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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

I'll Be There For You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller- Feature and Review


This definitive retrospective of Friends incorporates interviews, history and behind-the-scenes anecdotes to offer a critical analysis of how a sitcom about six twentysomethings changed television forever

When Friends debuted in 1994, no one expected it to become a mainstay of NBC's Must See TV lineup, let alone a global phenomenon. In the years since, Friends has gone through many phases of cultural relevancy, from prime-time hit to 90s novelty item to certified classic. Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe have entered the pantheon of great television characters, and millions of people around the globe continue to tune in or stream their stories every day.

I'll Be There for You is the definitive retrospective of Friends, exploring all aspects of the show from its unlikely origins to the elusive reasons why we still watch it. Journalist and pop culture expert Kelsey Miller relives the show's most iconic moments, analyzes the ways in which Friends is occasionally problematic and examines the many trends it inspired, from the rise of coffee-shop culture to Friendsgivings to the ultimate 90s haircut, the Rachel.

Weaving incisive commentary, revelatory interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes involving high-profile guest stars, I'll Be There for You is the most comprehensive take on Friends, and the ultimate book for fans everywhere.



I'll Be There for You: The One about FriendsI'll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller is a 2018 Hanover Square publication.

So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke
Your love life's D.O.A
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year, but
I'll be there for you

When this book started showing up on my Goodreads feed sometime back in the fall of 2018, I immediately thought of someone I know, who happens to be a die hard “Friends” fan. The minute the book went on sale I bought a copy for that die -hard fan, who was thrilled to receive it for Christmas.

When asked if they enjoyed the book, they praised it highly, and seemed like a satisfied customer. So, I began to wonder if maybe the library had a copy of it, because, while I can’t tell you I’m one of those die-hard fans of the show, I do have fond memories of it. My family used to gather around and watch it together, which was rare back in those days. While I do have Netflix, I never watch the reruns of Friends anymore. But, after reading this book I feel the urge to do a little binge watching. It would be fun to view the series in hindsight, watching the show develop the way the author describes it in this book.

As the blurb states, this book is a critical analysis and a retrospective. What does that mean exactly and what should one expect to find in this book that they didn’t already know?

Retrospective: an exhibition or compilation showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the show, the characters and the actors who portrayed them, this book does an admirable job of proving how the show solidified over time, showing the ways it improved, the mistakes that were made, how they rebounded from them, and what they could have done differently, or if they should have.

Naturally, to examine the show in such a way some background is imperative. While some of you probably know a lot of trivia about the show and the actors, I must confess, that while some of the information was mildly familiar, I’d forgotten most of it by this time.

I don’t remember that infamous Coke campaign- The “Who stole the Diet Coke’ game. I do remember the show airing after the Superbowl one year, but I don’t recall the backlash. Do you?
The business savvy of the actors, the impact the show had on the culture of other countries, and how the characters evolved over the years was especially interesting to me.

This book, I think, could give even the most knowledgeable fan a new perspective on the show. Even if you are one of those who frequently watches the show on Netflix, at least for now, you may not really remember the climate of the country at the time those episodes originally aired. This bittersweet look back, is perhaps the part of the book I enjoyed most.

It is also worth noting that while Friends was certainly unrealistic, we forgave it for many faux pas we wouldn’t let pass today. The author examines the show’s obvious lack of diversity, which is an unavoidable subject, and the way it approached Carol and Susan’s wedding, Chandler’s father, and other social issues, which, of course, would have been handled much differently today. In some ways the author seems to be examining the show under an unfair microscope, since I really don’t recall ,Seinfeld, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier, or countless other shows in the nineties being dens of diversity or addressing some of the topics that Friends did. In fact, some of the jokes on other nineties sitcoms were far more offensive that anything on Friends. So, really, Miller’s argument could be applied to nearly all network television in the nineties and early 2000’s.

The show is a freeze frame of a very specific period in time, a time in one’s life when your friends were your family, those days before marriage, before kids, before more serious career obligations. It’s the promise of what might be, what could be, and now it’s a show people often turn to in times of stress, like comfort food. So, the question is, why does it still resonate? Why is ‘Friends’ the show people turn to when they need a break, when they are upset, stressed or in times of tragedy?

Maybe, just like with books, there’s a time when one grabs hold of the fluff, the lighter, gentler stories, for comfort, to take us away from all that in your face reality for a while. It’s why we give the show a break from the criticisms, why we overlook its flaws and lack of realism. To expect the show to live up the our current normal, to criticize it for its light fluff, to wish it had been different, edgier, darker, or more realistic would take away the very thing that drew viewers to it to begin with, and what keeps drawing them back time and time again. The thing you must remember, is what the show was intended to be in the first place. It was never supposed to be cutting edge, or political, or groundbreaking or an envelope pusher. Its purpose was to provide an escape, and that is why it is still so popular.

I don’t think the purpose of this book is to drop never before seen footage, so to speak, or to bring new information to light, or to be a book of Friends trivia or tabloid gossip -fest. It is meant to be a critical analysis, and retrospective, which shows how the characters and actors grew and developed over the course of the series’ ten seasons. I suppose there are some who will have heard all the anecdotes, and will therefore, find the information here redundant. It’s not a rehash of old and tired information, nor is it an enthusiastic fan-girl homage. It did exactly what the blurb suggested it would, offer a critique, analyzing the show from various angles, pointing out its strong suits and weak points, and the impact the show had on pop culture.

Overall, the show survives Kelsey Miller’s scrutiny. At the book’s conclusion, I, like so many others, am happy to let Friends stand, just as it is, frozen in time. But one can’t overlook the show’s staying power, the way it still offers hope, peace and comfort to global audiences of all ages and stripes. However, I must also make it clear that while I rarely watch television anymore, it is good to see the medium finally make some inroads into diversity-land.

Besides the obvious nostalgia, I loved how the reader is given open permission, and even urged to indulge in the light, fun, fluffy comfort that Friends offers. Having a bad day? Watch some Friends episodes!! No one feels embarrassed, afraid or ashamed to admit they like to binge watch the show when they are at home sick, or just when they need a little pick me up… or for no special reason at all. It’s okay to still watch Friends. No one is going to shame you for it. Everyone understands. They get it, and it’s still funny, and yes, it feels good, even if it is unrealistic.

Now if we could just give readers that same permission to enjoy something light, fluffy, fun and comforting, without feeling the need to make up excuses, apologize or pull out the ‘guilty pleasure’ card.

4 stars





Kelsey Miller graduated from Boston University with a BS in Film & Television. She began her career in the film production industry before transitioning to full-time writing. Soon after joining the staff of Refinery29, she created The Anti-Diet Project, one of the website's most popular franchises. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is currently working on her next book.


  1. I am one of those die hard fans. Loved your review! I guess this needs to be on my TBR!!

    1. Thank you, so much!! I hope you enjoy the book. Happy reading and thank you for dropping by The Book Review!!


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