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Sun-Herald

Friends for life

Author: Rachel Browne
Date: 03/08/1996
Words: 500
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Television
Page: 9
YOU don't know it yet, but you are about to make some new friends. Friends is the hippest, hottest and most-hyped show in America and it arrives here this week.

It's a sitcom about six mildly neurotic single twentysomethings in search of a life, love and gainful employment. With punch lines.

And for the past 18 months it has dominated the screens, magazines and even the radio dials of Americans. It cracked the top 10 in the ratings in its first season in the US. The figures were soon matched by a swag of Emmy nominations and People's Choice awards. The theme song, The Rembrandts' I'll Be There For You, became a number one hit.

Movie stars such as Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme lined up for a guest spot. Friends T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and assorted paraphernalia sold out at shopping centres. There was nowhere to hide from the phenomenon, not even the Internet. A Friends website is filled with idle debate about which of the six friends is the cutest/cleverest/best dressed.

The six cast members - Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer - were all semi-unknowns before Friends put them before an audience of 30 million in the US alone. Now they are huge stars. LeBlanc, a former Levis model, says: "I had $11 when I auditioned for Friends and now I own a home."

It's not surprising, then, that Channel 7 and Channel 9 here have been feuding over the show. Channel 7 initially picked up the rights to the series, but Channel 9 - in the same deal in which it grabbed Lois & Clark from Seven - picked up the rights to Friends from series two on. This has posed a major headache for Channel 7, which knows that by screening the first series it's creating a hit for its rival.

After sitting on the series for a year the programmers at Seven have decided to burn it off, unleashing Friends twice a week so Seven gets the maximum amount from the show while giving it the shortest possible run, leaving little time for the show to develop a cult following.

So what's it all about? Well, Friends has been described as Seinfeld-esque with good reason. Like Seinfeld, there are no plots and little action, just witty banter with a New York backdrop. But, unlike Seinfeld, Friends has sex appeal in the form of three gorgeous girls and three cute guys in the same apartment block.

There's Ross (David Schwimmer), whose pregnant wife left him for her lesbian lover, and his sister Monica (Courteney Cox), a saucy chef with the wrong recipe for success - she can't hold down a job. Monica's flatmate is Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), a spoiled rich girl who dumps her fiance at the altar because "he suddenly looked like Mr Potato Head".

Ditzy blonde folk singer Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow, the daffy waitress in Mad About You) is Monica's college chum and a constant source of New Age philosophy. Chandler (Matthew Perry), a cynical data processor who hates his job, and Joey (Matt LeBlanc), a dumb, hunky actor who dreams of a walk-on part in Melrose Place, share the apartment opposite Monica's.

Their concerns are the neuroses of single city-dwellers: dating disasters, dumping dilemmas, career crises and, worst of all, parental visits.

The action, or lack thereof, takes place mainly in Monica's apartment on her couch, which has become something of a think tank for the characters.

As co-executive producer Kevin Bright says: "What makes the show so successful is that you see a little piece of your own life up there."

* Friends airs on Channel 7 tomorrow and Thursday at 7.30pm.

 
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