*Pause for audience laughter*
“What do you mean real time?” asks another.
“I’m going to watch all of Friends in real time over the next ten years” I repeat. “It works out as roughly one episode every two weeks. Although I’ll have to tweak it a bit so special episodes like Christmas ones match up.”
“And... then you’re going to compare it to your own life?”
“Our lives, I’m not completely full of myself. It’s going to be the definitive statement of mid 20s to mid 30s life in London in the early 21st Century.
Like Friends is but a different city and two decades later. We’re exactly the same age as when the show starts.”
“I suppose this says a lot about our generation’s obsession with TV and its influence on us...”
“Exactly! And I’ve already noticed some interesting differences! At the start of Friends they’re mostly single and still dating whereas most of us are in relationships. I’m putting that down to the English being less confident and therefore more likely to settle earlier due to a fear of dying alone...”
Once the awkward silence subsided, I told them more of my reasons for Real Live Friends and certain rules I’d set myself:
As well as acting as a memoir, of sorts, I'm hoping it'll inspire me to take a more active interest in my friend’s lives. You don't see your buddies as much as you get older, do you? Thanks to Facebook I mostly see my friends on the toilet at work.
Real Live Friends should motivate me to keep going to the effort of hanging out with people - at a time when social relations can start to fall apart as everyone pairs off and moves around to pursue their careers.
On a slightly grim note, one of the things I anticipate happening is that my own life will feature much more sadness and/or death than Friends™, with sit-coms offering a rose-tinted view to keep things light. Time is precious and I wish to spend as much of it with my Real Live Friends as I realistically can.
I also anticipate it becoming rapidly apparent from Real Live Friends that my own life is relentlessly less eventful than that of the Friends™ characters'. By the necessities of a sitcom plot, something amusing and out of the ordinary must happen every other week, for the jokes to have something to hang on. I am hoping that, as I notice this difference, I will be encouraged to try new things to emulate the lives of the Friends™ characters.
One of the most interesting things about Friends™, and part of its enduring appeal, is that each character offers up a part of a defined whole. We’ve all played at “Which Friends™ character are you?” (a game now streamlined by a thousand online quizzes – the changes brought about by the internet being another thing this project will reveal) and can all recognise a little of each character within ourselves. We also all recognise our own friendships in the mocking, yet affectionate tone that the characters take when dealing with each other’s flaws.
The characters of Friends™ are in all of us. I've mutated from a confirmed Ross in school, to a fun-time Joey at university, before settling as a devout Chandler in adulthood. So am interested to see how the ups, downs and changes the characters go through will mirror that of me and my friend’s lives over the next ten years.
I was tempted to pick some friends and assign them each an analogue from the show (pity poor Gunther...) but decided to be more pragmatic in my approach.
I will assign my friends as a “Ross” or “Rachel” etc based only on what is happening currently. Aside from stopping me from accidentally insulting my friends, this will allow for shifts in my friendships by letting me have more than one “avatar” of each character. This covers for the possibilities of friendships drifting apart, existing people taking on new roles, and new friends being made in my life.
I hope you enjoy going on this journey with me over the next ten years!