In a recent interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow both expressed a desire for Friends to have kept going back when it ended in 2004. When Jennifer Aniston was asked if she would want to go back and continue the show at the premiere of We're the Millers, she said she would, but thought the show ended at the right time.
"We're all sorry … I think it ended at the right time, and it ended when people still wanted more."
Sure, Friends is a well-beloved and critically acclaimed show, and it probably would've continued to do well for a while had it not ended. But in hoping for a show to continue, fans (and casts) need to be careful what they wish for. There's only two avenues for a show to go down once it's past its prime: It will either experience a rapid decline in quality, or some of the core principles of the show will start to change.
Friends ran for 10 seasons, an incredible amount of episodes for any show. And while it hadn't beaten all of its jokes into the ground, the show was definitely past its prime, and its stories were starting to wear a little thin — particularly the will-they-won't-they of Ross and Rachel, who had been on-again-off-again for the better part of a decade. But longevity is in no way a marker of a show's quality — even the best shows hit their prime at about Season 4 or 5.
Once a show has hit its high point, it has to decide if it either wants to shake things up or start tying up its loose ends. Most primetime sitcoms choose the latter and remain better off for it. Friends will forever have a happy place in America's cultural consciousness, and although it's sad to see a show like Friends or 30 Rock go, it's better to remember them fondly than to have them slowly fade into the background.
Because what's the alternative look like? Degrassi, Law & Order, Family Guy. After 10 seasons, shows begin to get stale or change their casts. They get relegated to a niche audience and they drop out of conversation. Sure, Doctor Who may be a success story, but that show has change written into its DNA — it becomes a new show practically every other season, thus escaping the threat of becoming obsolete. More often, the show becomes a one-dimensional joke: Degrassi is a scandalous after-school special for tweens, Law & Order is a crime procedural that your grandma leaves on, and Family Guy is a cartoon for insensitive bros.
It's clear from the comments of the actors formerly known as Chandler, Rachel, and Phoebe that all the actors enjoyed working on the show and working with each other. That's part of what made it so great. But nothing lasts forever for a reason. While it may be sad to see a good show go, it's better to be able to watch reruns of it and smile than be forced to watch it die a slow, painful death in front of our eyes.