The 'Friends' Effect


It may have been the most aptly named sitcom ever.

When Friends airs its last original episode tonight at 8, a particularly warm relationship of some 10 years' standing between the show and as many as 28 million TV viewers will end -- or, at least, shift into reruns. While the show's passing is not being lamented as much as other shows that truly advanced the art of the sitcom, its absence will leave a void just the same.

For if Friends was never as edgy as Seinfield, or as pioneering as I Love Lucy, or as sophosticated as The Dick Van Dyke Show, it was two things that were almost as important: Reliably funny. And reassuring, in the same way an old friend can be.

The line between Friends and real life often blurred: When Rachel cut her hair, so did countless admiring viewers. When the actors married or otherwise mated in real life, their partners sometimes turned up as inside jokes on the show.

Hers;s a look at some of the ways we made friends with Friends ove the past 10 years.

Words (and lyrics) to live by:

"We were on a break." First used by Ross (David Schwimmer) when he slept with another woman after fighting with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).

"How you doing?" Defined Joey's (Matt LeBlanc's) cheesy charm.

"Ugly Naked Guy." The man who lived in a building across from Monica's (Courteney Cox Arquette's) pad. We never saw him, but heard lots about his Thigh-Master and tons of moving boxes labeled "clothes."

"My eyes!" Yelped first by Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) when she saw Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica together.

"Smelly cat." The song meant to launch Phoebe's singing career (right) -- but instead was used to sell cat food.

`Friends' and family

Guest star Brad Pitt (above), the real-life Mr. Jennifer Aniston, plays a former classmate of Rachel's who once started an "I Hate Rachel" club.

Speaking of Aniston, speculation has been rampant almost since the show started that she had a nose job. Rachel certainly did, as flashbacks to the character's younger days have shown.

Shortly after Courteney Cox married David Arquette and became Courteney Cox Arquette, the credits for one episode stuck Arquette after everyone's name -- Lisa Kudrow Arquette, Matt LeBlanc Arquette, etc.

When Julia Roberts appeared on the show, she and Matthew Perry were also something of an item in real life.

From hair to eternity

The Rachel (above): Her layered first-season hairdo -- short in the front, long in the back -- inspired copycats across the country. But think about it. It was a mullet. Really.

The Schwimmer: Ross had 10 bad-hair years. His thick black tresses always ended up in an over-gelled bouffant.

The flat look: They might not have started it, but at one point each of the Friends women had it -- the long, pressed-into-pancake-flatness hair. But a well-placed source (OK, a hairdresser) says it is finally O-U-T.

The Dudley Moore. Another style that never caught on. Monica wanted Phoebe to cut her hair like Demi Moore's. But Phoebe confused Demi with Dudley, leaving Monica temporarily with a fuzzy shag.

And lest you forget ...

Remember Ross' pet monkey, Marcel (left)?

Or when Jean-Claude Van Damme was the big guest star?

And the gals' idea of a hottie was former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos in a towel?

And when the guys managed to attract women played by supermodels Elle MacPherson and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and super-actress Julia Roberts?

Or the time Helen Hunt's character from Mad About You made an appearance, or when Lea Thompson's Caroline in the City character did?

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