Reaction to Matthew Perry’s death reflects the enduring popularity of ‘Friends’

Reaction to Matthew Perry's death reflects the enduring popularity of 'Friends'

“Friends” concluded its 10-season run nearly two decades ago.

But like other classic sitcoms, including “Seinfeld” and “The Big Bang Theory,” it continues to amaze television executives with its enduring popularity, even among younger viewers.

This was further underlined by the emotional outcry after Matthew Perry, one of the six main cast members, died on Saturday aged 54. According to one, the next day, “Friends” was the most watched series or movie on the Max streaming service. Company spokesperson.

In a way this was not an anomaly. “Friends” has been a weekly fixture among the 10 most-watched series or movies on the streaming service since its launch as HBO Max in May 2020, the spokesperson said.

Turn on cable or local television any time of the day and the show is hard to miss. “Friends” airs on more than 100 local television stations and provides the backbone to both the TBS and Nickelodeon cable networks. For example, on Monday “Friends” aired 12 times for a total of six hours on TBS. A spokesperson for Warner Bros., the studio that produces the show, said that, between the two networks, the sitcom airs 140 times a week. For reference: There were a total of 236 episodes of “Friends”.

“Friends” was a force to be reckoned with when it aired from 1994 to 2004. It was a top 10 show for NBC every year, averaging 25 million viewers per week, and was the No. 1 comedy for six consecutive years. The “Friends” series finale attracted 52.5 million viewers, trailing only the finales of “M*A*S*H” (106 million), “Cheers” (80.4 million) and “Seinfeld” (76.3 million). Was.

But the show seemed to be getting a new life after it started streaming on Netflix in 2015. Suddenly, a show that was born in the 1990s and seemed completely of its time (no cellphones, a coffee shop with cushy couches as the main setting) appears to be a hit with teens and 20-somethings. It has a new appeal among the people nearby.

David Crane, one of the show’s creators, once said, “The one-sentence pitch is this: It’s about that time in your life when your friends are your family.”

In 2016, when the so-called Peak TV era was approaching its peak and Hollywood studios were producing more than 400 original scripted shows per year, the entertainment website Vulture raised a question: “Is ‘Friends’ still the most popular show on TV?”.

Netflix once paid Warner Bros. $30 million a year to stream it. When streaming rights to the show were acquired in late 2018, Netflix extended it again for another year. Price: $100 million.

In 2020, Netflix lost the rights to the series to HBO Max. And in preparation for the streaming service’s launch, executives didn’t film a new “Game of Thrones” spinoff, a “Sex and the City” sequel or a “Sopranos” prequel — those will come later. Instead, a 104-minute “Friends” reunion special was ordered.

On Sunday, the day after Mr. Perry’s death, “Friends” had its highest single-day viewership on Max since the reunion special was released two and a half years ago, a Max spokesman said.

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