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— On September 22, 1994, NBC aired the pilot episode of a sitcom about six twentysomethings living in New York City — which makes this Sunday the 25th anniversary of Friends. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, Friends aired on NBC from 1994-2004.
While the series had the early benefit of following Seinfeld, the anchor of NBC’s legendary “Must-See TV” line-up, it soon attracted a rabid fanbase of its own. It inspired a hairstyle — Aniston’s “The Rachel” — and spun off a hit single: The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You.” It also made its stars the highest-paid cast on TV at the time, each earning a million bucks an episode.
The series was nominated for 62 Emmy Awards; in 2002, it was named Outstanding Comedy Series. Aniston and Kudrow snagged an Emmy each during the show’s run. The series finale on May 6, 2004 was watched by 52.5 million viewers: The fifth most-watched series finale in television history.
These days, a whole new generation loves Friends, thanks to its streaming run on Netflix. Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s nasal-voiced girlfriend Janice, tells ABC Radio she loves that younger viewers are tuning in.
“There’s this young generation that lives with phones in their hands, that communicates with their friends by text…and here they have…this show…and there are no phones and nobody is looking down and everybody’s talking to each other,” she notes.”And I just think how exciting that they get to see what that looked like.”
James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk barista Gunther, adds, “I think it’s a testament just to the great writing and the great acting…It’s kind of timeless. The wardrobes’ dated, the hairstyles are dated, but the storylines aren’t.”
In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, Cox, Kudrow, Schwimmer and Le Blanc each posted messages on their respective Instagram accounts, along with the same cast photo and the opening: “Celebrating a Thursday night 25 years ago,” before adding their own personal message.
“Thank you to all of our loyal fans across the world. You’ve certainly been there for us! I love these guys!” wrote Cox.
Kudrow noted that she and her cast members “might be in different places but we are connected.”
Schwimmer shared, “Celebrating a Thursday night 25 years ago… THANK YOU to all the fans out there!! We couldn’t have done it without you.”
And finally, Le Blanc added, “Seems like yesterday. Thanks to all the fans for watching.”
Aniston and Perry aren’t on Instagram and so didn’t participate in the tribute.
Here’s each cast member’s favorite episode, courtesy of People:
Matt LeBlanc (Joey) — “The One with the Embryos”
Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe) — “The One Hundredth”
Matthew Perry (Chandler) — “The One with the Blackout”
Jennifer Aniston (Rachel) — “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby (Parts I and II)”
David Schwimmer (Ross) — “The One with the Prom Video”
Courteney Cox (Monica) — “The One with the Embryos”
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