A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this long-running sitcom's subject matter is often mature. Episodes have dealt with divorce, single parenthood, infertility, and more. The topics are treated sensitively but with the irreverence befitting a sitcom. Premarital sex is depicted as the norm for dating relationships; there's also frequent drinking and some smoking. The characters, while flawed, are always there for one another and are extremely loyal when the chips are down.
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What's the story?
Debuting in 1994, the long-running, Emmy-winning sitcom FRIENDS centers on six Manhattan-dwelling friends as they undergo their twenties and become thirtysomethings. The sextet consists of neat-freak chef Monica (Courteney Cox), her thrice-divorced brother Ross (David Schwimmer), sarcastic quipster Chandler (Matthew Perry), batty singer/massage therapist Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), aspiring actor Joey (Matt LeBlanc), and former suburban princess Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Storylines range from standard sitcom fare (hilarious misunderstandings, dating nightmares, etc.) to weightier plots involving lesbian ex-wives, friend hook-ups, unexpected pregnancies, and more. As the series progressed, episodes became more dramatic and less situational, wisely capitalizing on viewers' decade-long relationship with the characters.
Is it any good?
While the characters take on careers and a bit more responsibility over the course of the series, in most ways the friends remain slaves to their idiosyncrasies and compulsions rather than display more maturity. Too many jokes that lampoon personality traits such as Joey's libido or Chandler's wimpiness (he's sometimes made fun of for seeming gay) are one of the series' weaknesses. Many of the juicier plot developments were obviously thrown in to boost ratings and sometimes seem borrowed from soap operas. Still, the writing is often intelligent, and the acting is skillful. Long-time fans are often rewarded with jokes that reference past episodes and personality quirks; familiarity makes this show all the funnier.
There are trade-offs for families to consider. The comedy may be inappropriate for kids, and yet the storytelling can be more original and thought-provoking than in sitcoms geared specifically to younger viewers. Characters' contradictions and mistakes make them questionable role models but also account for why so many viewers relate to them. The friends frequently talk through their problems openly and honestly with one another, which could be viewed as a model for communication within families.
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For kids who love comedy
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