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9 August 2017

The One Where Phoebe Googled: why modern technology would make Friends obsolete

In the latest in our 90s sitcoms series, how free porn is not exciting enough to be a plotline any more. 

By Natalia Bus

Despite the series finale airing 13 years ago, Friends is still one of the most successful sitcoms on TV today. In 2016, between its various syndicated airings, the show drew a weekly audience of 16 million in the US, while in the UK Comedy Central repeats ratings are growing every year. Persistent calls from fans for a reunion are therefore unsurprising. But much as we may want it to, a Friends reunion would just not work in 2017.

The foremost reason for this is technology. In an interview last year, Jennifer Aniston told the Huffington Post that “if Friends was created today, you would have a coffee shop full of people that were just staring into iPhones” and “there would be no actual episodes or conversations.” 

Here’s how Friends would have been ruined by today’s technology. 

The One with the Instant Messaging

In “The One with the Monkey”, Phoebe meets David the scientist, her first real love interest on the show, but David’s life wish to “achieve the positronic distillation of subatomic particles” whisks him away to Minsk and the episode ends in an emotional goodbye.

In today’s version, Phoebe and David decide to embark on a long distance relationship via Skype. Still, the writers decide to pull on the heartstrings and the break-up soon occurs, but both Phoebe and David regularly browse each other’s Facebook profiles, until one day, in the spirit of #YOLO, Phoebe messages David. They decide to rekindle their long-distance relationship . . . and you know the rest.

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The One Where Monica gets the Right Haircut

After finding out that Phoebe cuts the boys’ hair in “The One with Ross’s New Girlfriend”, Monica asks for a Demi Moore haircut. Phoebe confuses Demi with Dudley Moore and Monica ends up with a short, boyish cut that, naturally, the gang make fun of.

In today’s version, Monica gets exactly the haircut she wants after showing Phoebe a picture of Demi Moore on her phone. 

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The One Where Ross Finds Out Quicker

In an iconic Ross and Rachel episode, “The One Where Ross Finds Out”, Rachel finally confesses her feelings for Ross by leaving a drunken message on his answering machine. The big reveal is appropriately drawn out until the end of the episode. 

Thanks to mobile phones, today’s episode lasts a mere five minutes (including the opening credits) as Ross confronts Rachel immediately after receiving a drunken voicemail and a string of nonsensical texts that end xxxxxxxxxxxx. 

The One with the Internet

In “The One with the Free Porn” Joey and Chandler find a free porn channel on TV and decide to keep it on at all times, terrified of never finding it again.

Today, there is the internet. 

The One Where Phoebe Googled

In “The One Where Old Yeller Dies”, after walking in on the gang watching Old Yeller, Phoebe discovers that her mother prevented her from watching sad movie endings in an attempt “to shield her from the pain”. Phoebe then proceeds to rent out on DVD all the movies they watched together to see how they really finish.

Today’s Phoebe would have figured out her mother’s well-meaning lies long before they could be made into an episode, having Googled the titles as a curious child.

The One with All the Tinder

In “The One with the Paediatrician”, Joey and Phoebe agree to set each other up with friends. Joey forgets and lies about choosing a friend called Mike. He then finds a random guy called Mike in Central Perk who agrees to lie about knowing Joey.

In today’s version, Phoebe, having extensively browsed Joey’s Facebook friends in search of Mike, grows suspicious and cancels the date. Then both Phoebe and Joey go back to using Tinder, which is much easier all round. 

This is part of the New Statesman’s look back at classic sitcoms from the 90s. You can find our takes on Alan Partridge here, Ab Fab here, Only Fools and Horses here, Sex and the City here and Brass Eye here.