Nearly 30 years after its premiere, Friends is most definitely showing its age. Still, a beloved TV series no doubt, the sitcom’s vision of life in New York City in the ’90s doesn’t quite line up with reality anymore. Some would say it never did, and co-creator Marta Kauffman believes it could’ve been a more well-rounded show.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Kauffman spoke about criticisms that the cast wasn’t diverse enough. She states she quite get it at the time, but since, she’s come to understand there was value in those perspectives. “I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman says. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”
The main point of critique stems from the six leads being white, unrepresentative of the cultural landscape of New York City, which has long been a melting pot of many races and ethnicities. Kauffman admits she found it “difficult and frustrating” at the time, but has since come around.
These points have been acknowledged by members of production over the years. David Schwimmer, who played Ross, pushed to have co-stars from different backgrounds added. “I really felt like Ross should date other people, women of all races,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2020.
A Friends reunion occurred on HBO Max in May 2021, putting Schwimmer back together with Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow. Though the special didn’t openly deal with criticism around diversity, it did make a point of highlighting the audience the series has developed around the world over the years.
Kauffman has now pledged $4 million Brandeis University, to create a support fund for students in the African and African American studies department. The money will go towards hiring more professors, and creating more academic and research opportunities.
If you’re thinking of going back for some nostalgia, check out our list of the best Friends episodes.