Friends is one of the most influential and instantly recognizable sitcoms in television history. If you hear the theme song, you know when to clap. Even casual viewers are likely to recognize the primary set of the Central Perk cafe. And back in the day, thousands of women learned the hard way that not just anyone can pull off the haircut that became known as “the Rachel.”
Friends (seasons 1-10) is streaming on Max.
Friends made massive stars out of its main cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. The sitcom ran for 10 seasons until 2004.
After nearly 20 years off the air, Friends still holds a special place in the hearts of TV fans. But it’s hardly the only show to tackle themes of friendship, life in the big city, and trying to navigate the world as a young adult. Here are some more shows like Friends to watch when no one told you life was going to be this way (clap clap, clap clap).
How I Met Your Mother
In a lot of ways, How I Met Your Mother is Friends for the next generation of twentysomethings. A group of long-standing friends live in New York City, where they spend their late 20s and early 30s trying to figure out jobs, friendships, romance, and the terrifying process of trying to build an adult life. The show perhaps hasn’t aged incredibly well (but hey, neither has Friends), and it’s occasionally hamstrung by its overarching premise of a father telling his children the story of his romance with their mother (albeit with a lot of tangents). But there’s still an inherent charm to the group that makes it all work in spite of itself — even if it features arguably one of the most disappointing finales in modern television history.
Watch on Hulu
As the song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” The sense of comfort and community is a huge part of the success of Cheers, featuring familiar characters that audiences felt like they knew. This precursor to Friends may be set in Boston instead of New York, and their home away from home is a bar instead of a coffee shop, but it hits that same sweet spot of having a deeply likable cast. Originally released in the 1980s, Cheers sets the stage for the modern network sitcom, moving away from the family-oriented TV comedies that had dominated the scene for so long and turning towards a group of friends that feels almost like a family.
Watch on Paramount Plus
Ride or die group of friends that audiences become almost unhealthily attached to? Check. A pair of friends-to-lovers with incredible chemistry that everyone was rooting for since the very first episode? Check. An unrealistically nice apartment, considering that four people live there and three of them spend the majority of the show in varying states of unemployment? Check. New Girl, quite simply, has everything you might want in a sitcom. These are the friends everyone wishes they had, with an unbreakable camaraderie that fills the entire show with a sense of warmth — even when Schmidt says something so heinous he’s forced to put money in the Douchebag Jar.
The little oddball sitcom that could, Community has had more lives than any TV comedy in recent memory. It revolves around a study group of community college students, who are all committed to putting in their time at Greendale for one reason or another. Over the course of the seasons, they become more and more attached to one another, some romantically, some platonically, and some — like Abed (Danny Pudi) and Troy (Donald Glover) — soulmates connected on a spiritual level. The show’s sense of humor is all over the place, sometimes committing to traditional sitcom gags, other times taking entire episodes to tell surrealist self-contained storylines. It may have moved networks multiple times and been on the brink of cancellation more often than not, but when it was firing on all cylinders, it deserved an A+.
Watch on Netflix
The Golden Girls
If we’re talking about friends, it’s hard to imagine a group more fitting than The Golden Girls. Groundbreaking for the time — and to be honest, for our time as well — Golden Girls features a cast of characters from a demographic that is rarely seen on television: older women. And what’s more, they’re not just wives or grandmothers who take a backseat to the other characters on the show, but they’re vibrant, interesting women who have full lives (even sex lives!) in spite of the fact that they’re not quite spring chickens anymore. With a strong cast of Hollywood veterans, Golden Girls is the rare sitcom from the 1980s with a sense of humor that 100% holds up when watched today.
Watch on Hulu
We’ve seen New York City through the eyes of boomers and Gen Xers, but Broad City was one of the first comedies that offered a glimpse at what it looked like to be young in the city in the 2010s. Starring real-life friends Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Broad City explores their comical misadventures as they attempt to carve out a quasi-adult life for themselves amid constant challenges (often of their own making). Although it began life as a web series, it was picked up by Comedy Central and found success there, eventually running for five seasons, capturing a weird, often surreal slice-of-life quality that deeply resonated with viewers.
Often considered the English version of Friends, Coupling navigates the sex lives and interpersonal relationships of a group of friends in London during the early 2000s. Their character archetypes largely match their American counterparts, although Coupling – by virtue of being on a more permissive network in the UK – is much more overtly sexual than Friends was ever allowed to be. It follows the misadventures of Steven and Susan (played by Jack Davenport and Sarah Alexander, respectively) and their rowdy group of friends that includes Ben Miles, Richard Coyle, Gina Bellman, and Kate Isitt. Created by Steven Moffatt (who some may remember as the showrunner of Doctor Who, amongst other programs), Coupling was an immediate success, so much so that it even earned its own American spinoff, albeit one that only lasted for about a month before being taken off the air.
Watch on The Roku Channel (free with ads)