So it’s Independence Day for Americans on Wednesday, and knowing that I myself, and probably this blog, have both enjoyed insulting Americans for sport, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate all the good things that America has given us.
After an extended period of trying to remember all the good things that America has given us, I am proud to present this blog’s first mini-series: American Dreams. I hope you enjoy.
I thought we should begin with the basics. What gift has America exported that has most affected your average 18-21 slob, sitting around on the sofa all day, watching daytime television? That’s right, Friends. Not real friends, of course, which are way out of the league for our poor slob here, but Friends, the television sitcom about a group of American 20-somethings in Manhattan.
Friends, undeniably, was a classic. Talk about the best American sitcoms in the UK (and we have whole channels devoted to them) and you might get some sort of recognition with classics such as ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, or a current series such as ‘How I Met Your Mother’. You might even hear some mention of ‘The Big Bang Theory’, albeit usually coupled with an explanation of “That show is so weird, I don’t understand most of what they’re saying”.*
Yet none of these match up to the instant recognition of Friends. Not only that, but the Friends theme tune (“I’ll be there for you…”), the Friends opening sequence (where they jump into the fountain), and any of the Friends actors are instantly recognisable as part of the Friends brand.
But why was Friends such a successful show? The trite thing to say here would be that the show represents our own lives, but this is actually (and sometimes worryingly) true. Even for British audiences, most of whom have never been anywhere near America, the situations that characters fall into, and indeed the characters themselves, all ring surprisingly true.
The stuff on top of this basic recipe, however, is just as important. The show would not be the same without impeccable timing, well-written scripts, and a perfect balance of humour and emotion.
Is this the greatest American export? That’s for you to decide. But the popularity and strength of the show cannot be denied, which is why it deserves a place in this hall of fame.
*As an aside, if you don’t understand a joke in The Big Bang Theory, just laugh anyway. It would have been hilarious.