A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Plenty of squabbling, ribbing, and drama among the six main characters, but ultimately their relationships are solid, and they're always there for one another.
Positive Role Models
Characters all have their flaws and insecurities but clearly care for one another and are loyal. Plenty of iffy behavior over the series' long run (including casual hook-ups, drinking, pettiness, etc.), but it's all played for humor and makes the characters more relatable.
Gender-balanced, but no racial diversity, which feels like a huge oversight given the show's setting in New York City, where people of color made up 60% of the city population in 2000. A lesbian couple appears in early episodes, but their wedding is used for laughs. A reliance on homophobic humor and on fat-shaming Monica has become part of the sitcom's lasting legacy.
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Violence & Scariness
A humorous pratfall or slug here and there. Joey sometimes displays predatory behavior toward women.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Plenty of sexual innuendo and jokes. Discussion of adult relationships. Nothing explicit on-screen, though characters are sometimes shown in bed together. Kissing, embraces.
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Occasional expletives or name-calling on the level of "damn" and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters have acted irresponsibly while intoxicated. Social drinking. Infrequent smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Friends is a hugely popular, long-running sitcom with subject matter that's often mature. Episodes deal with divorce, single parenthood, infertility, and more. The topics are treated sensitively but with the irreverence expected from a sitcom. Premarital sex is depicted as the norm for dating relationships; there's also frequent drinking and some smoking. Families looking for inclusive content won't find it in Friends' almost all-White cast and frequent reliance on homophobic jokes. But the characters, while flawed, are always there for one another and are extremely loyal when the chips are down.
Is It Any Good?
While the characters take on more responsibility over the course of the series, in most ways the friends cling to their idiosyncrasies and compulsions rather than display more maturity. Jokes that lampoon personality traits are one of the series' weaknesses. For example, Joey's "libido" (which borders on predatory behavior, like when Rachel jokes that "taking care of a drunk naked woman sounds like a job for Joey!" and he lunges for the woman, only to be held back by Chandler). Or Chandler's wimpiness (he's sometimes made fun of for "seeming gay"). And then there's the unrealistic picture of New York City as being mostly White. Many of the show's juicier plot developments were obviously thrown in to boost ratings and sometimes seem borrowed from soap operas. Still, the writing can be intelligent, and the acting is skillful. Longtime 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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