The many loves of Ross Geller

Are you missing Friends yet? The series left Netflix, its exclusive streaming home, at the end of last month. It will still be a few months before it premieres on HBO Max, its new home. So to keep you going until then, here’s a supercut of every single one of Ross’s girlfriends:

Strangely although it seems like Ross has a new relationship every week it turns out there have really only been 16 ladies that Ross has brought to the apartment, and that’s if you count Rachel multiple times.

But that relative degree of stability doesn’t stop me from contending that Ross is the worst, because even if he didn’t show embarrassingly bad judgment in other ways, he tried to put the moves on his cousin. Come on dude, even if your cousin is Denise Richards you still don’t put the moves on them.

Friends: Is it the perfect show or the worst show ever?

Well of course it’s not either of those things. But if you listen to millennials, they’ll tell you stories so divergent that you’ll think you’re talking about two different shows.

It’s the best

For many millennials, Friends is like a lullaby. It’s soothing on a basic level. To us in the 2020s, the 1990s seemed like a perfect time when you could walk up to an airplane gate, when people looked at each other while talking, when the worst thing about the world was simply that one of your friends got broken up with.

Friends, by virtue of its age, is like watching a time capsule. If you’re young enough it’s like watching your mom and dad when they were kids. They seemed so quaint and so innocent.

If you buy into the idea that Friends is television comfort food, you don’t care that it’s wildly unrealistic. It’s a fairy tale where everything works out in the end. The show kept up the quality level (more or less) throughout its run and unlike the other titan of the age, Seinfeld, it’s not overly bitter or cruel. It goes down easy. And let’s be honest, we can all use more of that.

It’s the worst

Friends, by virtue of its times, comes off as pretty problematic today. While it was praised at the time for its treatment of gay people (featuring the first gay marriage in primetime), today the show comes off as awfully homophobic. Gay characters are punchlines, not people. Trans people fare worse, as Chandler blames his trans parent for pretty much everything that’s wrong with him. The show gives an almost exclusively white version of New York City where people just seem to get better jobs because they deserve them. They live in giant apartments they couldn’t possibly afford.

Friends aired around the time of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City. Yet the show doesn’t reference it at all. It goes on its merry way without any acknowledgement of the pain of real New Yorkers. Sure, there’s a blithe reference to cops or firefighters on one of the whiteboards, but that’s about it. And by the way, if you look at where the Friends apartment really is, you’ll realize that those characters would have gotten a birds-eye view on that day, and might have been washing ash out of their belongings for weeks.

Friends paints a picture that might be really comforting to people, but for a lot of underrepresented groups, it’s not an accurate one.

Love it or hate it, but know where to find it

I guess I’m prone to forgive Friends for being a network television show in the 1990s. It wasn’t particularly racist or homophobic compared to other shows of its day. It was mainstream network entertainment and just like all the shows and movies you’ll find made in the last 100 years it reflects the era in which it was made. That means it has some problems baked in. It’s up to you to decide if you can get past that.

If you can, if you’re the sort of person who wants those six people to be there for you, enjoy Friends on DIRECTV Satellite in the short term, and it will start streaming on HBO Max later this year.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.