The Cast of Friends: a Cultural Touchstone
Now, like weary travelers yearning for a warm bed and a home-cooked meal, Americans are turning to the show for a reassuring glimpse of that other New York, where Sept. 11 could be just another day whiled away at Central Perk. This fall, the NBC sitcom regained its No. 1 position in the ratings, trouncing once powerful competitors like Survivor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. "In the wake of what happened, there's been a rush to comfortable, familiar programs," NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker told CNBC. "We literally and figuratively wanted to hang out with our friends."
In its eighth season, when most long-running series operate on automatic pilot, the show has its second wind. "It's really come alive again," says TV Guide critic Matt Roush. "A year ago, Friends was in a valley, but it's having a pretty exceptional moment right now." It all boils down to the rare chemistry among cast members Jennifer Aniston, 32, Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette, 37, Lisa Kudrow, 38, Matt LeBlanc, 34, Matthew Perry, 32, and David Schwimmer, 35. "Even if they're getting a bit old to still be as silly as they are," says Roush, "at the same time it's very endearing."
In their personal lives, they have grown up. Both Cox Arquette, who married David Arquette in 1999, and Aniston, who wed Brad Pitt last year, are said to be eager to start families; Kudrow has a 3-year-old son with husband Michel Stern. Last year the actors, who each currently earn $750,000 per episode, hinted that this would be their final season—but we can't count them out yet. "From what I sense," says an insider, "the cast is open to returning."
Good thing, because fans aren't ready to lose this beautiful friendship. "I don't want it to end," says Will & Grace's Megan Mullally. "We love our TV Friends."