- Friends revolutionized sitcoms by focusing on a group of friends in their 20s and 30s, tackling relatable issues like love, career changes, and uncertainty.
- Shows like Coupling, New Girl, and Good Trouble have been inspired by Friends’ emphasis on friendship dynamics and the struggles of young adulthood.
- Friends’ influence can be seen in sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and Rules of Engagement, which prioritize showcasing relationships and the support friends provide to one another.
When nearly 22 million people tuned in to watch the very first episode of Friends on September 22, 1994, no one quite knew how big of an impact the sitcom would have on people’s lives, American culture, and how other TV shows would portray characters and problems thereafter. Rather than presenting a typical family or following two characters through the ups and downs of their love story, David Crane and Marta Kauffman took a risk and created a show that followed six friends as they experienced love, loss, heartache, career changes, and the very relatable “what do I do now” line of thinking nearly everyone in their 20s has felt at some point.
For 10 seasons, Friends won numerous awards, scored hundreds of nominations, and most importantly, wrestled the hearts of many. When Netflix picked up the series in 2015, a new generation fell in love with the timeless series. Now, with more writers focusing on what has successfully worked in the past and what is not working in the present, many have turned to Friends for inspiration. Between the varying storylines, the quirky yet relatable characters, and the love and support a group of people can have for one another, there is no question as to why this series is still at the top of many charts.
Check out 10 sitcoms that were clearly inspired by Friends.
10 Coupling (2000-2004)
The British TV sitcom Coupling came out just six years after Friends premiered, and there are quite a few nods to the nostalgic ’90s sitcom. There are six main characters (three men and three women) who come together and become friends due to two of them beginning a relationship with one another and bringing their respective friends, exes, and drama along. Like Friends, these characters are not afraid to talk about premarital sex, problems at work, or the annoyances that come with dating.
Spolighting Friendship Dynamics
Before Friends, most sitcoms dealt with the traditional family dynamic and were all cheerful and happy by the time the credits started rolling. However, when Friends showed audiences that smart and capable adults were still figuring themselves out in their 20s and 30s, a light bulb went off, and writers, like the ones who created Coupling, ran with the genre shift. An American adaptation of Coupling was even created in 2003, when NBC knew Friends would be coming to a close, but only four episodes were aired due to horrible ratings. Stream on Peacock
9 New Girl (2011-2018)
- Release Date
- September 20, 2011
New Girl may as well be considered the modern day Friends, starting from the moment Jessica Day (much like Rachel Greene) left her relationship behind in a blind panic and desperately needed a place to live. Jess and Nick’s heartwarming will-they-won’t-they relationship is comparable to that of Ross and Rachel’s, and when Cece and Schmitt finally accept their love for one another and settle down to have a family, plenty of fans can think back to how happy they were when Chandler and Monica made things official.
A Cast of Characters in Their 20s and 30s
New Girl is full of fun and quirky characters who, like those in Friends, deal with relationship troubles, career changes, and the responsibilities that come with simply growing up. The two are comparable as they remind audiences that it is okay not to have things figured out in your 20s or even your 30s, as long as you are working towards something you love. Stream on Hulu
8 Grand Crew (2021-2023)
Grand Crew has flipped the narrative of Black stereotypes actors were often forced into by creating a storyline that plays out vulnerable situations and addresses harsh topics among a group of African American friends. The characters are able to confide in each other with jokes as well as their struggles, and they always support one another no matter the circumstance.
A Core Crew to Lean on
While one of the biggest criticisms of Friends is that the series did not have a lot of diversity in its casting, Grand Crew primarily focuses on its Black characters and their everyday issues. Like the characters in the ’90s sitcom, this crew gets together quite often to talk about what is going on in their love lives as well as their jobs, but instead of hitting up a coffee shop, they go to local wine bars. Stream on Peacock
7 How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
Fans of Friends and How I Met Your Mother have been known to go toe to toe with one another when defending what they respectively consider the best sitcom of all time. However, if, for just a moment, the two groups can open their minds, they will see that there are actually a lot of similarities between the two very successful series.
Life in the Big Apple
HIMYM premiered just a year after Friends concluded, and it ran for almost the same amount of time. Both series deal with groups of friends who are simply trying to make their lives, careers, and relationships work in New York City. Lily and Marshall can be compared to Monica and Chandler for being in a stable relationship, and Ted and Robin are as stable with commitment as Rachel and Ross. Themes about growing up and pursuing one’s passion are also similar in the two sitcoms. Stream on Hulu
6 Happy Endings (2011-2013)
Ironically enough, Happy Endings begins on a rather harsh note, where two of the six main characters make it all the way to their wedding day until one of them, Alex, decides to leave her husband-to-be, Dave, at the altar. Does this sound a bit like Rachel from Friends? Unlike Rachel and Barry, however, Alex and Dave try to stay friends, and the rest of their group feels like they are walking on eggshells for a bit as they deal with the new dynamic.
Similar Character Archetypes
Happy Endings tried to compete with other ensemble sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and New Girl, but it just fell short. All the expected character archetypes were there — such as the perfectionist, the one trying to get back into the dating world, and the will-they-won’t-they couple — and the storyline seemed promising on paper. However, after three seasons, ABC pulled the plug. Stream on Hulu
5 The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)
The Big Bang Theory
- Release Date
- September 24, 2007
Four socially awkward scientists would be living very differently if it were not for the efforts of a spunky and savvy blonde across the hall. The Big Bang Theory reminds audiences that family can be a group of people all from different backgrounds who sit around the table, give each other plenty of grief, and still love one another.
Friends Who Are Like Family
Just three years after the series finale of Friends aired, The Big Bang Theory was making its way up the ratings ladder and into the spotlight. Audiences watched as the former group of four became a group of seven as Penny, Bernadette, and Amy made themselves permanent fixtures in the guys’ lives. Like Friends, relationships and workplace troubles are hot topics when everyone gets together, and no matter the ridicule and jokes, the group is always willing to support one another in some form or fashion — even if it is just the offering of a warm beverage. Stream on Max
4 Good Trouble (2019-Present)
As a spin-off of The Fosters, Good Trouble follows Callie and Mariana as they move to Los Angeles to begin their careers and see what the world has to offer. Much like Rachel in the first season of Friends, the two sisters feel a bit out of place about settling into careers in a new place and making friends. However, they manage to make everything work out even with a few hiccups along the way.
The One Where Rachel Starts Over
While Good Trouble primarily focuses on two characters rather than an ensemble cast, it is still comparable to Friends as both sitcoms deal with young adults trying to find their way in the big city. Between making friends, trying to land great jobs they are passionate about, and trying to juggle having a social life, this modern series feels like a fresh take on the hit ’90s sitcom. Stream on Hulu
3 That ’70s Show (1998-2006)
That ’70s Show features yet another group of six, but this time, instead of being young adults trying to figure out their careers and love lives, these characters are just a bunch of teenagers trying to survive school and have a good time with their friends. The series premiered just four years after Friends, but the writers certainly took some notes from the popular sitcom.
Friends (A Teenage Version)
Like Friends, the teenagers in That ’70s Show make use of their free time by always being with one another — even though they choose to enjoy a certain substance in the Formans’ basement rather than hot beverages at a coffee house. They give one another grief for silly choices, but in the end, they are always able to put issues behind them and be there for each other. Stream on Peacock Premium
2 Cougar Town (2009-2015)
Just five years after Courteney Cox finished up with Friends, she received a whole new role that would make even the cleaning-obsessed and detail-oriented Monica Geller a bit proud. In the cheeky sitcom, Cougar Town, Cox plays Jules Cobb, a newly divorced, single mother who decides to get out of her comfort zone and live a little.
A Sort of Spiritual Sequel
While Friends focused on 20-something-year-olds growing up and figuring out exactly what they want with their careers and relationships, Cougar Town depicts the aftermath of having a marriage and family. Still, the latter of the two sitcoms does utilize the found family trope seen in Friends, as Jules surrounds herself with supportive people even when she is unsure of her own actions and desires. Stream on Hulu
1 Rules of Engagement (2007-2013)
While many critics looked down on Rules of Engagement during its seven-season run, casual TV watchers absolutely enjoyed it. With two couples and one very single man making up their strangely supportive friend group, they always have unique advice as well as embarrassing experiences to share.
Romance in the Spotlight
Rather than having the characters focus on their own families or their careers, both Friends and Rules of Engagement narrow their topics to the romantic relationships within the group and the all the troubles that come with being married, engaged, dating, or even single. It is interesting and more relatable for a larger audience to see adults at very different stages in their relationships. Stream on Prime Video