I’ll Be There for You is a comprehensive and engaging retrospective of Friends, the TV show that arguably still sets the bar for sitcoms today and has become a huge draw for streaming services such as Netflix. Indeed, Friends is the UK’s most popular subscription streaming show and shows little sign of being knocked from that position in the near future.
Miller opens her exploration of the Friends phenomenon by considering why the sitcom holds such a dear place in the hearts of its audience and I have to say that I found every single one of my own reasons for watching the show on repeat somewhere in this analysis of its appeal. I admit it: I even have Friends on in the background as I’m writing this review. With so much entertainment at our fingertips, why is it that we keep turning back to Friends? For me, it’s harmless entertainment. There’s no frequent swearing or content there for shock value; no gratuitous violence or post-watershed content. Friends was first airing when I was in school and through college – I’m one of those people who watched the finale with their friends. I can probably recite more of the entire Friends catalogue than I’d like to admit. It’s comfort TV. I don’t care that I know the words or that I know what’s going to happen. It’s familiar and escapist.
Over the course of eleven chapters, different facets of the Friends story are explored in detail, starting with its creation and the different lives and forms it took on before they found the formula that would make it such a hit. That it almost didn’t make it to screens at all – or could have made it on air in a fashion that would have found it failing – is hard to believe and would have undoubtedly changed the landscape of television to the extent that shows such as The Big Bang Theory and How I Met You Mother, two that surely owe their success and huge elements of their format to the popularity of Friends, might not have been created at all.
I’ll Be There For You is not about romanticising Friends and suggesting that there have never been any problems with it. What it is about is exploring its cultural impact and the response it elicited from audiences when it was airing in the ’90s and how both new viewers and those familiar with it respond today. For example, it includes a chapter on the significance of the wedding of Carol and Susan while also acknowledging that early seasons of Friends seem rife with homophobic humour. Miller’s analysis of the myriad of issues surrounding Friends, both positive and negative, is sensitively written and contains a wide range of research and supporting evidence, forming a considered and balanced exploration.
I love looking at the inner workings of TV shows and I’ll Be There For You is a fascinating and thorough look at everything from casting and scripts, to sets and media coverage. Miller strikes just the right tone between analysis and use of anecdotes and humour to make I’ll Be There For You a brilliant page turner for any Friends fan – and anyone interested in the world of television. Thank you, HQ Stories, for sending me a copy!
Publisher: HQ Stories