I concede the writing and casting of "Friends" was certainly on the higher end of the television sitcom spectrum. Most of the cast became stars in their own right. However, my issue with the show is that it's about six young people having a thoroughly fantastic time. The question is more about the sensibility of the American television viewing public, particularly among Generation X'ers, than the creators of "Friends". Some of the hardcore fans may dispute my assertions because as we know when loyal fans espouse an entertainment institution, it's taken as an affront. (I once criticized "The Brady Bunch" in another review for somewhat similar reasons and hardcore fans lambasted me for my troubles.)
I watched a few episodes of "Friends" early in its first season before I began a Masters degree program and didn't have time to watch television. Then I watched a few episodes towards its end. I felt the same about the first episodes as I did the last. Why am I watching other people in my age group having an extraordinarily good time, in fact a better time than me just watching this show? Sure, okay the characters have up's and down's, but ultimately that's also part of the human condition. I think it's a mark of Generation X culture that fans would be so enamored with a group of television "Friends" that they would deny themselves actually doing the things portrayed on the show. I had friends who wouldn't go anywhere on Thursday nights because they might miss an episode of "Friends". Television viewers would rather watch other people having fun than having fun themselves.
When I watch a film or television show, I want to see something which is removed from myself. I was more of a "Magnum P.I." type of viewer than a "Friends" viewer. I have heard people, even in the television and entertainment industries say things like, "I want to see myself up there" meaning they want to see representations of themselves and their lives. Why in the world would you want to see what you're already experiencing unless your own life is so banal that you need to see others living the life you desperately desire?
So my assessment of the series is more about Gen X'ers who aren't having the time of their lives but instead watch a series which shows how idyllic life can be. The late Leo Buscaglia used to mention this phenomenon of watching other people having a good time. My fellow Gen X'ers: turn off "Friends" and have a good time yourselves! You deserve it! And keep in mind that Rachel, Monica, Pheobe, Chandler, Joey and Ross are all fictional characters. In fact the cast members of Jennifer Aniston , Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt Le Blanc, and David Schwimmer were not the friends you saw on screen. Yes I believe they respected each other as professional actors but didn't "hang out" after hours. Very few of the cast members actually attended the weddings of the other cast members. You may be wondering what happened to their characters, and the answer is nothing. They never existed except as flickering images on a screen.