Friendly Relationships on TV?


Author – Pallavi Pradip Ghose

Friendly relationships - F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Do you know who Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe are? If you are a person of the 1990s or before, you sure do! What comes to your mind when you picture the six friends of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. TV serial? You might imagine them sitting at Central Perk, cafe chatting about everything under the sun – boyfriends and girlfriends, failed marriages and day-to-day occurrences.

Now, picture four male friends playing video games, board games, reading comic books, while eating from take-out boxes. They talk not only talking about everything under the sun, but also over it. That’s “The Big Bang Theory” (TBBT)! Looks like there has been a drastic change in the Emmy award winning sitcoms over the last decade.

Our present day generation that no longer finds its ultimate comfort in finding a partner is concerned with personal achievements. This gets highlighted when we see an audience cheering to group of nerds. The characters in TBBT are academically qualified, high achieving men in comparison to Friends where Ross was the sole ‘academic’. Monica, the competitive one in the series wasn’t highly qualified either. Rachel’s character gets a career break only at the age of 28. Phoebe remains a masseuse, and Joey, a failing television star. Chandler’s profession was the most talked about, whereas he was the one earning the big bucks.

The central theme for Friends concentrates on love affairs and friendly banters, whereas TBBT circles around individual characters the glue being, science. Friends portrayed a social life that was comforting, cosy and caring, which we miss in TBBT, where almost every character is sarcastic with one another. The men in Friends were less socially awkward than the men in TBBT. At least they were not suffering from selective mutism!

Friendly relationships - The Big-Bang Theory | CBS
The Big-Bang Theory | CBS

We don’t see academic inferiority complex among the characters in Friends when Ross exultingly talks about his research papers. However, in TBBT, Penny falls prey to demeaning insults (Gorilla, slave to biological urges!) very often. Every good looking character displayed on TV has some sort of attitude and charm. Unlike the blonde cheerleader and prom queen Rachel who bullied her contemporaries in school, Penny in TBBT is gentle, nice, sweet and welcoming. There’s no reason for her to tolerate Sheldon’s snobbish sarcasm!

Parental interference is well portrayed in TBBT something I appreciate immensely; the outcome of tumultuous upbringing can have profound effect over people, something that is not very deeply projected in Friends.

Altogether, both the sitcoms, of different time frames, cater to different audience. While TBBT makes me laugh and think, I realise the urgent need for friendly relationships, how a comforting shoulder is better than a condemning advice. After all, we don’t make friends by judging their IQ, we see their heart!

While I say this, I deeply regret the great Indian mega serials have completely avoided talking about or dealing with friendship as a relation. There is a wide variety of ‘rishtey’ (relationships) portrayed on TV sitcoms today, but none catering to the theme of friendship. Anyway, I hope this Friendship Day, we as a nation will stop obsessing about Saas-Bahu relationships and move onto more friendly relationships!

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  1. Though I like both sitcoms, FRIENDS remains my favorite, perhaps the reason being the warmth between the characters, not being judgmental as you mentioned. Yes , parental interference weren't portrayed in it, but, their influence on the personalities of every character were portrayed well. Chandler's Father…Monica's Mom…Phoebe's Mom's suicide etc.

    And yeah Indian TV should churn out quality shows with friendship as theme. And I hope they don't try to recreate FRIENDS, like they tried years ago and failed miserably.

  2. Hi Namrota,
    Thanks a ton for your insightful comment. i completely agree that FRIENDS was surely warm and friendly. I think both serials cater to their generations – the 1990s had a little concern for each other, while the 2000s only care about themselfies! But what we badly need is an Indian TV serial on friendship.

  3. Like your article very well!I have often wondered why we do not have anything in Indian TV that caters to friendship.I recently read somewhere that there is not much that caters to ‘adulthood’ as such in Indian cinema as well because it is not an acknowledged state for the individual.

  4. Another sitcom which fits the description is ‘How I Met Your Mother’. I personally feel that it has elements from both – Friends and The Big Bang Theory. It lays equal focus on careers and personal relationships. It celebrates both – a character’s personal achievements and those in professional life. They mock each other and support each other.

  5. Hi Levine,
    I have a confession to make , I am sorry I got cold feet while submitting this article.I couldn’t process further.I wasn’t a commercial writer,I was basically an Engineering Diploma holder who could write a little, Aditi had helped me with the editing of this piece .My company had gotten bankrupt and I had no salary for 1 year , it was in desperation I gave this a shot.I am sorry if I let you down.

    I know it sounds silly after 8 years but I always had a lump in my throat about this event.

    Thank You.
    Pallavi Pradip Ghose


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