TIME Television

The One With the Bad Review

The Cast Of Friends 1999 2000 Season From L R: David Schwimmer Jennifer Aniston Courteney Cox Ar
The Cast Of "Friends" from the 1999-2000 Season. From L-R: David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow And Matt Leblanc. Getty Images

TIME's critic gave 'Friends' a big thumbs down in its first season. Here's why he's standing by that review

“Life on Seinfeld may be laid back, but its characters always seem to have someplace to go. In Friends the crowd is always around to share their latest personal woes or offer a shoulder to cry on. But who would want advice from these dysfunctional morons, with their obsessive pop-culture references?” — Richard Zoglin’s review of the first season of Friends, which premiered 20 years ago on Sept. 22, 1994

Little did I know when I poked fun at Friends back in 1995 that I was dumping on what would become a TV classic.

But I was a dissenter then, and I’m still a dissenter. The show never rose above its artificial, formulaic roots — characters assembled straight from the sitcom-writer’s handbook, jokes delivered with mechanical predictability at the network-mandated rate of three per page. It became a little easier to watch over the years, thanks to sheer familiarity and as the actors and writers dove more deeply into the characters. And I admit the show looks better in retrospect: compared with The Big Bang Theory (or Two Broke Girls), Friends almost qualifies as cinema-verite.

Read that 1995 review, free of charge, here in TIME’s archives: Friends and Layabouts

TIME Television

20 Years Later: Which Friends Cast Members Came Out on Top?

See where the cast members ended up after 20 years

Monday marks the 20-year anniversary of Friends — and just as we judge our old friends on Facebook to see how they’ve fared, we’ve done the same for the show’s cast. Here how the cast members ranked after the show ended:

TIME Television

Central Perk From Friends Is Now a Real Place, and Gunther Is There

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

For the 20th anniversary of Friends, the iconic coffee shop is launching as a pop-up in lower Manhattan

Starbucks. Blue Bottle. Dunkin Donuts. New York City is filled with places to get coffee. Yesterday, though, we went to Central Perk.

Yep — a pop-up shop immortalizing the dream of the ’90s has opened to mark the 20th anniversary of Friends. The once-fictional coffee shop that was the hangout of choice for the cast of Friends has become a reality — for a limited time, anyway. In a collaboration between Warner Bros and Eight O’Clock Coffee, Central Perk will open its doors to the public on Wednesday, September 17 and stay open until October 18, giving fans plenty of time to grow out their Rachels and find their most ’90s outfit.

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

Fans may be able to find some inspiration at Central Perk itself thanks to the display of the show’s costumes in all their ’90s glory, including Monica’s (Courteney Cox) V-neck peasant shirt and calf-length skirt train wreck, Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) belted grey schoolgirl skirt and black boot ensemble and Joey Tribbiani’s (Matt LeBlanc) henley-flannel shirt combo. (A box of Smelly Cat cat litter is not a recommended accessory.)

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

The pop-up shop is fittingly filled with Friends memorabilia, including signed scripts and cast photos capturing behind-the-scenes moments from the set and candid shots of Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe and Ross goofing off.

More exciting for the die-hard Friends fan is the display case filled with ephemera, like the VHS copy of Buffay the Vampire Layer.

Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Rachel were nowhere to be found, so we were able to snag the big orange couch — it was once Central Perk’s hottest real estate! — and talk to Gunther. While the surly waiter had no interest in taking our order (typical), actor James Michael Tyler — who played Gunther on the show — was happy to stretch out on the couch. “As a character, I was never able to sit on the couch,” he says. “Gunther only sat on it once!”

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

“In real life, I’m not grumpy,” says Tyler. “But Gunther pretty much epitomized the early ’90s barista.” Can Tyler see Gunther working in a coffee shop now? “It would be interesting to see Gunther with a full beard and a fedora working at a coffee shop right now,” says Tyler. “But he either franchised Central Perk or went back to soap opera acting.”

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

Tyler, who has moved on from acting to writing, says he was able to put Gunther to rest thanks to the show’s writers. “The final episode — where Gunther had closure and was able to tell Rachel that he was in love with her and had been for ten years — was great,” says Tyler. “No one ever picked up the clues that Gunther was obsessed with her! The writers had a lot of story lines to write in that last episode and to have the courtesy to include closure for Gunther instead of leaving him open-ended was great. 20 years later, if he was still obsessed with Rachel, that would be sad.”

To make your Gunther-Rachel fanfic come to life (and to get a cup of limited-edition Central Perk Roast), Central Perk at 199 Lafayette Street (at the corner of Broome Street) in New York City is open from Wednesday, September 18 through Saturday, October 18.

TIME relationships

Why It’s So Hard to Make New Friends

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Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery 29.

So, you’re an adult now (even if you don’t always feel like one). Maybe you eat popcorn and fro-yo for dinner on the regular, but you’ve also learned — we hope — how to keep both your plant and pet alive and kicking. If you’re lucky, you might have an actual love life, as well as a decent job, maybe even in a city you like.

But, despite all that good stuff, if you’re like lots of 20- and 30-somethings today, there might be one area of life that feels a bit lacking: your platonic friendships. At 37, I’ve noticed a trend: As more and more of my friends — both guys and girls — have gotten married and had kids, I, in turn, have started feeling more and more alone. I’ve often found myself wracking my brain to find people to hang out with on weekends. It’s been even tougher since I moved back to my hometown last winter, to be closer to my mom. I hadn’t lived here since I was 18, so it truly felt like starting from scratch.

Rachel, 36, a writer and also single, can commiserate. Naturally shy and still adjusting after a move of her own, Rachel doesn’t just have a hard time reaching out to form new friendships; she also feels “less likely to make an effort to connect with women who seem to be in different [life] places than me.” Understandably, she has started gravitating toward younger friends because she finds it somewhat difficult to relate to most locals (South Carolina folks) her age, who tend to be married with kids.As Rachel and I can both tell you, gone are the days when scoring a new BFF was as simple as walking up to that cool misfit in your math class and demanding to be his or her buddy. Oh, how times have changed. Until now, explains Andrea Bonior, PhD, author of The Friendship Fix, “we spent our lives being around people our age. In school [and] in college, [we had] natural proximity to an immense amount of people to choose to befriend.” As grown-ups, though, we’re so busy muddling through the daily grind of managing our lives — landing jobs, booking as many vacations as possible, navigating in and out of relationships, fitting in exercise, moving to new cities. It may feel easiest to keep in touch primarily through texting, Facebook, and Instagram instead of actually catching up face-to-face.

(MORE: How Not to Be a Toxic Friend)

See People in Person

But, if you’re mainly relying on virtual avenues to sustain your friendships, you could be doing yourself a disservice. “We may feel like we know a lot of people [online],” Dr. Bonior says. “[But,]… typing ‘LOL’ under someone’s Facebook status [is not] connection. You feel too busy to go out and see friends, but you have time to spend three hours a night looking at people’s Facebook vacation photos?”

No one’s suggesting you jump up and close shop on your social accounts right this second. But, if you’re feeling lonely in your real life, you might want to try using those avenues solely for what they are: networking hubs to help you keep track of old school rivals and camp friends. Random Facebook acquaintances won’t be there to hold your hand through a family meltdown or when you’re laid off from a job you love.

Skimping on in-person social time can also be detrimental to both your soul andyour body. Experts claim that up to one-fifth of Americans currently define themselves as “lonely” (and, according to AARP, that number rises to about 35% for people over age 45). Approximately 20% of adults lament having only one buddy to talk to, and depressingly, another 25% say they have no one at all.

That kind of isolation can cause lasting damage. Dr. Bonior notes that “having good, quality friendships improves your longevity [and] your mood, puts you less at risk for depression, helps you get over trauma, and helps your blood pressure.” The problem is that most of us don’t adequately prioritize our friendships; heading out to meet a pal at happy hour can start to feel more like a luxury than a necessity. Instead, Dr. Bonior urges that we treat our friendships as a healthy part of our routine, “like going to the gym.”

Using Tech as an Asset

But, what if you’re one of those people who honestly feel they have no one to hit happy hour with? We daresay it’s time to get out there and find yourself more friends. We know the idea might sound overwhelming (you couldn’t pay me to approach a stranger in Starbucks, whether male, female, or monkey), but isn’t your health enough of an incentive to nudge you beyond your comfort zone?

Janis Kupferer had to do just that after moving to Denver a few years back. While scoping out men on a dating site, she decided to check out some of her straight-female “competition.” Kupferer realized that some of the site’s female members seemed, well, cool — like the kind of people she’d want to be friends with. Inspired, Janis decided to launch a new social networking site, SocialJane, which is devoted to helping women meet like-minded buddies. The site looks like your average dating site, with boxes to add a profile headline, photos, your favorite activities, and more. “[It has] all the same features and benefits that [can make] looking for love online a success (ease, convenience, and community)…but for platonic friendships,” she explains.

So, does it work? I tested it for myself: I joined the site, created a profile, and messaged some women who seemed to share my interests. It’s been a few weeks and, as of now, none of the women have written back to me (sadface). I do realize that a lack of response is par for the course on dating sites, but I guess I was hoping for a change of pace in the friendship zone. Still, it’s a cool idea, and one of a handful of similar sites that are springing up, promising to help with the ever-difficult friend search.

(MORE: An Ode to the Best Kind of Friends)

Make an Effort to Engage

When it comes to real-life strategies for meeting people, though, Dr. Bonior says you needn’t look much farther than your corner cafe, record shop, yoga studio, or coworking space: “Frequenting the same places over time [is a good approach]… You’ll [eventually] feel like member of a community.”

You can also try volunteering, attending spiritual services (meditation clubs, support groups, or 12-Step groups work, too), joining clubs based on your interests (check out Meetup.com — there’s a meetup for EVERYTHING), taking classes, traveling alone, wine- and beer-tasting, joining adult athletic leagues (bocce! kickball! roller derby!), professional and special-interest conferences (gaming, writing, you get the picture), getting a new job…the list is long. Dr. Bonior also recommends joining “listservs for your apartment building, [commenting] on a blog you like…lots of people meet some of their best friends on the Internet” — provided you vow to take those budding buddies off your laptop and into the real world.

As for me, I’ve been in my new home base of DC for eight months and I’m still trying to pin down more solid friendships. I made one local writer-friend via Twitter, but the tactic that’s worked best for me has been asking friends in other cities if they happen to know any cool people in my re-adopted hometown — i.e., getting set up on blind, but pre-vetted, friend-dates.

The takeaway? Some folks are natural introverts who may be content hanging out alone, or with just one close friend or two. If that’s you, that’s great; you keep doing you. But, if you’re unhappy with your present social-support structure — as lots of people are — it’s up to you to push yourself to do things differently. As Dr. Kupferer notes, you’ve “got to stick your neck out.” Think of it as the first day of kindergarten all over again, and strike up a conversation with a stranger — over coffee, perhaps, instead of crayons.

(MORE: 6 Relationship Talks Made Less Awkward)

TIME Television

Friends Celebrates 20 Years With A Central Perk Pop Up Shop

Friends
Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller-Bing, David Schwimmer as Dr. Ross Geller in Friends. NBC/Getty Images

Even Gunther will be on hand for the event

No one told us life was going to be this way! One day you’re watching your new favorite TV show about a group of affable twentysomethings who live, love and host some memorable meals in some seriously valuable real estate in Manhattan, and the next thing you know, 20 years have passed.

Friends is about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of when Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler or Joey joined the primetime line-up — and to help mark the occasion, a replica of the friends’ favorite hangout, Central Perk, will pop up in Manhattan.

From September 17 to October 18, fans can pay homage to Friends while hanging around the Central Perk coffee bar (located at 199 Lafayette Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood), perhaps while sipping on a special Central Perk Roast from Eight O’Clock Coffee, who is sponsoring the shop in collaboration with Warner Bros.

To document fans’ trips down memory lane, Central Perk will be chock-full of selfie opportunities, including the actual orange couch from the show and the iconic Central Perk storefront. While there’s little chance that Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler or Joey will be hanging around (or working) at the shop, actor James Michael Taylor, who played grouchy waiter Gunther on the series will be on hand — not to serve, but to sip coffee alongside fans.

No trip to Central Perk would be complete without suffering through a set of Phoebe’s songs, so the shop will feature acts who are hopefully better than Phoebe, but will still sing at least one round of her sole hit, “Smelly Cat”:

This isn’t the first time there has been a Central Perk pop-up — back in 2009, there the coffee shop popped up in London to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Friends— but this is the only one in the States. So fans should either book a ticket to NYC now, or just drink coffee in the living room and watch Friends re-runs.

MORE: Zach Galifianakis to Star As a Clown in New FX Comedy Baskets

MORE: Netflix Comedy from Friends Creator to Star Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

TIME Television

Jimmy Kimmel’s Mini Friends Reunion Is Pretty Incredible

Even though Aniston refused to wear a "Rachel" wig

Jimmy Kimmel revealed to his guest Jennifer Aniston during Wednesday’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! that he has been writing some fan fiction, based on her hit show Friends, that he wanted her to help act out. And thus began one of the reunions we have all been waiting for. It was perfect, save the fact that Aniston refused to wear a “Rachel” wig.

Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow joined Aniston on a replica set of the Friends kitchen for a scene in which they mostly talked about how good Kimmel (who played Aniston’s on-again, off-again love interest “Ross”) was in bed. Apparently all of the other male cast members had died after being bit by a rabid “Marcel,” the pet monkey.

Aniston may have thought the dialogue was dumb, but Kimmel brought up a fair point: “Is it dumber than living in a huge apartment in New York City for eight years, even though you work at a coffee shop?”

Bring on the movie.

TIME psychology

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Friendships

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Getty Images

Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified friends as one of the biggest sources of joy in our lives. Seeing friends and family regularly is worth an extra $97,265 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Good relationships are more important to a long life than exercise.

Not spending more time with friends and family is one of the things people regret the most.

So what does the research tell us about how to strengthen and improve our friendships?

The Basics

Want to improve any relationship? The first step is try. Yeah, so easy you forgot to do it.

Simple things can have the most profound impact, like actively showing interest in the other person. Listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

Enthusiastically respond when they share good news with you. The best responses are active and constructive. What’s that mean?

It is engaged, enthusiastic, curious and has supportive nonverbal action. Ask questions. Be excited. Ask for details. Smile. Touch. Laugh.

Share your own good news when you have some:

…sharing good news with others increases the perceived value of those events, especially when others respond enthusiastically, and that enthusiastic responses to shared good news promote the development of trust and a prosocial orientation toward the other. These studies found consistent support for these effects across both interactions with strangers and in everyday close relationships.

Show gratitude. Gratitude is a miracle drug:

Stay in touch. Communicating every two weeks keeps friendships alive:

…“the leading cause of persistent relationships is reciprocity — returning a friend’s call.” Further, they said friends ’til the end tend to touch base at least once every 15 days.

Leverage technology to improve your relationships, don’t let it replace them.

Technology can increase happiness and improve relationships if you leverage it to connect with other people:

The results were unequivocal. “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” he says. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.” Surely, I suggest to Cacioppo, this means that Facebook and the like inevitably make people lonelier. He disagrees. Facebook is merely a tool, he says, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user. “If you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact,” he says, “it increases social capital.” So if social media let you organize a game of football among your friends, that’s healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that’s unhealthy.

The typical reaction to all of the above statements is: That’s obvious. I know that. And then guess what?

People don’t do them for six months and wonder what happened. Knowing and doing are two different things.

Work On Yourself

Improve your self control. People more in control of themselves have better relationships.

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

How do you strengthen those self-control muscles? Go here.

Trust beats out not trusting. Expecting others to be selfish can be a self-fulfliing prophecy:

The expectations people have about how others will behave play a large role in determining whether people cooperate with each other or not… One’s own expectation thereby becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: those who expect people to act selfishly, actually experience uncooperative behaviour from others more often.

Don’t be a conversational narcissist. What’s that? “Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.

Here‘s how to be a better listener.

Scientific Insights

Keep the 5 to 1 ratio in mind. Five good experiences for every bad one.

Via The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

And:

What’s even scarier is that Losada’s five-to-one ratio also appears to be essential when you get home and try to muster the energy for a successful marriage. John Gottmann at the University of Washington has found that couples with a ratio of fewer than five positive interactions for every negative one are destined for divorce.

Also:

Curiously, the magic number also seems to have a close parallel in the ratio of positive behaviors…and negative behaviors…among monkeys and apes.Thus the five-to-one ratio begins to look suspiciously like a basic primate need.

Don’t take that to mean you always have to be positive: Sharing negative feelings about a third party can increase closeness between two people.

We all value warmth over competence in friends but we often forget this:

  1. When assessing someone else, warmth plays a more important role than competence.
  2. When assessing ourselves, we believe that competence (the capability of someone to carry out intentions) is more important.

So stop trying to be useful and just be kind.

What’s the best way to give a friend advice? You need to provide a suggestion without it feeling like you’re telling them what to do:

Say “When I’ve had that problem in the past what I’ve done is…” instead of “You should do this…

And you’re gonna screw up. We all screw up. Know the keys to a good apology.

Turning Enemies Into Friends

Similarity is very powerful. Always always always always always be thinking about things you have in common.

How can you win over someone who already doesn’t like you? Compliment them or ask their advice.

Even fierce enemies can be turned into friends by working together to achieve a common goal. Robert Cialdini’s must-read book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion references this study:

…superordinate goals (goals so large that it requires more than one group to achieve the goal) reduced conflict significantly more effectively than other strategies (e.g., communication, contact).

Trying To Make New Friends?

Here are 4 things to keep in mind:

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Genetics

How Our Social Networks Impact Our Health

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A new study says we may be genetically similar to our friends Digital Vision.—Getty Images

We share more than similar interests with our friends, we share genetics too

We might think we pick our pals based on who will best complement us—the old “opposite attracts” adage—but there may be something else at play. A new study published in the journal in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) shows we are more genetically similar to our friends than to strangers. In fact, we’re about as genetically equivalent to our friends as we are our fourth cousins.

Though the latest findings were primarily reserved to a group of white people of European origin, the researchers say their findings suggest there is a genetic factor at play beyond physical appearance. Though the researchers say we only share about 1% of our genes with our friends, these underlying markers may make noteworthy patterns when it comes to who we decide to spend our time with, and could even influence our health.

The study is the second to recently show that the people we are closest to are also genetically similar to us. In May, another study published in PNAS found that people also tend to be genetically similar to their spouses. But why?

These questions are central to the work of researchers, James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist at Yale University. The pair have been building a growing body of research about why we choose our friends, and what evolutionary benefits these choices might have.

“Sharing genes with friends appears to enhance your utility to them,” says Dr. Christakis. “Consider the hypothetical example of speech. If you evolve the capacity to speak, its use to you is greatly enhanced if you form ties with others who have evolved the same capacity.” On the other hand, the researchers found that we tend to hang out with people whose immune system make up is different from ours, which also makes genetic sense, since evolutionarily we don’t want to be susceptible to the same illnesses as our best friend or partner. We could pass it to each other, and then who takes care of who?

In the past, the researchers have looked at how social contagion can spread generosity and have reported thar people are more likely to light up a cigarette if their friends do. And in a 2007 study, the pair showed that friends can influence our weight more than genetics or family members, showing that when a study participant’s friend become obese, there was a 57% greater chance that the participant would also become obese too. They believe it’s not just that we share lifestyle behaviors with our friends, but that friends change our opinions on what we believe to be appropriate social behavior. Conversely, friends could also help us stay on a weight loss plan for the same reasons. The researchers also show that social networks could also have the potential to predict epidemics given that most are set up in a similar way, where certain people are more connected and popular than others, and subsequently more likely to come in contact with disease.

In earlier studies on friendship and genetics, Christakis and Fowler suggested that genetics can influence social behavior in networks of friends, even impacting whatever predispositions those friends already have. For example, if someone is genetically predisposed to alcoholism, and they end up associating with people of similar genotypes who are more likely to have alcohol available, that could be a problem for them. But on the other hand, if that same person chooses a group of friends with a different make-up, alcohol may not be frequently present, and their predisposition remains un-triggered.

That means friendships might modify the way our own genes are expressed, the authors propose. Meaning human evolution is not just limited to the influence of physical and biological environments, but social ones as well.

TIME celebrities

David Schwimmer Helps New York Police Solve a Crime

Michigan Avenue Magazine Celebrates Cover Star David Schwimmer With Russian Standard Vodka At The Dec Rooftop Lounge + Bar
David Schwimmer attends Michigan Avenue Magazine Celebrates Cover Star David Schwimmer With Russian Standard Vodka At The Dec Rooftop Lounge + Bar on May 22, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Jeff Schear--2013 Getty Images

The "Friends" actor saved the day when he brought forward video surveillance footage that captured an assault that took place across the street from his East Village home

Let’s hear it for Ross Geller! Actor David Schwimmer, who played Ross in Friends, provided New York police with key evidence in an assault that took place early Monday morning.

Three men got into an altercation that turned violent in a first-floor apartment in New York’s East Village neighborhood, the New York Post reports. The fight eventually spilled into the apartment’s hallway before the men smashed through a glass door in the building’s lobby. Police arrived on the scene and though one man ran away, another was taken to the hospital with stab wounds to the face and a third man was arrested.

The police “had only the two men’s accounts of who did what to whom,” the Post reports, until they noticed a nearby surveillance camera on Schwimmer’s property, located next to the crime scene. Schwimmer reportedly invited the police right into his home to view the assault captured on his security camera. The police then “left with a tape that might be used in court.”

[New York Post]

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