I was something of a latecomer to Friends. Except for two or three episodes I caught while visiting A, I didn't watch the show at all until the fifth season and wasn't a regular watcher until midway through Season Six. Season Five was the year that the show went into syndication, and I'd heard so much about the show that I decided I'd start watching the reruns. The local UPN affiliate showed two episodes a night -- one from the first season and one from the third. I liked it well enough to want to see the new episodes, but I didn't have cable at the time and over-air network reception in the Bay Area is abysmal. I got something like three channels and NBC was not one of them. So A would record the episodes for me and send me a tape every month or so, and I'd catch them in marathon format.
I can pinpoint the exact moment that I fell in love with the show. It was a first season episode that I caught in reruns; I think it may have been one of the first episodes that I saw, but it can't have been the very first because I already knew a fair amount about the characters. It was TOW the Blackout, when Chandler is on the phone with Monica muttering that he's trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre. After several tries she still has no idea what he's saying. When he snapped "Put Joey on the phone", I burst out laughing. When Joey understood exactly what Chandler was trying to say, I think I fell off the couch. Because that captures so perfectly a dynamic that I have with my best friend -- the shared brain phenomenon. I was reminded of the time senior year when A lost her voice for a week and did her best to communicate with us using gestures and a notepad. At every dinner that week, I was the defacto translator, because I was most likely to understand whatever it was she was trying to get across. Then I went off to spend the weekend with my boyfriend, and I found out afterwards that everyone else had a hard time understanding her. It wasn't that I'd learned her sign language -- I could just make a pretty good guess at what she was thinking based on the gestures and the topic under discussion. And we still do it. Not always, but often enough one know exactly what the other is thinking, or one of us will reply to a group email with something the other was planning to say.
So anyway, that moment in the blackout episode presented an aspect of friendship that rang very true for me. And even though the show went through its highs and lows over the next five years, I kept watching, because those moments kept coming. Not in every episode, but often enough that the friendships always seemed real to me. It was the best of shows, it was the worst of shows, but it will definitely be missed.