Friends seems like a great time. Watching old episodes is like wrapping up in a big digital security blanket. The apartments are huge, the interiors are perfectly shabby chic, the jokes are just the right amount of corny, and the problems are totally first world.
It's everything you want in a sitcom, really—you're basically just watching a gang of real life best friends having a ball of a time onscreen. The cast was the prettiest, youngest and thingiest of all the pretty young things in the early aughts. They had millions of dollars and beautiful spouses and knew each other forwards and backwards, and got to spend their days making the rest of us happy. We watch it whenever we're feeling down, or poor, or lonely, or like our clothes aren't '90s enough, and it always perks us up.
But now, it seems, the entire memory of America's happiest show may be marred. Sullied. Tarnished. Ruined, nay.
That's because this week, David Schwimmer a.k.a. Ross Gellar, did an interview in which he confessed that he actually struggled a lot with his time on the show. Pause for disturbed reaction.
The actor was on hand with The Hollywood Reporter to tape an episode of their Awards Chatter podcast, and naturally the topic turned to Friends.
"It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years, I think, for me to kind of adjust to and become comfortable with," he said of the show's success. "As an actor, the way I was trained, my job was to observe life and to observe other people, and so I used to walk around with my head up, and really engaged and watching people. The effect of celebrity was the absolute opposite: It made me want to hide under a baseball cap, not be seen. And I realized after a while that I was no longer watching people; I was trying to hide."
This is upsetting news, we know. We don't know if we'll ever be able to watch Ross try to stutter through a sentence again now that we know he was actually tortured by his millions of dollars and adoring fans behind the scenes. How do we navigate this new world?
But, surely we can take solace in the fact that David Schwimmer is but an anomaly in the Friends cast, and that the rest of the gang was happy as a clam. Except...we're not sure that's possible. Because we're pretty sure that other members of the cast have spoken out in the past about some of the not-so-sunny side of being a famous friend. Naturally, we dug deep into this issue to get to the bottom of things.
Lisa Kudrow, who of course played one Phoebe Buffay, told the Daily Express last year what it really felt like to learn to be famous. "Before you're well known, you think, 'Oh, if you're famous, you're loved and adored,'" she said. "Then, when you really experience that attention and everyone cares what you're doing and wants pictures of you, it doesn't feel like a warm hug. It feels like an assault." Mon Dieu, Phoebe!
And for her part, Courteney Cox has spoken of how being super awesome on Friends made her terrified to ever be on another TV show or movie. "Friends was such a benchmark of television success that I shied away from trying anything else," she said to The Telegraph. "I felt as if people would say, 'She was supposed to be good on that show, what happened to her?'" Say it ain't so, Courteney! Not shying away!
And finally, Joey Tribbiani a.k.a. Matt LeBlanc, was very uncomfortable with all the recognition. "The weirdest thing was walking into a room, a restaurant, a bar, a movie theater, anywhere there's a lot of people, and everybody sort of stopping what they're doing and taking notice you're in the room," he said to Boston Common. "And they know you, or they think they do — they know your name, they know what you do for a living, they know how much money you make, they know where you're from, but they're all strangers to you." We're speechless.
So what are we supposed to do with this troubling pattern? Could Friends be more complex than the simplistic, comforting reruns we know it for? Are we to now renounce Friends and its gang of West Village buds because they may have actually been a little bit not in love with the whole process? We say no. We process this information, we take a moment to honor David Schwimmer's pain, and then we move on. Because the people need Friends, and we need Friends to be one-dimensionally upbeat. So be it.