On 'Friends' 10 Year Finale Anniversary, One Big Reason The Show Wouldn't Work Today
It's unbelievable, but May 6 marks the ten year anniversary of the Friends finale. Even as someone who wasn't a Friends super fan, I still remember sitting in the freshman hallway and talking to my friends about how the show was ending. It was one of those events that everyone cared about, fan or not, because it was just that big of a deal. Since then, I have gone on to watch countless reruns of the show. Now that I'm an adult with cable (the biggest perk of growing up, obviously), Friends reruns are basically throwing themselves at me. This has lead me, and many of you I'm sure, to realize that some of the scenarios on Friends would absolutely not work today. And I'm not just talking about Chandler's ability to pick up women even though he wore sweater vests. In particular, the many, many airport scenes would not fly in today's world.
Even though the the friends didn't often go anywhere other than their apartments and Central Perk, there were a number of pivotal scenes that took place in airports. Since most of the series took place pre-9/11, there are many instances where's characters are able to hop right on to flights at the last minute. There the one where Chandler tries to flee Janice's clutches at an airport by purchasing a ticket to Yemen. He walked right up to the counter, handed the cashier his credit card, and was allowed to walk right through the gate. No security screening, no nothing.
Then there's the one where Ross says goodbye to Marcel at the airport gate. Not only is it unbelievable that Marcel was allowed to roam around uncaged, but it's now unbelievable that everyone was allowed to say goodbye to him right at the gate even though they didn't have boarding passes.
The idea that people were allowed to go right up the gate comes into play in a number of episodes. There's Janice with Chandler in the Yemen scene — the reason he has trouble escaping is because she's literally allowed to watch him board the plane — the scene where Rachel waits for Ross' plane from China to come in and sees he has a new girlfriend, and the scene where Ross tells Emily he loves her as she boards her plane for England.
Oddly, in an episode about Monica and Chandler going on their honeymoon, there was a scene in which Chandler joked with airport security that was filmed before Sept. 11 and set to air soon after. This storyline ended up being cut from the episode, but was later released. Over its ten year run Friends served as a history of the changes that took place between 1994 and 2004, so the scene with Chandler joking marks the transition between a pre- and post-9/11 America. It's especially eerie with the shows' ubiquitous laugh track.
The most notable airport scene is from the series finale when Rachel gets off the plane ("I got off the plane!"). When Rachel makes her decision, it brings her back together with Ross for good in the eyes of fans. Getting off a plane is simple enough, but what is unbelievable is Phoebe calling her and telling her that something was wrong with the plane's "phalanges" and Rachel then describing the problem to the flight attendant and the other passengers. This one really shouldn't have worked at the time either because there's no way you're going to be allowed to stay on a plane after screaming that something is wrong with it. Rachel would've been taken in for some intense questioning for sure.
The airport scenes are one of the reasons Friends is so interesting to watch today. Like everyone's high-waist stonewash jeans and the fact that so many things play out over home answering machines, the show gives us a look at another time. It may have only ended ten years ago now, but these differences are only going to increase when it's the 20 year anniversary or the 30th. One day instead of being shocked at their ease at getting through airport security, we'll be saying, "Oh my god, can you believe they took planes instead of solar-powered international bullet trains?"