Earlier this fall, fans of Friends marked the 20th anniversary of the show’s debut. Celebrations included the re-creation of the friends’ favorite hangout, Central Perk coffee shop, in New York City. While there was this level of Friends nostalgia — despite the fact that the show still airs in reruns — another sitcom featuring a close group of colleagues has also proved popular, leading to inevitable comparisons. Although The Big Bang Theory and Friends are each unique programs, some are pointing out the interesting similarities between the two.
One of those similarities is cat music. Writing in Metro this weekend, James Thompson points out that both shows feature an often-sung tune about cats. There was Phoebe’s “Smelly Cat” and there’s Sheldon’s comfort lullaby, “Soft Kitty.” Of course, that is not where the similarities end, according to Thompson. Leonard and Penny have the on-again, off-again relationship of Ross and Rachel, and Howard Wolowitz has a sex-crazed tendency that is a lot like Joey Tribbiani. The catchy theme songs also make the list.
Anne Charlton, writing in Mic last year, argued The Big Bang Theory speaks to millennials in the same way that Friends spoke to Generation X. Both shows demonstrate the complexities of a group dynamic, particularly for romantic relationships, but emphasize the positive aspects of community connection. Since The Big Bang Theory is still airing new episodes, Charlton says it offers millennials shared experience no longer available with Friends.
“It represents the living situation we all wish we had — your best friend is your roommate, with more close friends across the hall — and shows us the kind of closeness we hope to achieve with our friends in real life. ‘Friends’ may have been created with Generation X in mind, but the issues it confronts easily transfer to millennials.”
There may be lessons in previous Friends episodes for current watchers who want to analyze the progression of character relationships on The Big Bang Theory. Big Bang has contracted for new episodes that will take the show at least through 10 seasons, the same number that were filmed for Friends. Back in 2011, Adam B. Vary discussed Raj and Penny’s one-night stand from an interesting perspective: whether they were the new Joey and Rachel, or the new Monica and Chandler. In other words, would their relationship never go anywhere, or would it turn out to be long-lasting? As Big Bang fans know, Raj and Penny were definitely closer to Joey and Rachel.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursday nights on CBS.