially loved how she highlighted many of the the show's episodes and themes through today's lens. Very interesting and worth a listen or a read.
This book could go from amazing to infuriating faster than I could flip a page. I landed at 2 stars because it genuinely went from being between 1 star to 3 stars at any given time.
I felt that it was marketed as a new book written as a love letter to “Friends” and those of us fans who have loved it since it originally aired, as well as its resurgence in popularity in recent years with a whole new generation of young people not even born when it first aired. Mixed in would be some behind the scenes tidbits and antidotes maybe not as well known to the general public.
There were parts of the book that were like that, and these were the 3 star parts. I learned some really interesting information. Nothing I probably couldn’t have read or heard elsewhere though. I was reminded of some behind the scenes pieces I had forgotten about. Relived nostalgia from that time period in my life. Genuinely enjoyed pieces of the book while sometimes even shedding a tear, and fan-girling out all over again not being able to wait to finish the book so that I could bust out my dvds and start a re-watch yet again!
But I was completely and totally blindsided, flabbergasted, and fascinated that the author chose to spend the vast majority of the book actually putting the show down! She claims to love it and have enjoyed the routine of watching it every day at the gym, or rewatching it at home while she wrote her first book. Yet in nearly every single chapter she would repeatedly put the show down as being “unrealistic” and “a sign of its times”. She went in great detail about how sexist, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic the show was. She even spent the better part of what could have been a beautiful wrap-up chapter at the end of the book diving into the whole ‘Lyle v. Warner Bros’ case and what a horrible stain on the “Friends” legacy that court ruling is.
Everything “Friends” did that was actually ahead of its time for television was put down. Yes, Chandler’s Dad was transgender, (but let me write you a whole chapter on why Chandler was unnecessarily horrible to his father and why the role was so hard for Kathleen Turner to have to play.) Yes, there were interracial relationships and Charlie was particularly awesome, (but let me point out to you in at least half the chapters why the show was really so racist. How the interracial couples never lasted more than a few episodes. And could having six white friends BE more racist?! Oprah told them they needed a black friend. She even volunteered to drop by. And they ignored her.) Yes, “Friends” broke barriers by showing Carol and Susan’s wedding, (but let me write you a whole chapter on how homophobic it was that they were never shown kissing. Let me beat you over the head for several chapters with how terribly Ross handled the whole situation. Oh, and while we’re already hating on Ross for how homophonic he clearly is, let’s also talk about what a terrible boyfriend he was to Rachel. Remember Mark? Ross was scary controlling there. #MeToo. Oh, but we’ll dive so much deeper into that at the end of the book where I tell you all about how horrible the writers room of “Friends” was.)
Never mind how many times the author pointed out why so many of the jokes told on the show weren’t actually funny, but deeply offensive. And how does “Friends” get away with that nostalgic innocence that even today when we realize how entirely inappropriate their gay jokes were, or their misogynistic/sexist jokes, etc, we still laugh anyways?
Maybe I did pick a bad time of year to read this because I am already SO disgusted at all of the classic holiday movies and Christmas songs getting edited and torn apart by the pc police, but how could I have known this book was going to have anything to do with that? I kept wanting to like this woman, and she just kept driving me NUTS. I am completely over the pc police of 2018.
I am ALL for women’s rights! A lot of legitimate, important things came out of #MeToo. I love how far we’re coming in being accepting (as we should be and always should have been) to people’s god given right to be comfortable in their own skin, no matter the color. To live who they are and love who they love and be fully accepted for that.
But we are also going way too far in the other direction now to a point where forcing everyone to atone for and accept everything is forcing us to atone for and accept absolutely nothing from one another. We’re more judgmental and tearing more people down for who they are than at any other point in my lifetime. It’s ridiculous.
This book that could have been a beautiful love note to “Friends” and its everlasting positive influence on society as just a fun, happy show, instead decided to beat “Friends” over the head for everything it wasn’t. Everything it didn’t do. Every joke it shouldn’t have made. Every chance it had to make a positive statement it didn’t make. Etc.
I’d like to quote another review I just read on here for the book because it is well stated: “I find it a bit surprising that the theme of Friends being an escapist, feel-good, no-drama show is mentioned repeatedly, and that theoretically the readers were fans of the show. Yet the author didn’t have the sense to realize that her diversions into political correctness and identity issues ran exactly counter to that whole vibe and that people might find it really alienating.”
Tragically disappointing for a book I was so excited to read. It seems you don’t even have to read political books anymore to be engulfed in what’s politically correct and incorrect. The pc police are out to destroy it all. A fun, lighthearted, completely and totally NON political (which is part of what we all loved/love about it), beloved half hour sitcom from 20 years ago can’t even be just that anymore. Sad world.
This book was not what I was expecting, but it turned out to be much better. I was expecting a behind the scenes, light fluffy paean to a popular TV show that I enjoyed. Instead it was an insightful analysis of why Friends became a cultural touchstone, flaws and all.
Friends was supposed to be a show about the time of your life when your friends are your family; when you are trying out different life trajectories to find the ones that fit you best. There is nothing traditional about this show. It begins with a woman running away from a loveless marriage, at a time when many women in their 20s were running towards any marriage. Although it takes place in NYC, it is primarily set in a coffee shop and an apartment. A coffee shop where 6 friends spend an inordinate amount of time during the day and an impossibly huge NYC apartment. How can they afford to do these things? These are some of the incongruities that the author addressed.
The author examined some of the societal issues that the show either ignored or handled badly: LGBT issues along with bad gay jokes; transgender issues regarding Chandler’s dad; the lack of diversity in the cast; slut shaming; fat shaming; the impact of “The Rachel” haircut; virtually ignoring the fact that 3 characters are Jewish; the impact of 9/11 on the entertainment industry.
Yet with all these issues, the show maintains its popularity in syndication. Some of her critiques are nit picking; some are valid but were overlooked at the time, or we are just aware of these issues with hindsight. After all, the show first aired 25 years ago. Times have changed. The author often compares Friends to Seinfeld, a show that I thought was entirely overrated. I would chose Friends over Seinfeld any day.
There are some “behind the scenes” tidbits: how each actor was cast for their roles; how they truly became friends and presented a united front during contract negotiations; how some episodes were developed and the actors’ lives after Friends.
Overall, this is an interesting book to read if you are a Friends fan. I read an ebook copy and was disappointed that there weren’t any photos. I don’t know if there are photos in the print editions. But even without any photos (thank you, Google!) I would recommend this book.
A wonderfully compiled and researched retrospective on the utter cultural phenomenon that was (and remains) the iconic television show Friends. Miller does such an excellent job of stating all that was right with Friends and all that later turned out to have been wrong with it, and weaves it together into the now and present climate.
Keeping my own personal tidbits to a minimum, I loved this show and still do. The flaws are sometimes blindingly glaring now with my 2018 spectacles on, but hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. I was a sophomore in high school when the show started, but I was just getting over my first love and first heartbreak that year, and I don't really remember its first season at all. I know I didn't watch it. Before its second season, I had really started hearing a lot about this show, and I paid attention enough to have my interest piqued and tune in. As it happens, the first episode I watched was an iconic one ("The One Where Ross Finds Out"), and I was immediately hooked. Though I waffled a bit near the end of the show's run, I made sure to be one of the millions to watch it all end, and I still live my life with Friends thoroughly entrenched on my mind and in my heart.
The details and trivia in this book, along with the carefully paced narrative, had me whipping out my phone to look up everything and anything—photos, video clips, etc. Mostly it was hilarious stills or commercials from the cast's pre-Friends repertoire. However, one that stood out included a court case I had never heard about, Lyle v. Warner Bros., which (given today's climate that is finally coming to the surface) should've received more attention (and probably a different outcome). But, as one can and does usually say about many things in regards to Friends, that was another time.
The 90's. Somehow this general crawl towards an all-encompassing embrace of acceptance of all humans was executed with this sweeping of things under rugs, hiding things on the back shelf, letting things simmer on the back burner, and completely covering your eyes to all things that make us unique and different all while shouting merrily that you don't see people's skin color, backgrounds, bank accounts, sexuality, or jobs...you are all-accepting and therefore won't talk about the things that racists and bigots bring out on full-display. Not surprisingly that gave the actual bigots and racists corners and shadows in which to hide—and now, with the benefit of having arrived in a murkier future, we can see where all these people where hiding and how. But I digress.
To watch this show now, many of us have to look at it with a similar lens as you would for something equally iconic like Gone with the Wind or I Love Lucy, both for different but similar reasons. Writer, producer, and comedian Akilah Hughes, a fan of the show, is quoted in this book aptly stating, "This may be harsh, but it's the way that I watch Gone with the Wind. I can enjoy these things even though I know that they could have done a lot better by people of color, and women. There's so many problematic things about it. But also, that's just what it was back then. We can't just delete the media that came before, because it does inform why we like shows now."
Miller is clearly a fan, a wholehearted one like so many, but she's also not afraid to dissect the show and analyze it a little bit. So to love Friends becomes this other thing...it's nostalgic without (hopefully) overlooking all the gay jokes, slut-shaming, and misogyny—just to name a few things. As a point that Miller drives home well, Friends was escapism at its peak for situational comedies. Like I Love Lucy before it, there's a general sense of being similar to the "regular person" but not completely. There's a lot you have to overlook when your eye starts to edge toward being overly critical of the fundamentals of the show: economics, lack of diversity, and the light and breezy (I'm ... breezy!) problems and solutions encountered. This show was the bubblegum pop song of the television lineup. And it was so damn fun.
So suffice it to say, I laughed—often out loud—and read some passages aloud to my husband (whether he asked or not). But I cried off and on while reading this one, too. I'm one of those people who naturally taps (sometimes unwittingly) into the emotional aspect. Any all-for-one can get me, any new angle on how 9/11 affected someone or something, as well as a general sense of contentment or happiness that is somehow earned or deserved brings up a tear or two. All that is here, and much, much more! (Clearly, 80's and 90's is on my brain.)
Altogether this was a fantastically executed book, detailing the entire path, from beginning to the end and beyond. There's trivia, there's tiny bits of social commentary, and there's a plethora of excellent footnotes. In short, there's everything I could have asked for.
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.
Let me give a little heads up that this isn't going to be a review so much as just a bunch of ramblings from a die hard Friends fangirl about her favourite show.
Because fun fact about me: there are few things I love more in life than Friends. To try and explain what that show meant to me back when I was a teenager would be impossible, not to mention the fact that when I entered my twenties (the year after the final Friends episode had aired), the show suddenly resonated even more with me because of how relatable it sometimes was. Not the easy, seemingly very cheap living in NYC or the fact that none of them ever seemed to work much, but you know, other stuff. The circle of friends becoming the family you choose, as all of you try to figure out what to do in life and before any of you start making families of your own. The struggle of real life that is made just a little bit more bearable because you can share it with your closest friends, knowing you're never going through it alone.
I was never a casual Friends fan like most people are, I was always an obsessed fan who could quote entire episodes. The first fan boards/forums I joined online wasn't for Friends - it was for ER and Charmed - but the Friends boards were the first where I actually became really active and participated in everything that was going on over there at the time. I made SO many online friends through those boards, some of whom I still talk to occasionally to this day and whom I've met in real life. Its value and what the show has always meant to me can't really be put into words properly. I'm not skilled enough to do that.
I mean, I cried while reading this book, for Christ's sake. Several times. Just because when the author was describing certain scenes or plotlines or even the bond between the actors, and even though I've seen those scenes about 87 times, I was reliving them and my reaction to them. Also, I'm the world's most sensitive person and everything makes me cry. So there's that.
My friend Chrissy, who grew up as a dual citizen in both America and Switzerland […] said, Friends was equally huge in both countries, despite the cultural differences. “For Europeans who had never been to the US, Friends was America,” Chrissy told me. I thought she was referring to things like sweatpants and not being able to afford health care, and other parts of American life that they don’t really have in Europe. Again, I was corrected. “It was the friendliness,” she told me. “Americans smile the moment you meet them. They talk to you like you already know each other.” To the Swiss, she said, American tourists came across like suspiciously nice aliens.
This is SO TRUE. hahahaha. Part of my love for the US finds its origin in Friends, I'm sure. To my 12-year-old self, Friends really wasthe United States and I couldn't wait to go to New York and see it all for myself. Ever since that age I'd also been saying I would go visit NYC as soon as I'd graduated high school. I even made a pact with my best friend who was - and still is - equally obsessed with the show to go visit the summer after we graduated. It ended up taking me a lot longer to get there, but still, my Friends fangirl heart was pretty happy when I was walking those streets.
I started watching the show at the start of season 3, but by then they were already at the beginning of season 4 in the US, since episodes in Belgium were always broadcast much later at that time, of course. But I didn't become fully obsessed until the beginning of season 5 which is when I actively started taping every episode + the reruns of older seasons so I could rewatch them forever. Bless my 14-year-old heart. And VCRs.
So taking that entire boring backstory about myself into account, I really liked this! I liked the autho's writing and storytelling style, with the exception that she sometimes came across sounding a bit too self-entitled. Other times, though, she succeeded in making me laugh out loud so I didn't mind too much.
She touches on a lot of issues people had with the show, both at the time it aired and now, when it does become apparent how dated the show is in many ways, and how so many jokes that were included then would never get a pass now. Plus, she mentions season 9 in detail and how the Joey and Rachel romance thing shoud never have happened. Which ... yeah, I could obviously not agree more because that is the only season I never rewatch. My hatred for season 9 is real, people. And I say this as someone who wasn't even a hardcore Ross and Rachel shipper.
I also learned a few things, stuff I'd never heard of before. I didn't know, for instance, about TOW The Blackout being a crossover stunt and apparently the various cast members had different cameos on other shows too, but most of those shows were never popular enough to be broadcast in Belgium so I had no idea.
I liked that the book still had new information for me and I loved simply reading about the history of the show and how it all came about.
I'm also one of the few fans who secretly hopes they'll stick to their guns and never do a reunion. Whether it be as a special reunion episode or a movie, I just don't want either of it. I would love to see all six of them on the screen together again in an interview or on a talkshow, sure. But not in character. They ended on a high note and their stories were finished.
I like leaving everything else to my own imagination. And fanfiction.
I enjoyed this! I appreciated that the author didn't let the show slide on things (lack of diversity, homophobia), but also viewed the show as a product of its times and didn't hold it up to today's standards. And it also made me reflect on how much we HAVE gotten better, like it mentions "don't ask don't tell" and, wow, that was so liberal at the time!
And of course I knew the cast stuck together, all for one and one for all, but that was amazing to read about. I mean, it really was an amazing thing.
This book was so much fun to read (as an audiobook)!! I loved learning about the show, Friends. The way the cast was chosen, how the show came to be in the first place, and everything that happened during and after the show. I started this after watching Friends for the millionth time.. so now I might start it again ;)
I’ll Be There For You is a reminiscent walk down memory lane, summarising the 10 entertaining years of Friends, from the very beginning (with castings, pilot episodes and anticipation of how it would be received by audiences) to the massive success it became. It’s a really informative book because it charts not only Friend’s successes but also its various problems, and the way it was lacking in some key areas.
I used to absolutely love watching Friends but have to admit I haven’t sat down to watch it for ages, and I wouldn’t necessarily pick to watch it on TV anymore as there’s just so many other series I want to watch more. However, saying all that, when I have happened to catch an episode or two, it has really taken me back to my teenage years in a way that makes me feel really happy, so listening to this audiobook was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.
The programme is, as we all know, very much a product of its time but that doesn’t excuse some of its key shortcomings – these are, however, portrayed in a balanced way. I found it really entertaining (and a bit of a blast from the past) to remind myself of older episodes, as Kelsey Miller discusses the storylines and themes throughout the 10 seasons. There is some very interesting information on a court case I wasn’t aware of, as well as commentary from other people - both fans and critics.
The audiobook, which I listened to, was an absorbing, interesting read for my commute and I often find myself drifting off, or losing concentration, when listening to audiobooks but this wasn't the case here at all.
I would definitely recommend this book for fans of Friends; it's not just recounting various episodes but the cultural and societal issues and highlights it arguably had during its ten years on television.
I'm a big Friends fan from way back. I was a fan from day one. I've rewatched the series numerous times. I am aware that it has a lot of issues (lack of diversity to name one) but I still love it. And so when I saw that there was a book about the series ... I had to pick it up. And I'm glad that I did ... it is a really good overview of how the show was made and explored why it was so beloved by so many people. If you're looking for a lot of show gossip, that isn't what this book is. However, if you're a fan of the show or want to better understand what all the fuss is about, this may be a good choice for you! I recommend this one!
Friends is by far my favorite tv show. I watch reruns when I’m getting ready for work, cleaning, cooking, literally all day long. I LOVE IT. This book has a lot of behind the scenes insights to the show and for that I really enjoyed it. However, I do feel that it had way more information about other series in the 90s that I did not care to read so much about. I found myself skipping the paragraphs that just KEPT ON talking about it. The only complaint that I have is that it’s more about other shows at some points in the book than it is about Friends itself.
Imprescindible para quienes hemos sido / somos muy fans de «Friends». El libro es un análisis detallado de lo que fue la serie, sus altos y sus bajos, además de muchas curiosidades relacionadas con la producción y el rodaje. Me lo he leído del tirón, así que... no podían ser menos de cinco estrellas.
Friends es una de las pocas series que ha conseguido hacerme reír de verdad, reír a carcajadas. Y es la única que lo sigue consiguendo aún después de haberla visto hasta la saciedad. Incluso si recuerdo alguna de sus escenas memorables, el efecto es casi el mismo. Si en más de una ocasión, en mitad de una charla con tus amigos has soltado u oído la muletilla: “es como en ese capítulo de Friends en que…”, sabrás de qué hablo.
La gran mayoría de las anécdotas que aquí se explican no eran del todo desconocidas para mí, pero lo peor ha sido toparme con otros muchos datos poco o nada interesantes. Hay demasiadas referencias a los productores, directores y a los medios de comunicación que no aportan nada, referencias a otras series que conozco vagamente pero que no he visto nunca, o de otras muchas de las que no he oído hablar en la vida. El principio es lento y hay momentos muy aburridos. Un “rellena-páginas” en toda regla.
Es inevitable sentir cierta nostalgia durante su lectura, porque se nota el cariño con el que la autora habla de la serie y de todo el elenco, pero me quedo con una sensación agridulce. No ha sido todo lo que esperaba.