Friends couldn’t work in 2018

...But we imagined it anyway.

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As Netflix UK announced yesterday that all ten seasons of Friends are now available on the streaming service, questions of how the series looks in the cold, harsh light of 2018 abound.

Friends is a quintessentially Nineties sitcom, and it has dated fast. On the hour-long SRSLY podcast devoted to Friends’ legacy, New Statesman writers pick apart Chandler’s homophobia and transphobia, everything that sucked about Ross, those expensive apartments, whitewashing, the problems with the presentation of Janice, and the strange punchline that is “Fat Monica”. None of these things make much sense in the current cultural landscape.

Writing in The Pool, Caroline O’Donoghue notes, “You can look at the velvet mini dresses and say, fondly, ‘Ah, it’s a product of its time!’ – but, dually, you could look at its relationship with race, size, and queerness and mumble, ‘Oh, God, it really is a product of its time.’”

So if Friends no longer works in 2018, what would an updated version of the show look like? What are the Friends of 2018 even doing? We imagined it, so you don’t have to.

Monica

After an old recipe for “Mockolate cranberry cake” went viral in 2014, Monica has fully transitioned into a wellness personality with her cult blog, Fit For A Bing. Before and after pictures adorn her cookbooks and no-sugar-no-carb-carcinogen-free products, which she insists, form a “sustainable, organic, energy-filled lifestyle” and not a “restrictive diet”. Her main products are Mockolate meal-substitute shakes in Mockolatte (coffee) and Matcholate (green tea) varieties. Leaving behind Fishtachios (“pistachios made primarily of reconstituted fish bits”), Monica pioneered Pish: a vegan fish substitute made from pistachio milk and almond tofu.

Her Sag Harbour summer home and her twins, Jack and Erica, feature heavily in her Instagram, often dressed all in white. “Chan” stays mostly off-camera. At night, she eats elaborate cream-filled deserts, and cries.

Chandler

Thanks to his wife’s success, Chandler was able to finally abandon the advertising job he grew to despise. “Oh, man, could my life BE any better?” he says, laughing a little too loudly, to anyone who asks. “Just look at my new home cinema!” He spends most of his time coming up with ideas and straplines for new apps he doesn’t realise already exist: “It’s like Uber, but for breakfast and clean socks! The fresh laundry arrives with your eggs! I call it Butlr! Don’t just ask Jeeves – tell him.”

“Did you go outside today, sweetie?” Monica says hopefully when she arrives home after her evening PureBarre class. “Oh. You’re wearing a shirt, so I thought maybe you’d been outside.”

Joey

Frustrated with an acting career going nowhere, and a lifestyle mostly funded by royalties from old Days of Our Lives reruns, Joey began filming his empty days and putting them on YouTube. His channel, BabyKangarooTribbiani, mostly consists of videos of Joey unboxing games and falling asleep. To everyone’s surprise, it was a huge hit, and has over 90,000 subscribers to date. Joey is unaware that his audience is 83 per cent children aged between 6 and 12. In 2017, Joey was accused of historic sexual misdemeanours by three women. Despite a popular online petition, his channel remains a success.

Sometimes he goes to Chandler’s house to play with a new gadget. Monica calls their meet-ups “playdates”.

Rachel

Rachel spent the years after 2004 wishing she had taken the job in Paris. As Ross grew increasingly controlling and aggressive, Rachel discovered mainstream feminism – the couple divorced in 2009.

Rachel sought another job offer from Louis Vuitton in Paris to no avail, but eventually got a job at British Vogue under Alexandra Shulman, predicting Nineties revival trends. She lost her job when Edward Enninful took over the magazine in 2017. She’s currently seeking investment for her online retail business LikeIts1999.com, a website where women can buy and sell original Nineties clothing.

Ross

Ross swallowed the Red Pill after his fourth divorce to his third wife and never looked back. He lost custody of Emma when a court was presented with evidence of his continued anger management issues. Online, Ross spends his days posting under an alt account about his strong frame, bitch shields and pathetic cucks. Offline, he spreads rumours about women in academia sleeping with university presidents for tenure and still tries to seduce his students. He is disgusted by safe spaces and millennial snowflakes, but frequently lectures his students on the offensiveness of the term “dinosaurs” as a descriptor for inflexible old men in positions of power, because, “Richard A. Posner first hypothesised that extinction isn’t necessarily linked to a lack of adaptability. According to many definitions the dinosaurs were at least as adaptable as mammals in their contemporary environment! And anyway, aren’t you the real sexist here? Isn’t this ageist hate speech? Bla blah blah bla blah blah bla.”

He burned that salmon shirt.

Phoebe

Increasingly horrified by the injustices of modern America, Phoebe has thrown herself into charitable volunteer work. Her work with homeless young people, mental health charities and The New York City Children’s Fund has forced her to confront the reality of her own traumatic teenage years. Now 50, vegan, and more confident than ever, she’s finally in therapy, and processing the events of her youth. She has an Instagram where she crochets protest banners and self-care slogans. She has 7,341 followers. Her hair is grey, but very long and very beautiful. Her occasional chats with Rachel have never been the same since their tense debate about the definition of “white feminism”. Neither she nor her barrister husband Mike have spoken to Mike’s rich parents since they admitted they voted for Trump.

She doesn’t see much of the other Friends any more. She has new friends who don’t mock her for her diet and belief in reincarnation.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.