The One Where Friends is Set in 2017

Posted by Diana R. Wallach

[TV still from Friends, Warner Bros Television]

From The Nineties documentary on CNN, to action movies like The Mummy, to Steven Spielberg reviving the Animaniacs cartoon, to radio stations switching to all Hip Hop Throwbacks, to Netflix rebooting everything from Full House to The Gilmore Girls, nineties nostalgia is everywhere lately. But one show not likely to make its way back on air with its cast in tack is an infamously well-paid group of Friends.

Collectively bargaining for $1 million per actor per episode fifteen years ago, means Jennifer Aniston and co. would likely demand a much higher price tag than NBC could ever afford. (Only the actors of The Big Bang Theory have hit the $1 million threshold since, and that’s in current dollars.) So we may never know if Ross and Rachel, or Monica and Chandler, stay together, but that doesn’t mean we can’t daydream about what the “Must See TV” classic would look like if rebooted for the Millennial Generation.

So let’s imagine Friends set in 2017 Manhattan and all the elements that would drastically change (especially the establishing shots of the World Trade Center).



1. They’d live in Brooklyn

Sure, the Village is still as hip as ever, but if we couldn’t believe that a waitress and a just-starting-out chef could afford that apartment 20 years ago, we’re never going to believe it now. In fact, a recent NY Post article estimated Monica’s rent at $4,500 per month. Not that Park Slope is much cheaper, but at least we could plausibly suspend disbelief.


2. Central Perk Would Be a Starbucks

Independent coffee houses are about as common as independent bookstores, with the same loyal hipster following. But with more than 2,000 Starbucks in New York City—one at least every five blocks in Manhattan, and more often every two blocks, it’s more likely our new Friends are sipping Venti caramel macchiatos in faux-leather arm chairs surrounded by laptops.


3. Joey would be African American and Phoebe would be Latina

While a few buddy comedies do still make it on the air with all-white casts (ahem, Girls), it’s highly unlikely a cast of six friends in New York City would still so poorly represent the population. Given Phoebe and Joey’s comedic styles and storylines, they’re the most likely characters to get a cultural reboot. Hey, maybe they could Phoebe an aspiring bruja?


4. “The Rachel” Would Be a Dye Job

Lately, hair trends lean more toward color than cut. And while the layered “Rachel” shag became so mimicked in the ‘90s it now has its own Encyclopedia entry, today the stylish character likely would have been the first to sport the ombre, the balayage, and silver tresses (which for those who don’t know, is old lady grey on a Kardashian body). And you know Chandler would have a top knot.


5. Chandler’s Dad Would be Played by a Trans Actor

This was a controversial storyline back in the ‘90s, gaining even more notoriety due to the transgender parental role being played by deep-voiced Hollywood icon Kathleen Turner. Today, in the world of Laverne Cox, it’s much more likely that a hit show would hire a trans actor to play a trans character. And probably have far fewer insensitive jokes on the subject. But props to the original Friends for showing Ross successfully co-parenting with Carol and Susan, including his supportive role in his ex-wife’s lesbian wedding. Of course, today that gay wedding in Manhattan would be way more epic than a quaint commitment ceremony (but might still include the odd Victorian hats).


6. Baby Emma Would Be Named Sophia or Olivia

Thanks to Ross and Rachel, the name Emma soared up the baby name charts post 2002 and still holds a top ranking today. But in Manhattan, there seems to be a baby Sophia or Olivia on every corner. Of course, a Friends reboot could follow the quirky Hollywood trend, and name the baby Iceberg Coconut or Sir Saint Northwest—or maybe Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, as Phoebe once chose for herself.


7. The Boy Apartment Would Be a Man Cave and the Girl Apartment Would Be Grey

You know that Joey and Chandler’s sad little entertainment center would be replaced with a flat screen TV worthy of a Cineplex, and their barcaloungers would be La-Z-Boys styled by Brooke Shields. Monica’s ultra colorful pad, which borrowed swatches from ‘80s Care Bears cartoons, now would be replaced with an exposed brick loft painted grey like a Restoration Hardware (or District 12 in the Hunger Games, same color scheme).

Obviously, the updates don’t end there. 2017 producers would need to write out Phoebe’s scrunchies, Rachel’s overalls, Chandler’s cigarette habit (he’d totally vape), Monica’s fat shaming, Ross’ pager, and the drunk answering machine message that first brought Ross and Rachel together. But it wouldn’t be Friends without ‘90s fashion and technology, and you couldn’t have a reboot without its cast, which have all gone on to new projects (even David Schwimmer in the O.J. miniseries!).


So for now, we’ll have to imagine it. And if the cast ever does change its mind on a reunion season, don’t worry—we’ll be there for you.