The Quarantine Stream: 'Friends' Is My Go-To Sitcom Comfort Show

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Series: FriendsWhere You Can Stream It: HBO MaxThe Pitch: Six attractive twenty-somethings struggle through life and love in New York City.Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: Like many millennials growing up in the '90s, I learned about sex through Friends. I didn't quite understand all of their racy jokes or cheeky one-liners, but I thought it was so cool, so hip, so grown-upFriends was like a fantasy of another place, populated by adults who had it together, or at least I thought so at the time. I know that it's one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and it has been "exposed" time and time again as being an outdated product of its time, but Friends still occupies a place in my heart as being that (still pretty funny!) fantasy of twenty-something life — the "fantasy" of which became even more clear when I found myself a twenty-something living in New York, around the same age as the cast of Friends was when the show first starts.

I've watched the beloved NBC sitcom so many times that I could predict most of its comedic beats or recite a few of the line readings. It's how my college roommate and I would become friends, while studying late in the night with Friends re-runs on the TV. Later when my college roommate became my roommate in New York, we would throw Friends on in the background as a sort of pleasant white noise, a show we've both seen too many times and were probably a little tired of.

But I was still amazed how much Friends could surprise me (and I'm not talking about the dated gay panic jokes). Mostly because when we were watching the early seasons, it occurred to me that I was the same age as the cast of Friends, and that the show delved into their work and career struggles with far more authenticity than I would've thought. The bad bosses, the bad break-ups, the money troubles when eating out — it amazed me how Friends aged well, coming full circle not just with the fashion but with its concept of aimless young people in the city who create a found-family unit with each other. I'd argue that it's aged even better than a later similar sitcom like How I Met Your Mother and its gross sexual politics in the wake of #MeToo, but that's an essay for another day.

In times of upheaval, I turn to Friends and its cozy, reliable, far-too clean vision of New York City in simpler times (albeit one that's a little too white and with one too many homophobic jokes than I'd like). But the jokes still land and the chemistry between the cast is still phenomenal. I know, could I BE any more predictable?