Home Art 4 reasons why we’ll never see another show like ‘Friends’

4 reasons why we’ll never see another show like ‘Friends’

On Sept. 22, 1994, six telegenic 20-somethings frolicked in a fountain in entrance of credit that introduced the arrival of “Friends,” a brand new NBC sitcom that may without end change tv.

As sitcom scribes scrambling to land on writing staffs in the course of the mid-1990s, we witnessed – with awe and a little bit of envy – how “Friends” immediately turned a red-hot comedy commodity. According to Nielsen Ratings, it was a top-five most watched program for 9 of its 10 seasons.

From the second Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe and Ross beamed into livings rooms, ‘Friends’ was a success.

The collection was a rankings juggernaut throughout its community run, however its afterlife in syndication and streaming has been simply as outstanding.

Now we’re TV and screenwriting professors in Emerson College’s Comedic Arts Program. And we couldn’t have ever predicted that our present crop of scholars can be simply as spellbound by Ross and Rachel’s romance, Monica’s lovable neuroses and Joey’s ardour for sandwiches. Netflix not too long ago paid a whopping US$80 million for the rights to run the present via 2019.

Networks would love to duplicate the collection’ success. But the realities of the tv panorama at present make it unlikely that we’ll ever see one other collection with as a lot of a cultural influence as “Friends.”

Here are 4 explanation why.

1. Shorter seasons imply much less display screen time

The tv season was as soon as as sure as loss of life and taxes.

Shows began in September and ran till May. Most had a mean order of 22 episodes per season, with every episode airing as soon as every week. This allowed viewers to make tuning into their favourite present part of their weekly routine over the course of 9 months. From 1994 to 2004, NBC produced 236 episodes of “Friends,” a mean of 24 episodes per season.

Today, tv seasons are a lot shorter. While the occasional sitcom nonetheless receives that coveted 22-episode order, others get significantly much less, and this contains these with a confirmed observe file.

For instance, though “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has received a Golden Globe for Best Comedy, NBC greenlit solely 13 episodes for its upcoming season.

There are a number of causes for this shift, from star actors being much less prepared to decide to so many episodes to adjustments in the way in which syndication works. But shorter seasons imply viewers have much less of a possibility to develop into deeply invested within the present and its characters.

2. Fragmented audiences

Back in 1994, there have been solely 4 main broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. A restricted variety of networks meant solely a restricted variety of packages would air – making it that rather more possible {that a} well-liked present would appeal to an enormous swath of Americans.

In 1994 and 1995, a mean of 75 million folks tuned into NBC on Thursday nights. NBC rolled out the slogan “Must See TV” to market its Thursday evening blockbuster comedy lineup, which, along with “Friends,” included heavyweight collection corresponding to “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld.” To miss out on a success present meant being out of the loop the subsequent day when everybody was speaking about what occurred.

But over the previous decade, cable and streaming have utterly upended this mannequin.

Over the primary six months of 2019, greater than 320 scripted reveals aired on tv networks, cable and streaming platforms.

The large viewing menu has fragmented audiences. No longer beholden to community schedules, viewers can watch what they need, the place they need and when they need.

“The Big Bang Theory” illustrates this shift.

Like “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory” was a massively well-liked sitcom on community TV a couple of group of buddies. It ran for 12 years, from 2007 to 2019. Approximately 18 million folks watched the collection finale, which additionally aired on a Thursday evening.

But the “Friends” collection finale blew it out of the water: On May 6, 2004, greater than 52 million folks tuned in to say goodbye.

In at present’s market, getting a present to that degree of “Must See TV” standing is an nearly unattainable feat for even probably the most seasoned producer.

4 reasons why we’ll never see another show like ‘Friends’
The collection finale of ‘Friends’ was a type of uncommon, shared cultural experiences. Reuters/Fred Prouser

3. Single-cam snobbery

Sitcoms are categorized as “single-cam” or “multi-cam,” which refers back to the fashion of filming. Multi-cam reveals corresponding to “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” are usually shot on a sound stage in entrance of a reside studio viewers. They’re usually enhanced by fun observe, and the ultimate product resembles a filmed play.

Single-cam reveals corresponding to “Girls” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are produced extra like movies. They’re not restricted to a small variety of units and places.

While reside studio audiences can infuse multi-cams with vitality and immediacy, single-cam reveals are inclined to have extra storytelling flexibility, and so they can possess a degree of visible intimacy that’s tough to achieve in multi-cams.

In 1995, when “Friends” acquired its first Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series, three of the 4 different nominees – “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You” and “Frasier,” which took the prize – had been multi-cam sitcoms on NBC.

In 2019, the checklist of Best Comedy Series contenders is greater, with seven nominees. But every is a single-cam present; there’s not a multi-cam or chuckle observe within the bunch.

4. The rise of the ‘dramedy’ and the anti-hero

In a method, “Friends” creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, together with their authentic producing associate, Kevin Bright, revolutionized the sitcom style.

The new present they had been pitching – initially titled “Insomnia Cafe” – was nonetheless a multi-cam, nevertheless it was a really completely different form of multi-cam.

The group envisioned a multi-cam that was denser, filled with extra storylines and scenes to accommodate a six-lead ensemble. While an episode of an older, extra conventional multi-cam like CBS’s “All in the Family” would possibly make do with six to 10 scenes, two storylines and fewer units, “Friends” would have a minimum of three storylines and as much as twice as many scenes.

“We don’t want it to feel like anything else on TV,” Crane and Kauffman wrote of their authentic pitch doc. “We want a fast, quick cutting style. The whole show should have a fast, over-caffeinated feel.”

“Friends” took the style in a brand new stylistic path, and subsequent multi-cams like “How I Met Your Mother” continued the pattern.

But sitcoms had been already present process an much more dramatic evolution. Whereas most conventional multi-cam sitcoms had been anticipated primarily to ship large laughs, an rising spate of single-cam reveals began infusing comedy with darker themes and edgier storylines.

Known as “dramedies,” they turned much more well-liked with the proliferation of streaming platforms. Viewers who’ve embraced the stark realism of reveals like HBO’s “Girls” and Amazon Studio’s “Transparent” usually discover conventional multi-cams hokey.

Then there’s been the rise of the sitcom anti-hero, a brand new form of lead character who could possibly be flawed and never all the time likable – assume Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or Julia Louis Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer in “Veep.”

Will trendy, extra jaded viewers who’ve crossed over to dramedies ever be prepared to embrace the shiny, rom-com fluff of a present like “Friends”?

The present TV ecosystem won’t be amenable to cultivating one other “Friends,” however that shouldn’t detract from its influence on the style.

It modified the sport, elevating the bar for all sitcoms to return.

[ You’re good and curious concerning the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can learn us day by day by subscribing to our e-newsletter. ]

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