Once upon a time, there was a sitcom that everyone loved: Friends. The hit NBC comedy ran for 10 years, and it made us laugh, cry, and then laugh some more every week.
So we wondered — what would it be like if the Central Perk gang were in their 20s and 30s in 2018? How would all of the new technology change their lives? Here are some of the storylines that would have played out a lot differently if they happened today. (Oh, and BTW – we aren’t talking about all those Friends storylines that would’ve been totally problematic by today’s standards. We’ll save that for another time.)
15. “The One with the Blackout”
In one of the most popular early episodes of the series, there’s a huge blackout in Manhattan, and most of the friends hang out in Monica and Rachel’s apartment to pass the time. Chandler, however, was out at the time, and get trapped in an ATM vestibule with Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre as herself.
Chandler is in a tizzy over his situation, accidentally spitting out the gum she offers him in an attempt to impress her, and calls up his friends on her mobile phone (not something most people had in the mid-90s), trying to tell them who he was trapped with without letting her know what he was saying.
Of course, this wouldn’t happen today for a number of reasons. For one, do ATM vestibules even exist anymore? Even if they do, either of the friends would easily be able to call someone and get them out. What’s more, Chandler would simply be texting his friends about the model he was with, while probably trying to sneak a photo of her to post on Twitter or something.
14. “The One With The Ick Factor”
At the beginning of season one, we find out that Ross’s ex-wife, Carol, is pregnant with his child. Ross is determined to be a present and attentive father (which he kind of forgets about later on in the series), and not miss a single moment. So in this episode, he reveals his pager, which he has so that Carol can let him know when she’s going into labor.
The joke is that the pager number is “55JIMBO,” which doesn’t seem like it would be an issue but is apparently confused by those seeking out “55JUMBO” — a male prostitute. Ross grows tiresome of constantly checking his pager, so he almost ignores it when he gets the “911” page he was waiting for, that he’s about to be a father.
This is another plotline that would never happen because of cell phones. Obviously, Carol would have no problem shooting off a quick text or call to Ross on her way to the hospital — and knowing Ross, he’d probably want to live stream the whole event for everyone to see.
13. “The One with the List”
Ross returns from a trip to China with a new girlfriend, Julie, at the beginning of season two. Just when it seems like things won’t work out for him and Rachel, the two share a steamy kiss in the doorway of Central Perk — even though he’s still with Julie.
Rachel assumes Ross is going to break up with Julie, but instead, he turns to his pals, Chandler and Joey, for help deciding. Chandler is excited to try out his new laptop computer and uses it to help Ross create a pro/con list about the two. Chandler tries to print the list but isn’t able to. It doesn’t matter though — Ross wants to be Rachel.
However, Rachel enters the boys’ apartment and sees the list on the computer. They try to hide it from her, but just then, the printer spits out the list, and Rachel sees it all.
Today, we’re all about privacy. Ross would have typed up a list on his phone, and the only way Rachel would have seen it is if she knew what to look for. In today’s world, the couple would have gotten together much sooner — but maybe that wouldn’t have been for the best.
12. “The One Without The Ski Trip”
In season three, Ross and Rachel split up after the infamous “We were on a break” incident. Rachel invites the friends (sans her now-ex) to go skiing at a cabin for the weekend, making Ross jealous.
When the crew makes a pit stop, they get locked out of the car. They make several desperate attempts to get back in the car, but then, because it was left running, it runs out of gas. They have to use a payphone to call Ross.
It’s kind of hard to imagine why any of this happened to begin with. AAA existed then, didn’t it? Regardless, it would have been easy to text or call anyone of their other friends or family members to come pick them up or bring them some gas. And hey, these days, some cars won’t even lock when the key is in the ignition, so they would have been fine from the get-go.
11. “The One with the Screamer”
The main storyline of this season three episode is that the whole group goes to see Joey in a play, and Ross and Rachel bring dates. But meanwhile, Phoebe has her own B-storyline.
Rather than going to the play, Phoebe stays in Monica’s apartment for two straight days, waiting on hold because her own home phone is broken. She also racks up a huge bill, because what she believed was a toll-free number is not.
Of the few of us that even have house phones these days, chances are you’d be able to file a report online for something that was broken. Not that it matters — Phoebe would use her cell phone for everything and pay a monthly rate that encompasses all calls. She could have seen Joey’s play after all.
10. “The One with the Cuffs”
After having all of their furniture stolen, Joey and Chandler aren’t doing so well. Chandler’s unhappy that Joey let this happen, and Joey is feeling dumber than usual for falling for the robber’s simple ploy.
Joey is at their apartment alone when a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman comes by. He preys on Joey’s desire to seem smarter and tries to get him to buy a set. Joey obviously doesn’t have the money, but he finds $50 and purchases the “V” volume.
None of this would happen today. There are few (if any) door-to-door salesmen. Wikipedia is everyone’s encyclopedia. Google is accessible from any phone or computer. Joey would have no excuse not to just look things up on his cell while his friends chat about whatever war or controversy it is they’re discussing that day. Problem solved.
9. “The One With All The Rugby”
The title of this episode refers to Ross playing the rough sport to impress his new British girlfriend, Emily. But that’s not the storyline we’re interested in here. Instead, let’s see what Chandler is up to.
He runs into his ex-girlfriend, Janice, who manages to get her claws into him and won’t let go. Chandler is more than over her at this point, so he tries to think of an excuse as to why they can’t be together (she doesn’t believe him when he says he doesn’t like her). He decides to tell her that he’s moving to Yemen, of all places.
Back in 1998, airports were a lot different. Janice believes his lie but is able to follow him all the way to the gate to see him off on his now very real plane ride to Yemen. Of course, the TSA would easily prevent that today. Chandler would still have to buy a ticket if Janice insisted on seeing him up to security, but he could just purchase the cheapest ticket to anywhere and then leave as soon as he got past the agents, and she would have been none the wiser.
8. “The One with the Free Porn”
The concept behind this season four episode was perfect for the time, but would never translate today. Joey and Chandler are flipping channels on the TV when they find a premium channel they shouldn’t have access to that exclusively shows pornography.
They watch for a while, but after hearing from the building manager that the channel could disappear if they turn the TV off, they decide to leave it running at all times. Understandably, this annoys and disgusts those around them, especially Rachel.
Adult channels still exist, but even for the select few of us that have cable, there’s really no point. Free porn is so readily accessible on the internet that it’s often an issue for parents trying to keep their kids away from it. No magic mix-up required.
7. “The One with Ross’s Wedding”
A major plot of this season revolves around the wedding of Ross and Emily, which happens quickly and takes place in London. All of the gang travels to England for the event except for Phoebe, who is in her third trimester of pregnancy, and Rachel, who thinks it would be weird to go to her ex’s wedding to another woman.
But as Phoebe soon learns, Rachel is still in love with Ross, and she takes off to go tell him and try and stop the wedding. Phoebe sees how crazy this is, and wants to warn her friends. This proves very difficult — she can’t get a hold of them, and international calls are very expensive. She ends up trying around to various members of Emily’s family until she gets in touch with her stepmother on her cell phone. Unfortunately, the woman is very stuck up and less than willing to help Phoebe.
There’s no chance that this would happen today. The whole crew would be on WhatsApp or using iMessage to talk via WiFi internationally. All Phoebe would have to do is send a quick text and let them know Rachel was on her way.
6. “The One Where Ross Got High”
The series’ Thanksgiving episodes are some of its best, and season six was no different. Monica, the chef, usually makes everything, but this year, she was busy trying to get her parents to like her now-live-in boyfriend, Chandler. So she allows Rachel to make the dessert.
Using a cookbook, Rachel tackles a big recipe: A traditional English trifle. However, she doesn’t notice that some of the pages are stuck together and, seemingly not knowing better, adds on the ingredients for Shepherds Pie, making a dessert that Ross says “tastes like feet.”
Cookbooks still exist, of course, but let’s be real — Rachel would have had a Pinterest account for just this occasion. Or, she’d watch a Tasty video and learn how to make the dessert of her choosing. Either way, it would likely turn out better than this.
5. “The One with the Unagi”
Making a present for your significant other on Valentine’s Day is timeless. So is forgetting that you made the plan to do that. But what it is that you make has certainly changed.
Monica and Chandler both forgot that they were exchanging homemade presents, but in classic sitcom fashion, they don’t want the other one to know, so they scramble to find last-minute gifts that look like something they could have made. Monica gives Chandler a sock bunny toy made by Phoebe, and Chandler gives her an old mix tape that he found in his closet. But as it turns out, the tape was made by his ex-girlfriend, Janice, for an anniversary, and she says so on the tape, revealing to Monica that Chandler had lied.
Even if you did find a mix tape in your closet, it would be extremely retro of you to give it to someone today; what would they even play it on? Now, a playlist on Spotify — that would be a romantic gift.
4. “The One Where They’re Up All Night”
Episodes where everything takes place in one night are often a lot of fun. But at least one of the plotlines in this season seven episode would never happen today.
The friends are hanging out on the roof to watch a comet, but Joey and Ross get stuck out on the roof. They have no way of contacting anyone, so they spend the night trying to climb down the escape ladder and then drop to the ground, with hilarious results.
But there’s no doubt as to why this wouldn’t happen today. It’s doubtful that either of the men, let alone both of them, would have been up on the roof without their cell phones. They’d have texted one of their pals who just left to come up to the roof and open the door, thus preventing them from being stuck up there all night.
3. “The One with the Red Sweater”
Monica and Chandler’s wedding was a huge series event. They had a wedding photographer, of course, but they also provided disposable cameras for the guests at the reception to take photos throughout the party.
Monica desperately wants to see the photos before she goes on her honeymoon, but Chandler misplaces the cameras. He and Ross go back to the venue to look for them, but when they can’t find them, they hatch a scene to take a bunch of photos with new disposable cameras and try and make it look like the wedding that’s now taking place in the same ballroom was theirs.
Obviously, Monica sees right through this — especially when she finds the disposable cameras in her own bag. Disposable cameras are still fun, but today, Monica would have had the cell phone pics of all of her friends to look at, which would be posted on Instagram with a hashtag like #GellartotheAltar or #MondlerMagic.
2. “The One with the Rumor”
Another Thanksgiving episode! This one was a special one for fans of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, as the movie star made a cameo on his then-wife’s show as a former classmate who hated her guts.
Pitt plays Will, a high school friend of Ross and Monica who reminds them what a stuck-up snob Rachel was during their formative years. Will was, like Monica, overweight at the time, and had since lost a lot of weight. His transformation was something of a surprise, though Monica knew about it, but the biggest shock was Will’s when he realized that his buddy Ross was the father of Rachel’s baby.
Had this happened in 2018, social media would have ruined a lot of it. Everyone would know how skinny Will was from Facebook and, similarly, he’d know that Ross and Rachel dated, and that Monica and Rachel were best friends. But that doesn’t mean that he would have liked her at all (or that Phoebe wouldn’t have spent the episode drooling over him).
1. “The One with the Memorial Service”
Friends was actually ahead of technology by a little in this case. Chandler and Ross, who went to college together, discover their school’s alumni website, and create profiles for each other, tearing the other one down. But Ross takes it too far, and ends up faking his own death so that he can throw a memorial service for himself and see who will come.
The site is basically Facebook, but in 2018, it would have no purpose, seeing as the social network in question exists. Everyone would already be on it and, as stated on the last page, would know exactly what they were up to. If Ross did fake his own death and had it posted on his profile, not only would it be tacky, but someone would quickly point out that it was a lie, having seen him at work or on another social network.