The 1990s was the decade that gave us Tamagotchis, rollerblades, and an ungodly number of Pauly Shore films. It also featured the release of Friends — you know, the show that opens with a group of well-dressed twenty-somethings boldly exhibiting New York’s “don’t splash around in public fountains like maniacs” laws?
Friends somehow missed out on the reality of that time in a number of ways. So grab a can of Crystal Pepsi, and let’s observe the overlooked, like how…
In the mid-to-late ’90s, the newfangled internet was radically changing how the world communicated — by 1998, it had already revolutionized how Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan hooked up onscreen. But even though the personal computer business was exploding, no one on Friends ever, say, sent an email.
Anyway, outside of a short chat room fling with Janice in the Season Two finale, he wasn’t using it to surf the net. Instead, Chandler’s most significant application was the word processor used to hammer out a demeaning list on behalf of Ross.
It would take us all the way until Season Nine for a Friends character to use a computer to access the internet again. This time Ross used it to hit on old high school classmates. Somehow no one on the show learned that computers were an amazing technology that could be used for more than just satiating Ross Gellar’s thirst.
The O.J. Simpson trial was everywhere in the ’90s, and it’s not like Friends took place in an alternate universe where O.J. didn’t exist; Chandler makes an extremely fleeting reference to it in the extended cut of a Season One episode. But… that’s it? Fifty-seven percent of the country watched the verdict being read live, but all six friends were presumably too busy guzzling their 11th coffee of the day on their fancy exclusive couch to care. Nor did any of them so much as mention the Bill Clinton scandal and ensuing impeachment, which was also a giant-ass deal at the time.
The ’90s saw the release of some massive, zeitgeist-defining motion pictures, which, despite one of them being a skilled actor, didn’t seem to make any effect on the Friends characters. Sure, we get it’s a sitcom, but Titanic was such a huge attention-grabber that even Seinfeld found a spare moment to comment on how everyone was watching it.
Friends briefly mentioned the film, but not until years later in 2000. For a whole decade, no one brought up The Sixth Sense, Austin Powers or numerous other ’90s cinematic touchstones. Meanwhile, in the Friends-verse, everyone weirdly acted like Jean-Claude Van Damme was the biggest movie star in the entire friggin’ world. And keep in mind, this was made just one year before he made Double Team with Dennis Rodman.
How many dates did these people go on throughout the show? Somehow we never saw any of the titular friends engage in the ’80s and ‘90s most sacred courting ritual: making someone a mixtape or CD. The only mixtape we ever hear of is one Janice gave Chandler — whose interactions with Janice seem to be his only tether to the ’90s — which he tries to pass off as one that he made for Monica.
New York City’s nightlife in the ’90s was jammed full of cool bars and dance clubs — but none of these attractive twenty-somethings seemed to care or notice that they could be hanging out somewhere fun? We see in “The One With the Flashback” that Central Perk actually used to be a hip bar:
But as soon as it was gentrified and turned into a coffee house, everyone just upended their lifestyles and ignored literally everything else happening in the city. Not even a B-plot about Joey trying to hook up at last call or anyone needing a nightcap after having to listen to Ross.