All in all, Friends did okay. When NBC came around to the idea that its six-point ensemble — rife with offbeat conversations, wacky high jinks, and will-they-won’t-they love stories — was the show to beat on Thursday nights, the network got ambitious, hoping to double down on the unmitigated success of the show in question. As such, almost every other sitcom launched over at 30 Rockefeller in the late ’90s and early 2000s was set forth with one goal: to become the next Friends, and, subsequently, to rival the Central Perk-set sleeper hit in ratings kingship. But, instead of chasing this pipe dream with an toolbox of clever writing and original ideas, many of these shows went the opposite route entirely…pretty much just copying the series altogether in the effort to find a new sitcom to be the next Friends .
Yes, there were plenty of diversions — some shows were set in Boston rather than New York, or involved 6 stars instead of 6, or… you know what? Those might be the only differences, actually. Most of these programs were pretty shamelessly dependent on the Friends model, riding high on the appeal of the “hip singles cuttin’ loose and crackin’ wise in the big city” tagline to courier them to inevitably short-lived weekly timeslot.
Here are some of our favorite of NBC’s attempts at bringing “the next Friends” to life.
Lifespan: 4 episodes in 2003.Variation: The sexier Friends.Borrowed conceits: Six New Yorkers all putting their best foots forward toward sleeping with each other and other people... whatever the viewers seem to respond to most, as a matter of fact. It's worth noting that this series is actually a remake of English series of the same name that ran on BBC from 2000 to 2004 — and it also wasn't as great as that predecessor, either.
Lifespan: 13 episodes in 2006.Variation: The dudes-only Friends.Borrowed conceits: Clueless man children unlucky at love and lust. Ah, the plight.
Lifespan: Six episodes in 2010.Variation: Friends for the dating website generation.Borrowed conceits: Clueless guys and gals getting into a slew of one night stand ballyhoos.
Leap of Faith
Lifespan: Six episodes in 2002.Variation: The Friends that acknowledges the existence of people who aren't white.Borrowed conceits: The main character is a young woman who calls off her engagement and then tries out being single and independent for the first time with the help of her better established friends.
Lifespan: 13 episodes from 1997 to 1998.Variation: The several-blocks-eastward Friends.Borrowed conceits: A group of 30-something New Yorkers lazing around at a cafe named after a tourist hotspot whereat no real New Yorker would ever want to spend all their time.
Lifespan: 13 episodes in 2005.Variation: The Friends where one guy has a clown for a roommate.Borrowed conceits: New York neuroses, more dating nonsense, even the interstitial music was damn near identical.
Lifespan: 13 episodes in 2011.Variation: The all-coupled-up Friends.Borrowed conceits: Six attractive adults; three men, three women. All acting virtually moronic.
Lifespan: Two seasons from 1996 yo 1997.Variation: The Bostonian Friends.Borrowed conceits: The dorky brother-sister camaraderie we lamented in Ross and Monica (star Anthony Clark even looks like David Schwimmer).
The Single Guy
Lifespan: Two seasons from 1995 to 1997.Variation: The Friends in which Best Actor Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine plays a doorman to the guy from Weekend at Bernie's.Borrowed conceits: Ross. Seriously, they borrowed Ross Geller. He was on the show. Not just David Schwimmer, Ross. How much more obvious can you get, NBC?
The Weber Show
Lifespan: 17 episodes from 2000 to 2001.Variation: The really, really bad Friends.Borrowed conceits: Horrible single people doing horrible things in an effort to... ah, who cares. It's over. We don't have to think about it anymore.
Images: NBC (7)