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
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
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.