The enduring popularity of ‘Friends’ proves the strength of nostalgia

Opinion – Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Why do people keep watching old shows?

After the recent public panic to keep “Friends” on Netflix, and a hefty $100 million price tag to keep the show on the air for another year, I must ask: Is keeping “Friends” on Netflix worth $100 million? Why do people keep watching old shows?

I watched the entire “Friends” series once and I was done with it. I’m typically a one-and-done kind of person, like I think most Americans are, but some of my friends say that they’ve watched the show three, four, even five times through. I just don’t understand how people can waste their time re-watching shows over and over again, caught in a never-ending time warp.

Nostalgia is something that I always associated with my childhood and my senior year of high school, looking back on the “good old days.” In Kesha and Macklemore’s song “Good Old Days,” Kesha sings about the past and how she would’ve liked it if someone had told her that the best part of her life would be at the peak of her career and her youth. This feeling is nostalgia for when times were simpler and we as children didn’t understand the stressful and painful problems of the world. We try to look through rose-colored glasses to relive our past, which gives a temporary reprieve from our stressful and depressing lives. As Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.”

People like to live in the past; they are afraid of getting out of their comfort zone. So when watching “Friends,” people feel at home because it’s what they know. They know that (spoiler alert) Ross and Rachel end up together, Monica and Chandler adopt twins and everyone lives happily ever after. The prospect of a new show might be scary, with twists and turns and potential cliffhangers. But isn’t that what good television is really about? With “Friends,” you know the ins and outs and there is nothing new for you to sensationalize. It’s like watching a movie when you know the ending. The feeling of suspense and enjoyment is gone. To me, the show becomes quite boring when you already know what’s going to happen.

There’s also this feeling of being on autopilot when watching a show like “Friends.” You don’t really need to think about it. Since you know the plot, you can sit back and relax and let the show do the work. You don’t need to be challenged because you know the episode like the back of your hand.

Bruce Springsteen sang about “Glory Days.” Every adult wants to relive their glory days when they were at the height of their youth, popularity, good looks and success. Even more so, adults and youth today desire the kind of life the “Friends” characters lived. They live vicariously through Monica, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel or Ross. They want the dream job of Rachel and a love like Monica and Chandler and the appetite of Joey. These characters have perfect lives that people envy.

In general, there are so many shows out there that are new and keep the viewer on edge and invested until the very end. Depending on the taste of the viewer, there is a show for everyone. Black Mirror, a personal favorite, is a wild card show. There is no overarching plot of the season; each episode can stand alone for itself with no other explanation. The viewer does not have to start at any particular episode. The viewer doesn’t know what each episode holds in store; it’s like a Pandora’s Box awaiting within.

As much as I loved my first binge of “Friends,” I moved on to bigger and better shows. I understand that people will cling on to “Friends” and will watch it repeatedly; there’s no changing that fact. But understand that by watching “Friends,” you are intentionally or not keeping yourself, and your viewing repertoire, in the past. You need to keep moving forward in watching shows and in life. You need to live in the now, not the then. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Nicole Biagioni is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]



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