Would ‘Friends’ Have Ended Differently if it Came Out in 2017?

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After identifying that Miranda Hobbes would likely be the protagonist of Sex and the City if the show came out in 2017, I’m a little mad I wasn’t the first to realize that if Friends were to debut at this sacred juncture in history as well, it would be in for a major plot shakeup of its own.

All credit for this epiphany goes to Claire Willett, who penned a 100-tweet essay arguing that Rachel and Joey should have ended up together instead of Rachel and Ross. After reading her litany of evidence, I’m not inclined to disagree.

Let’s examine her most compelling points, starting with why Rachel *shouldn’t* be with Ross, whom she refers to as “one of television’s all-time worst human men.” (Whether or not you agree with her overall relationship thesis, you have to admit that this proclamation alone is provoking and hilarious in the same way that calling Eeyore one of television’s all-time worst stuffed animal cartoon donkeys would be).

She starts by explaining that Ross and Rachel’s rapport was always alarmingly possessive in nature. He sees her as “his,” he spies on her while she’s on dates, he hides messages from other men who are interested in her, etc. Perhaps the most toxic aspect of their rapport, however, was Ross’s sabotage of Rachel’s career:

These tweets prompted me to reevaluate that episode (“The One With All the Jealousy”) in which Ross covers Rachel’s entire desk with love cards, flowers and musical bugs and sends a barbershop quartet to her office to sing her a song, thus sending a message to her colleague Mark that she was “taken,” which I now realize is the human equivalent of a dog peeing all over its so-called territory. Not only do Ross’s actions embarrass Rachel in front of her coworkers and make her look unprofessional, but they also establish a dynamic in which Ross is forcing Rachel to choose between the health of their relationship and the health of her career, which ultimately plays into Rachel’s decision to not go to Paris and become a big-shot fashion executive:

Is your head exploding right now?? Ross wanted Rachel to stay so badly he even went behind her back and asked her boss in New York to re-hire her! In early-2000s television this might have passed as a “grand gesture” but nowadays I’m fairly certain the optics would be different. Controlling the narrative of someone else’s life in the name of love is deluded sabotage at its finest, especially if it prevents that someone from personal growth. It reminds me of that episode of Orange is the New Black in which Tricia attempts to plant drugs in her girlfriend Mercy’s bunk so she would get more time in prison instead of being released — an act born of out “love,” but destructive nonetheless. Don’t even get me started on Ross’s pro/con list.

Having sufficiently stripped away Ross Geller’s “nice guy” status, Willett pivots to explaining why Joey was the better match, even though the writers of the show clearly intended for their brief flirtation to be an inconsequential delay factor in Ross and Rachel’s will they/won’t they saga:


Willett concludes by claiming that the only factor in favor of Ross and Rachel ending up together is conventional sitcom storytelling structure, not because they’re “right” for each other, which rings true when I consider the shift in how will they/won’t they romantic setups are portrayed in 2017. Hannah’s on-again-off-again relationship with Adam in Girls is an apt example: toward the end of the last season, the Girls writers pull a bait and switch by teasing that Hannah and Adam might end up together when Adam briefly breaks up with Jessa and fantasizes for 24 hours about what it would be like to co-parent Hannah’s baby-to-be. The result reminds Hannah, Adam and viewers why the pair isn’t right for each other. As a long-time viewer of the show, it was tough for me to let go of the kernel of hope that Hannah and Adam would reunite, but the dissipation of their relationship felt realistic in the sense that in real life, a shared history is never a guarantee that a couple is meant to be.

Here’s a question to chew on: if, according to Kylie Jenner, 2016 was “the year of realizing stuff,” is 2017 the year of realizing that the plot lines of all my favorite television shows are in need of a serious rewrite? I’m already starting to question my once-passionate dislike for Dean on Gilmore Girls.


Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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