”Buddies” carries too much of a male connotation. So does ”Pals.” ”Chums” sounds fishy (in the singular, it’s American slang for ”bait”; in the plural, it’s too limey). But ”Friends”: Now, there’s a deceptively simple, useful word, applicable to both men and women, descriptive of a whole host of relationships, everything from casual acquaintances to lifelong, die-hard amigos.
In 1994, when creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, working off zeitgeist concepts like Gen-X and yuppies, conceived what is now NBC’s longest running, highest-rated sitcom, they weren’t envisioning a sitcom about friends among equals.
Originally, they once told Entertainment Weekly, they had wanted Courteney Cox (at the time the show’s best-known face by dint of dancing in the dark with Bruce Springsteen in a music video) to play Monica as this Manhattan group’s den mother: a smart, slightly cynical young woman who’d keep the others in line and (get this) maybe start a romance with the dumb guy, Joey (Matt LeBlanc), just because it seemed so unlikely.
My oh my, how times have changed. Now, as the show barrels into its eighth and (likely) final season, Monica has…married Matthew Perry’s Chandler and long ago established that far from being cynical, she’s the most earnest, if neurotically neat-freak, Friend — and, of course, unless we missed an episode, that romance with Joey has never materialized.
That’s one of the great things about ”Friends”: You never really know which interlocked combination of characters is going to wind up loving, hating, or goofing on each other. With all these personality twists and turns in mind, let’s board the Friend-ship and inspect the crew: