I didn't bother with the television show "Friends" during its initial run, which mostly coincided with the birth and early childhood of Benster. Fearless Maria likes the show and will watch it on Netflix when she has time; as a result of hanging out with her while she's watching, I've seen a few episodes. It's a comfortable enough show, with some wit, and with generally amusing characters played by attractive people.
Friends isn't especially PC, though, and the cultural minders don't like the show very much. Ann Althouse has an interesting thread going about the show and its critics, but I wanted to endorse the views of a regular commenter on her blog, who goes by the name of Laslo Spatula:
My suggestion for the show’s popularity today (which ties in with what the show is often criticized for now) follows…I think this is right. And it's really sad, too. "Hair-shirt Maoism" is exactly what we have in 2018 and it's hardly been a Great Leap Forward, either. Live-and-let-live is, increasingly, a dead letter. I see how politics has poisoned people every time I venture into social media. If you watch Friends, you don't see a bunch of people sitting in the same room, staring into their phones. You see people talking to one another. It's certainly a fake world — the characters never seem to have to work much and they have wonderful apartments that they couldn't possibly afford — but it looks even more appealing in retrospect than it likely did at the time.
Yes, it reflects what seems to be a less “intense” time. As someone mentioned above, “Happy Days” did this in the 70s.
However, I will posit that this was the cultural sweet-spot where a person could be young and painfully self-aware, but with the absence of the hair-shirt Maoism that has come along since its original run.
Are the characters of ‘Friends’ less self-absorbed than millennials are now? I would say (with a broad brush) not really — but they are self-absorbed in a way that does not involve constant ritual self-castigation — and the fear of others’ shunning — for our’s society’s new thought crimes.
They could be gay-positive, but not have to maneuver through the minefield of today’s ‘fluidity’ and gender-norm fear.
They could be non-racist, but not spend hours self-critiquing why all of their friends were white.
While all were no doubt liberal, politics did not consume their lives: the ‘friends’ were pretty much live-and-let-live — something today’s kids have probably never even experienced.
Today’s young audience can see an America that is not so rawly split in half: again, something today’s kids have never experienced.